Yeraltý Notlarý, 21 Ekim 2004

Sevgül Uludað

 

Three articles published in the ALITHIA newspaper...

The slow burial of the patterns of `nationalism` (*)

Sevgul Uludag

Rauf Denktash could not even convince his grandson Rauf not to go and apply for a Cypriot passport. He had threatened all of us for years saying that those who take the Cypriot passport should be punished, their right to vote in elections should be taken away from them… The regime in the northern part had even prepared a law foreseeing heavy punishment for the holding of a Cypriot passport: fines as well as up to two years in prison.

But no one except a few hundred around him answered his call to give their Cyprus passport to him. These people went and visited him, giving back their Cyprus passports and they even published names of those who gave back their passports… Times had changed from the `Cold War` era when you could have frightened the people by force and threats. His grandson Rauf Kursat is a living proof that times are changing in Cyprus, putting his grandfather in a difficult situation, especially in the eyes of conservatives of Turkey. He had the courage to go and apply for something which was his natural right as a Cypriot. Another grandson, also carrying the name Rauf, had the courage to have in his wedding in Denktash’s palace some years ago, a group of Cypriot folklore dancers to do our traditional Cypriot dances. Again it was the time when Denktash was attacking our folkloric dances, claiming that these were `Greek dances` and kids must learn traditional Anatolian dances. If he could follow his grandchildren and their attitudes, Denktash could have learnt a lot from them about how the world and Cyprus, how the attitudes of people are changing around him. How it is not the world of the 50s and 60s and 70s… How you cannot keep people under control by threat of force, by manipulation and by creating illusions forever. There comes a time when the world you create like that starts falling apart and the irony with him is that those closest to him are bringing down such illusions: his grandchildren who did not hesitate to cross to the southern part when the `border` was open, who did not hesitate to apply for their Cypriot passports…

The whole thing reminded me of the time when Turkish Cypriots were forced to resign from PEO and give an advertisement in the Turkish Cypriot newspapers that `They have nothing to do with PEO or the communists…` This was a time when Turkey, Greece and Cyprus were fighting communists – in Greece as well, people were forced at that time to resign from the communist organizations and make it known publicly that they had nothing to do with them. If they did not have a paper of clearance from the police, they could not find a place to rent or to work. All of this I found out years later as I was reading `The Woman with Red Hair` by Kostas Mourselas. Later helping Kamil Tuncel to write his memories, we learnt the details.

Once or twice a week, together with my friend Murat Kanatli, we would meet this veteran trade unionist and tape his memories, later transcribing it on paper and giving it back to him to work on. We tried to find out what had happened in the 30s, 40s and 50s – how the trade unionists and communists at that time struggled, what sort of conflicts they had, what sort of threats they lived under. This was the time of colonialism, of Cold War politics – this was the time when the united working class of Cyprus was being split through the enforcement of `nationalism`.

Kamil Tuncel had a very sad story – he was born in Paphos in 1927 and had an extremely poor family from Istinco. He became a shoemaker and moved to Nicosia. At a very young age he became a trade unionist at PEO. He worked with Sadi Erkut, Fazil Onder, Dervis Ali Kavazoglu, all legendary figures of the Cypriot trade union and progressive movement. There were others as well, just a handful but enough to go round the villages to start a struggle through PEO for the Social Security system to be established, They had strikes at the CMC mines, many of the strike leaders imprisoned later. They had a joint struggle of the working class of Cyprus. That is, until `nationalism` came to the scene to split them and until paramilitaries started hunting and killing them one by one.

Kamil escaped death couple of times but he was on the `hitlist` of TMT - they had killed Fazil Onder, had attacked Ahmet Sadi Erkut but his wife saved him taking the bullets herself and himself wounded. Ahmet Yahya a barber was killed in his bed on the 29th of May 1958. He had given an advertisement in the newspapers about his resignation from PEO. The advertisement was printed on the day he was killed so you can see that his resignation from PEO and the announcement of his death appears in the same newspaper at that time. Another veteran trade unionist, Hulus Halil Ibrahim was threatened so he escaped to London to save his life. Kamil gave an advertisement in a newspaper to save his head.

