Yeraltý Notlarý, 7 Eylül 2004
Showing some care…(*)Sevgul Uludag
This week two young friends of mine have broken up… I feel sorry when I hear this news but I can imagine the reasons behind… The young man has been unemployed for almost one and a half years now. He has a university education but can’t find a proper job… Sure, he can go to the southern part of our island and work in construction sites or in supermarkets as `cheap labour` for some Greek Cypriot businessmen but he hasn’t chosen to do so… Many of our youngsters with university diplomas do that – you can go to the Ledra Palace or Ayios Demetios checkpoint early morning to see them crossing. Wearing khaki or camouflage or blue jeans they go to work in construction sites while their university diplomas stay somewhere in a cupboard at home…
My two young friends have been together for more than a year now. It seems `love` is not enough to sustain a relationship nowadays. With the `consumer` societies we’ve become, `love` is not enough - `money` is needed to `survive` in a relationship. You need to go out, put some petrol in the car, pay the bills, plan for the future. You need to buy fast-food, send messages, get presents, have the broken computer repaired and things like that. `Love` is out in the cold, on the pavement, on the sidewalk… `Love` is not something you can `cash`… And nowadays `love` does not `count` so much for many young people… They grow up in our capitalist societies, learning to buy more and more, to consume more and more, not thinking too much whether this is really needed or not…
Another young couple who are good friends of mine have been engaged for many years now but haven’t got the `money` to get married yet… Last year they hired an old house with a garden, tried to repair it to make it a better place to live in. Friends and families gave them some furniture and they started buying things for the house… It is so touching to visit their house – the garden is full of flowers and as you walk around the almost empty rooms you see things that touch your heart… Precious things… Beautiful things… Pillows and tablecloths from India, some glasses from Brussels or Budapest, a few plates in an old cupboard that the young woman has painted herself… She paints and she plants flowers – she has a masters degree but was unemployed for a long time… We managed to find her a part-time job without any security for the future. She works voluntarily in an office, speaks English and French and hopes that one day she will find a job… The young man is working almost day and night trying to survive on this island.
The hope of many youngsters is to find an appropriate job and the future looks bleak… So when I heard Dimitris Christofias speak about the 256 million EUROs to be given to the Turkish Cypriot community by EU, I couldn’t believe my ears. Perhaps the media was making it up or exaggerating it but what was in the `news` was that Christofias was suggesting that the Turkish Cypriots should use the 256 million EUROs to build new houses for those who would have to leave the Greek Cypriot owned properties in accordance with the Annan plan. Did he really suggest that? If he did, I suggest that he comes and visits this side of the `border` to look at the situation of the youngsters. Their desperation of not finding a job… Their families’ desperation when they decide to emigrate to other countries in search of a better life… The broken relationships of youngsters, the endless waiting as the life goes on… I know that many of our youngsters work in companies owned by AKEL. He can also check out how many of them hold university diplomas and what sort of job they do now and tell us if he wants his own children to be in similar situations…
Do you want your own children to be in similar situations?
Do you want them to work as `cheap labour` or stay unemployed or leave the island in search of a job?
Is this how we are building our common country?
Another ugly situation is the way the bi-lingual character of this island is being handled. According to the constitution of the Republic of Cyprus, Greek and Turkish are the two official languages of this country. When Vasiliou was negotiating the membership of Cyprus to the EU, he was asked by EU officials to `forget` the Turkish language for the moment and just go along with the Greek since all the documentation of the EU was already translated due to the membership of Greece. He said `Okay` without giving a second thought. And Cyprus became a member of EU with only one official language, that is Greek… I was angry when I found out and asked him the reasons behind this…
`It’s my fault` he said, `but when there is a solution, Turkish will also be an official language…`
So what happens is that our bright youngsters, when they apply for jobs within the EU system, they are told that they have to speak two of the official languages of the EU. Turkish is not amongst them and despite what’s written in the constitution of Cyprus, Turkish is not accepted as a `valid` language. This year, the EU opened posts and did exams in order to take personnel from the new member states. Many Turkish Cypriots sat in exams which lasted the whole day… Some of them won these exams. But when the time came for them to be employed, they were refused since their mother-tongue is not accepted as a `language of EU`. So Vasiliou, without meaning to, has blocked the opportunities for our youngsters to work in the EU. You might say that `Okay, let them learn another language like French or German…` Sure, if our youngsters had the money, they would learn a third language because most of them speak English and Turkish and why not start learning German as well to count as a `suitable candidate` to be employed by the EU… But where is the money to do that? And who is paying the price of this game?
Last weekend as we traveled from Pervolia to Nicosia, I noticed that the `tabellas` on the side of the road, showing the way is being changed… Most of the tabella, instead of saying `Lefkosia – Nicosia` were saying `Lefkosia` or instead of `Kerynia – Kyrenia` (Greek and English) the tabellas had the words `Kerynia`… This is an attempt to use only Greek and not even English and I wonder if Christofias and Vasiliou have also noticed it… Where is the civil society in the southern part to `notice` such things and to try to correct such `mistakes`? The other tabellas showing the way to Gonyeli or any other place in the north, I shouldn’t even talk about. Even though Turkish is an official language of the Republic, it is `massacred` in these tabella! Isn’t it time we accept that different languages are written and spoken on this island and that one of them is Greek, one of them Turkish and one of them English? Isn’t it time we showed some care to `the other`?
How shall we build our common country together if we don’t care about each other’s concerns?
(*) Article published in the ALITHIA newspaper on the 5th of September, 2004.