Yeraltý Notlarý, 17 Ekim 2004

Sevgül Uludað

 

The story of Huseyin Rustem Akansoy from Maratha (*)

Sevgul Uludag

Huseyin Rustem Akansoy was only a young boy of 17 who had just graduated from the high school and was waiting for the results of the university exams in his village Maratha (Murataga) when the black clouds of war gathered in 1974. He wanted to be a veterinary doctor and when he would graduate, to come back and help with the animals they had in their farm. Huseyin’s father was working at the British bases near Pergamos and his mother was taking care of the animals in their farm. They had cows and sheep and were selling their milk to the Greek Cypriot cooperative. Huseyin remembers that they had good relations with Greek Cyriots at that time. He was the eldest of 5 kids in his family – his mother Emine was only 36, but at those times, women got married early and had one kid after another – so she had 5 kids whose ages ranged between 17 and 7. They were not a poor family he remembers, since his father was working at the British bases as a cook, this was bringing `extra` income apart from the income of the cows and sheep in the farm…

On the 20th of July, some Greek Cypriots that Huseyin knew from the nearby village Piperisterona came to the village, firing in the air with shotguns. They brought buses as well, to take the villagers to the school in Piperisterona. `This is for your own safety, you know` they were saying and they all went – Huseyin says:

`We had no choice anyway – the population of the village was only around 100 and if you add Sandallar and Atlilar (Aloa) the population would total only 200. How would we defend ourselves if there was an attack? Maybe there would be only 4-5 hunting guns in the whole village… How many persons can you find out of 100 who would be able to hold a gun? So we went and spent the night at the school. The villagers from Piperisterona brought us halloumi and they fried potatoes… We ate there, I remember and later, while they took the women and the kids back to the village, we were brought to Famagusta, to the Karakol camp… In Piperisterona, some of the Greek Cypriots would `question` the Turkish Cypriots they took as prisoners. I remember a dialogue with my father, after such a `questioning`. He told me `Look, so and so person owns us this much money, you must take care of our business if I am gone…` My father had lost hope and thought they were going to kill him and some others… We never suspected the safety of our mothers and small sisters and brothers… We were on a path which went to the unknown – we did not know what would happen to us, we were worried of our own future – we did not even think that the women and children of Maratha would be in danger… We were the ones who were the prisoners…`

So they spent some time in the Karakol camp in Famagusta and were later brought to Limassol as prisoners of war. He remembers some young Greek Cypriot students who were guarding them – they struck friendships in the camp because they were thinking on similar lines… `I don’t remember their names – they were students studying in Greece. I could not speak Greek so we were speaking in English…`

So the war ended and they were returned to the northern part of the island but Huseyin could not see his mother among the crowd waiting in Nicosia, nor his sisters or brothers…

Back in Maratha all the women, children and old people from Maratha and Sandallar were killed and put in a mass grave… The same thing happened with Atlilar (Aloa)… Huseyin lost his mother Emine, his sisters Sezin (15) and Sibel (8), his brothers Mustafa (13) and Erbay (12), his granmother Raziye, his aunties Rasime and Havva, his uncle Mustafa and his first cousins Sezay, Temray, Tacay and Turker… They were in the mass grave in Maratha… Now, being a veterinary and going back to his village lost its meaning… How can you survive after losing so many loved ones and how can you wake up each morning and continue your life? But he did and that is why he is so special: he never turned this horrible experience into `nationalistic hatred` or `chauvinism`. You would never suspect that his whole family was massacred by EOKA-B fanatics, if you knew him like we did for so many years… Huseyin Rustem Akansoy has been in the forefront of the progressive struggle for peace. He never mentioned that his family was buried in a mass grave in Maratha. He was in the progressive struggle of the Cypriot students studying in Istanbul. When he came back to Cyprus, he was in the progressive struggle in the northern part of Cyprus. As in an old poem written by a native American Indian, he stood `inside the fire without flinching and did what he had to do…`

He wants peace on this island and he’s raising his kids in this spirit – his son Erbay who carries the same name as his brother Erbay from the mass grave, has been in the Cypriot youth’s progressive struggle. They live in Kyrenia and he now works in the communications ministry as under-secretary…

These are the people who carry the flame of hope in Cyprus – only those who have suffered from war, can have a very deep understanding of why peace is necessary on this island.

Perhaps one day, we can have a gathering of people like Huseyin Rustem Akansoy from Maratha , Suat Kafadar and Cemaliye Shoforel from Dochni, Petros Souppouris from Palekythrea, Costas Panayotis Artemiou from Klirou and Maria Georgiades from Kythrea and all the others who know war from `first hand experience` to talk about what sort of a solution we want… The `solution` is too precious to leave in the hands of the beaurocrats of the administrations or political parties or the UN or the others… Sure, they can `help` because they carry the responsibility to do so – they were all involved, together with Turkey and Greece, in the creation of this conflict but the formulas for our `peace` must come from those who have suffered most from what happened during the conflict in Cyprus – they are the ones to speak out whose voice we must listen… They are the ones who have a genuine interest in peace… They are the real human face of Cypriots – they carry the deep scars inflicted on them by some – the shame of inhumanity exercised on this island by some on both sides… And yet they are the ones who are authentic when they say they want peace… Let’s create a space for them to speak up so that perhaps `reasoning` and `common sense` can win in this absurd game…

(*) Article published in ALITHIA newspaper on the 17th of October, 2004.

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