He told us of a scene which I will never forget – one night the hitmen of TMT come and take him to Cetinkaya to have dinner. All of them are eating and drinking and Kamil is sitting there, frozen, not knowing what will happen to his life. They tell him `It’s okay, you don’t need to worry, you have resigned from PEO…` But the scene gets stuck in my heart and I can imagine what sort of suffering he went through all these years on this island, having to live under death threats, having lost some of his friends in the struggle, having had to bury them and still try to survive with human dignity.

Times have changed a little bit, not as much as we would like, but things have changed. The `border` is open, even though the paramilitaries, in other forms exist, not as arrogant as before perhaps but still they are there. The illusions created by `nationalism` are dissolving slowly. Kamil Tuncel will publish his memories and we will all read and see more clearly the patterns they have used for repression of a joint struggle of our people, the Cypriots. Soon Makarios Drusiotis will publish a book about 1963-64 and we will have more material to see the picture even more clearly.

The future belongs to us, as the angonis of Denktash and other youngsters are demonstrating. This is the time when patterns of nationalism must be buried so that human dignity can have some space to survive on this island…

(*) Article published in the ALITHIA newspaper on 26.9.2004

The challenging case of Arif Mustafa

Sevgul Uludag

The case of Arif Mustafa sends shock waves on the island – it also shows the falsehood of the slogans used by `nationalists` on both sides of `the border`…

Wasn’t it Denktash who was always saying that `Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots can never live together – they have to live separately?` and using this argument for trying to consolidate the division?

We grew up hearing that there must be `bi-zonality` since Turkish Cypriots `did not want to return` to their properties… This was the ideology of Ankara as well, so that the piece of land called `northern Cyprus` could remain in the hands of the Turkish Cypriot side.

Sure, some of the Turkish Cypriots did not want to `return`. There were fears buried deep in their hearts from the past and politicians never left these fears alone. They played with the fears of the people, they manipulated them and so we ended up with a lot of Turkish Cypriots wanting `separation` of the island… There were deep wounds from 1950s and 60s and 70s… They could not trust the Greek Cypriots not to `attack` them again, they would say… `We do not want Greek Cypriots amongst us either, we should live side by side` they would claim… These were the parts of the population that Ankara and Denktash relied on for the complete separation (TAKSIM) of the island. And those of us who said `Yes, we can live together with Greek Cypriots – you cannot generalize and blame all Greek Cypriots for what happened, you need to see which groups or sections of society committed these crimes against Turkish Cypriots` were punished. The most dangerous thing in the north was thinking and expressing your ideas against the ideology of the regime. They campaigned against us. Some of us like Kutlu Adali were killed, some of us like Arif Hasan Tahsin and Sener Levent, put to prison. Some of us like Alpay Durduran was bombed couple of times. Some of us like my husband and myself were unemployed for many many years and lived under death threats… We got married when we were both unemployed, I gave birth to my son when we were both unemployed – not because we were stupid or lacked skills to find a job but because the regime was trying to destroy our lives… It was as though we had `plague`! Our phones were tapped, our letters opened, the regime spent a lot of time following us, even sometimes when we went abroad! We were considered `dangerous` for their ideology because we were using our brains and thinking independently… The regime did not want any counter arguments on this front. The biggest `sin` in the north would be to say `Yes, we CAN live together…`

But there were also others who did not want a united island since they had got a lot of Greek Cypriot property. Not only did they get property for themselves, but also for their children and mother-in-laws and relatives. Perhaps they were living in a tiny house in the south before 1974, now they got big houses, land to build on or gardens to collect the fruit. They did not want to be a refugee the second, sometimes the third time… They did not want to lose what they had.

Arif Mustafa, living in the `south` and trying to get back his property, has put a stick in the nest of the wasps. That the Turkish Cypriots don’t want to `return` and don’t want their `property`, that they want to live completely separately from the Greek Cypriots will start falling apart…

But those Greek Cypriots who do not want to live together with Turkish Cypriots started already helping the separatist ideology of the north… We keep on hearing on television, radio and from the press that some Greek Cypriots are `against` Turkish Cypriots taking back their property. Some of them say, `What? Shall we be refugees a second time?` Those who were saying this, did they ever think about some Turkish Cypriots who had voted `YES` despite the fact that they would become a `refugee` the second, maybe the third time? Morphou was the most striking example – Morphou would be `given back` with the Annan Plan, but the overwhelming majority of the people there voted `YES` despite the fact that they would be saying goodbye to the houses they had been living in for the last 30 years…

