Yeraltı Notları, 22 Ağustos 2004

Sevgül Uludağ


Sevilay’s appeal to Kofi Annan(*)

Sevgul Uludag

Today I want to share with you the letter of a brave Turkish Cypriot woman, Sevilay Berk. Her parents are missing since 1964... I had written an article about her in ALITHIA some time ago... As all the children of the missing, she’s looking for the remains of her beloved parents in order to give them a proper burial, to go and put flowers on their graves, to thank them for raising her and her brothers and sisters up with love and care, for saying things to them that she did not have the chance to say before...

As we all know, when a loved one disappears all of a sudden from your life, they live in `limbo`... They are neither alive, nor dead... According to the rituals in almost all cultures of the world, unless you are buried properly, the souls of the ones you leave behind do not rest and are in constant pain...

Sevilay’s story is a desparate one: she could find no solutions to her problem... As a last attempt, she is appealing to the Secretary General of the UN, Mr. Kofi Annan for help. She is saying ` I am asking help from you in the name of humanity, trusting your heart full of love, your humanitarian stand and the big power your mission is giving you. I want you and the whole world to hear my rebellion… I WANT MY BONES BACK!`

Do not read just the words of Sevilay, but try to read the letter with your heart... Unless the problem of Sevilay and all the problems of the missing persons families are resolved in Cyprus, we shall never have peace... Because these stories will always come back and haunt us, will break our hearts, will continue to poison the system we live in... Each one of us will carry the responsibility, if we remain indifferent or silent to what has happened in Cyprus, whether we are Turkish Cypriot or Greek Cypriot...

Here is the letter of Sevilay Berk to Kofi Annan that she sent on the 19th of August, 2004, through the UN Spokesman’s office in Cyprus:

`Dear Mr. Kofi Annan,

I am Sevilay Berk, a Turkish Cypriot with the Republic of Cyprus identity card number 149580. I am the eldest of the five children of Shefika Huseyin and Huseyin Ahmet Kamber who have been missing since 11th of May 1964. They were driving home from Famagusta to Bahchalar (Pervolia) with their car when they went missing that day.

We could get no information about the whereabouts of my father and father since 1964, for 39 years. The Missing Persons Committee in Cyprus used these years without producing anything concrete, meeting amongst themselves and using these years for their own benefit.

When my mother and father went missing I was 18 years old and my siblings were 16, 14, 12 and the our youngest sister was 2 years old. After losing our mother and father we lost our village, our land, our gardens and all our income. We were left without a mother and a father, without a village, without a house, in pain, not knowing what to do. For 39 years we searched for our beloved parents, we hoped to find them but could not find anything and the known facts were kept from us for many years.

After the opening of the checkpoints on the 23rd of April 2003 we looked for the traces of my parents in the Greek Cypriot side and again we could not get any information. Two months after the opening, a Greek Cypriot friend named Dasos, whom we had met accidentally, took us to the Greek Cypriot Missing Persons Committee. There we got a file containing all the information about our mother and father. According to this file, our mother and father were buried in a well on a plot of land on the Turkish Cypriot side, not far from our village. In the documentation there was also a map showing the place of the well, marked with a red pen. Although Rustem Tatar, who is the president of the Turkish Cypriot Missing Persons Committee under Mr. Denktash’s government, had this information for ten years, he had not shared it with us or helped us.

After finding out these facts we visited Mr. Rustem Tatar and asked for the file of our parents. He reacted angrily shouting at us by saying that everything was a lie, that the Greek Cypriot President of the Missing Persons Committee, Mr. Ilias lied a lot and he, as Rustem Tatar had no such information. After our insistence he gave us the file containing the same information that we had got from the Greek Cypriot Missing Persons Committee. While we were reading the file he told us `You cannot open that well, they will cut your hands if you do so. It is a mass grave and we and the government will decide when it will be opened.`

We went around the well in tears which was covered with grass. We were in a lot of pain, we looked at the well and they looked at us from their grave… A whole year passed.