Arif Mustafa also showed how some Greek Cypriots do not understand what EU citizenship means… That we are all equal citizens and you can’t make discrimination based on ethnicity. We heard some calls on television for the Greek Cypriot lawyers, `Not to take up cases of Turkish Cypriots!` How someone can even think that due to ethnicity, lawyers can `refuse` to take up any case! Where are the European norms and values? It also set a challenge to the Republic of Cyprus to prove that it is a state where all citizens, whatever ethnicity they come from, are equal before the law…

It all boils down to my interview with Makarios Drusiotis last week. I called it `The Dark Side of the Moon` and we sat down with Makarios and spoke about Georgadjis, Papadopoulos, EOKA, EOKA-B, the `Organization`, TMT… He told me details about the Greek Cypriot history which we do not know so well… But the most striking thing he said was that the Greek Cypriot elite `does not want to share power with Turkish Cypriots… They want to keep the land, the area, the space, the power for themselves… And this is not a fact but my feeling but in essence they agree with the separation… Not a federation but a confederation… But they are afraid to say this openly since they would get a reaction from not only the YES people but also from the NO people… Because those who voted NO expect to get back their properties…`

The challenges that life itself puts before the elites and different interest groups on both sides is interesting: we can learn a lot from the case of Arif Mustafa…

(*) Article published in the ALITHIA newspaper on 3.10.2004

`Settlers` dancing with Greek Cypriots in Karpaz…

Sevgul Uludag

Nicos knows every single stone, every single story, every single bush in Karpaz. He shows us the `Yinegobeda`, that is the `Stone of Women`… The stone has been standing for decades by the side of the road in Yialoussa.

`Here, women used to come and throw a coin to see if their baby would be a boy or a girl` he explains… He’s from Yialoussa and we stop in the village so he can show us his house. We take a quick look at the San Marina church where there are dirty grafitti on the walls and human shit everywhere on the floor. The old olive mill in the churchyard is gone… Androula feels sad and an old man with a hat saying he’s a `retired soldier` comes to see what we are doing there.

We travel 12 hours with Nicos, Despina and Androula. Last Saturday we took them early morning from the Ledra Palace checkpoint and went to Kyrenia Boghaz to have breakfast, then up to Bellapais to look at the beauty of the Abbey…

When you stand there where you can see the northern shore, you feel as if you’re somewhere else. What Talat or Papadopulos or other politicians say are not important here… Here’s the `beautiful peace` as the name Bellapais suggests. French nuns knew it and in this spot maybe prayed for peace. Here you can’t speak of the political agenda of the `two sides` but only look at the beauty of the sea, the shoreline, the trees and listen to the silence around you… Years ago, when the `borders` were `tightly closed` we were doing `cross-visits` with various groups… We took Greek Cypriot women here in a bus and stopped to admire the scenery. Our friend Selma had arranged for a band to play classical music in the open air. It was springtime and Bellapais always has lots of swallows – they were flying their dizzy flight, making you think that they would fall to the ground when at the last moment their dive would turn upwards and they would sing happily. The trees were full of birds, so was the Abbey.

From Bellapais we drive all the way to Akathou (Tatlisu) from the northern road, joining Kyrenia with Karpaz. We cross the mountain towards Lefkonico and from there go to the Famagusta Boghaz to look at the fishermen’s boats and have coffee. Sitting under the trees I think of the stories I read about this place in the book `My Boat` written by George Tornaritis… His adventures in the sea and his discoveries in the Cyprus of 60s…

The Cyprus of the 60s, perhaps this is what’s happening in the northern part of our island… The northern part reminds Androula of the 60s – so familiar and yet so strange for her… Somewhere where time stopped and now, with the craziness of the constructions, trying to catch up for the time lost for decades… The constructions give you the feeling of `violence` because they are everywhere, very loud, very pretentious, as though trying desperately to `prove a point`… No one knows where the money comes from for these constructions, who are behind and why there is this fury of building and building, only on the `northern shore`… But as we travel the whole 12 hours, the picture becomes more visible… After Famagusta Boghaz, we stop in Yialoussa, on the beautiful beach `Malibu`… Nidai Rasim who has the restaurant is not there but his children prepare fish and calamar for us…

`Androula, look at the sea! Is there such a color in the whole of Cyprus?`

The turquoise sea is crystal clear and the sands are almost white, like icing sugar. Nicos remembers this beach, this was the beach where his father brought him as a kid, once a week to swim… This is the place of his childhood memories – he tells us how they used to collect tobacco, put them on a string, how as a young boy he used to work for a whole week and the payment from his father was to bring him and other kids to this beach to swim…

We continue from Yialoussa all the way to Rizokarpaz and Apostol Andreas Church. On the way we stop to take photos of the `Golden Beach` (Chelones)… On the road we see the wild donkeys of Karpaz and Nicos says `This is Trashoda, the land of the donkeys!`, explaining that in the old times, the villagers would let the donkeys roam freely until the following year when they needed them for some time… Karpaz is wildlife and we stop to pick shinya or marathos… Nicos shows us the bush like trees called `aorota` which the cikla birds love and tells us how they used to catch cikla birds with miksha sticks. The ambelopoulya hunting passed from Turkish Cypriots to the `settlers` and now they catch these birds to be served in restaurants in the Famagusta and Karpaz area…

In Apostolos Andreas Monastery, a `panayiri` or an `open bazaar` awaits the Greek Cypriots visiting the church. I can’t believe my eyes! The `settlers` from Rizokarpaz are selling towels, curtains, tablecloths, rings and bracelets, slippers and bandofla of all kinds… They are selling knives and souvenirs of ikonas to hang on the wall. They are selling bracelets with the cross… Money has no `nationality` or `ethnicity`! We stop and speak with the `settlers` in the churchyard. Apparently the bazaar is `permanent` and the young guy explains that they import everything from Adana just for this purpose… He speaks Greek and I ask him how come and he says `I was born here… We live together with Greek Cypriots and we have learnt to speak their language…` He makes fun of some Greek Cypriots when they come and say `This was my house 30 years ago…` I ask him why he finds this funny and he goes into defense, saying he did not mean that. Trading is fine, money has no `nationality`, right? He complains about the ban on building in the Karpaz area… Now the picture is clear – after the Famagusta Boghaz, there are no constructions as in the northern shore. The elites of the two sides must have agreed that the Turkish Cypriots can `keep Kyrenia but save Karpaz for the Greek Cypriots in a future solution`. This explains why the `settlers` and some Turkish Cypriots are upset. One of the leading Turkish Cypriot figures in Yialoussa is campaigning for the lifting of the `ban on constructions` because he has acquired a lot of Greek Cypriot land around the village and he wants to sell them! For the first time, I feel that the Talat-Serdar coalition has done something very good – banning the rape of the land and protecting the wildlife of Karpaz area…

We take photographs of the famous cats of Apostol Andreas and start going back, stopping in Rizokarpaz to look at the Greek Cypriot Secondary School which opened recently. Turkey had promised Europe that they would do that and they did and the money for the repairing of the school was given by the Turkish Embassy in Cyprus. We sit in a restaurant where there is loud music, Sakis Rouvas singing and a Greek Cypriot family dancing with the daughters of the `settler` family who runs the restaurant… The `settlers` speak Greek and apparently the Greek Cypriots feel `at home` here with this loud music and dancing and laughter… Right across the restaurant stands the main church of Rizokarpaz. My husband points out the name of the street: it says this is the `Recep Tayyip Erdogan Street`!

I feel as though this is an absurd movie as Sakis Rouvas sings in the background, on the `Recep Tayyip Erdogan Street!` and the Greek Cypriots dance with the Kurdish girls in the restaurant… I feel all the absurdity of the `old slogans` and the change in Karpaz, how life weaves its own net, no matter what the `slogans` are… After all, some Greek Cypriots have found the `human face` of the `settlers` and they are trading, eating and drinking and even dancing together!

Perhaps everyone in Cyprus should take a similar trip from Kyrenia all the way to Karpaz, to feel the absurdity of the `slogans` used by mainstream political forces on both sides… To feel what sort of `solution` is foreseen by the elites of the island, while they continue to use the `old slogans`…

(*) Article published in the ALITHIA newspaper on 10.10.2004

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