The Turkish Cypriot authority tried to make us forget the issue by trying to frighten us.

Two months ago, the owner of this land Erten Arikli, in order to be able to take permission to build over his land, had the well opened. We found out that he found some bones in the well and gave them to the police. We were shocked.

As soon as we found out about this incident we went to the ministry of interior of the Turkish authority in the northern part of Cyprus. We gave in both a written application and persisted also verbally to see the minister. They did not accept to see me. They said that Prime Minister Mehmet Ali Talat is dealing with the issue. Meanwhile the digging of the well continued and more bones were found and these too were given to the police. This time I went to visit Mehmet Ali Talat, meeting his public information and press officer. I related to him the whole story, giving also the telephone numbers of those who had opened the well. But the authority in the northern part of Cyprus neither opened an investigation against the people who have opened the well, nor took any measures to protect the well. Later the well started working and the construction continued…

About a month ago, my brother and sisters went around the well, searching the mud around it. With their bare hands they found some pieces of bones in the mud around the well and tried to clean these. These pieces of bones probably belonged to my parents and a nylon women’s tight, probably belonged to my mother. We took these to the Missing Persons Committee in the Greek Cypriot side. We gave these to the doctors with anatomical knowledge, working as researchers on the missing in the Greek Cypriot side. The doctors told us that these bones were definitely (100%) human bones. Immediately I contacted both Mr. Ilia and Mr. Pierre Guberain who’s the head of the UN Missing Persons Committee in Cyprus, telling them of our worries about finding the bigger bones and about my worries of their probable destruction. I could get no results neither from the Turkish authorities in the north, nor from the others until now. This issue is taken very lightly and we are not given back the bones belonging to our parents with disrespect to our pain.

Some people have killed my mother and father once in 1964. The indifference and disrespectful behaviour of the Turkish authority in the north is killing us for years every day. Our bodies, going through these pains for the last 40 years are no longer able to carry this weight. Our brains are too tired and we feel like living dead. We need psychological treatment. There are more than 20 holes in my eyes and I got diabetes due to such pain. My sister is suffering from cancer. We are trying to survive a desperate and hopeless life. We do not know in whose hands the bones of our beloved parents are. Every day we feel more and more desperation. We contacted every authority and got no results. We are very much afraid that someone might destroy the bones of our parents. Until when shall we continue to suffer?

They stole our childhood, the best years of our youth, our life… Throughout our lives, we tried to persist every difficulty. We lived without anyone’s support. But now we came to the edge and they stole our hopes. The members of the Missing Persons Committee, instead of serving us, like to give us pain. We only asked one thing throughout our lives: to get back the bones of our parents. We want to put these bones in two graves and show our respect to them, pray for them. Are we asking too much Mr. Annan? Aren’t we human beings? Isn’t this a human right? How shall we get these rights Mr. Annan? Who will stop these irresponsible people without any emotion? If they had gone through what I have lived, wouldn’t they build memorials for these bones? I want my bones back, I want to rest my soul and find some peace of mind by putting these bones in the graves I will build.

I am asking Mr. Secretary General Kofi Annan, would your heart take so much pain? How much more do we need to suffer due to these irresponsible people? Who will tell them that giving these bones back is a human right? Who will remind them that we are human beings, who will prevent them? It is enough!

I hope that you will understand my pain, the rebellious cry of my heart. If my cry reaches you and if you hear me, please extend your hand. Only you can help in this difficult situation. PLEASE HELP ME!…

I am asking help from you in the name of humanity, trusting your heart full of love, your humanitarian stand and the big power your mission is giving you. I want you and the whole world to hear my rebellion… I WANT MY BONES BACK! I WANT MY PARENTS’ BONES BACK!

Hoping that you will help, I send you my deep respect and love. Your written answer will make me very happy. I await your answer.

Sincerely yours,

Sevilay Berk`

(*) Article published in ALITHIA newspaper on the 22nd of August, 2004.

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