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When numbers might hide the Cyprus answers
by Thanos Kalamidas
2010-10-01 09:24:42
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A couple of months ago I participated in a seminar about Cyprus and where Finland stands on the Cyprus issue with the UN appointed negotiator former Australian foreign minister Alexander Downer as one of speakers. Despite to what I think about Mr. Downer as a politician and his long career in Australia somehow I was taken aback from the superficial way he was talking about the issue. But then again it was a seminar about Finland’s foreign policy with an audience that lives in the other side of the continent and often thinks of Cyprus as a small spot in the map. Perhaps even Mr. Downer felt that day that it was a lighter break in the middle of hard negotiations. I suppose things are different when all trough your life the words “Cyprus issue” have one way or another become part of you especially when you have friends who are part of the “Cyprus issue” and family member who died for the “Cyprus issue”, then it becomes somehow personal.

But then again one gift of aging is that doesn’t matter how personal an issue like the “Cyprus issue” might get, you somehow can distance yourself of it and even become tolerance and understanding to the other side however much that might hurt you. I must admit that I have very little memories from the cousin who got killed during the Turkish invasion to Cyprus in 1974, serving for the Greek army based in the island nation. I remember that he was very thin, tall and always serious. I remember the day a very dear friend of mine standing next to me in tears was showing me on the other side of the green line the house she grew up and the place her mother died few months before the invasion now in ruins. Nearly forty years after I still talk with another dear friend and known poet about her missing father and her doubts that he might, a tiny little possibility that he might be alive in a prison somewhere and how that eats her day after day.

And I’m sure there is another woman in the other side who misses her house, who misses her garden and the memories of dead and alive. And in my last visit to Cyprus I met a painter from the other side who had lost his brother in the “Cyprus issue” and the most dramatic thing he said after hours talking and building a friendship was that nobody understands that he is a Cypriot, that decades after with everybody trying to bring solution to the “Cyprus issue” he feels foreigner in his own land because everybody works for his own good ignoring him and that he’s more a slave now than he was before the invasion or “liberation” as they call it in northern Cyprus.

Meeting people like him makes you understand what Mr. Downer is missing and wander if he will ever have the chance to understand already drowning in the swamp of political agendas, geopolitics with visible and invisible players and all that on an island in strategic position able to control the most sensitive side of the Mediterranean. Actually that’s an element we often miss and the British governments like to keep it in low key. Cyprus is the eyes and the ears to the Middle East; that’s why the gigantic British bases in Cypriot soil and that’s why the special British interest for the “Cyprus issue”

But returning to what the painter said there is a very bitter truth in his words; forty years after reality has discard any excuse for active outside help however fair it might looked back in 1960s and 1970s with the situation between the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriots seriously tensed. And oddly despite all the outside effects this reality has strengthened the feeling of a national identity to both sides. You see both sides have been used for the political agendas of the mother nations - Greece and Turkey - both sides have been victimised and both sides have paid with blood.

I’m not going to say what Mr. Downer must do but during the seminar I had the chance to talk with him about the Turkish settlers that have been transferred from Turkey into the island with the excuse to strengthen the minority and how much they have and will change the Cypriot reality in many ways including the negotiations and the future of the people. According to the last census (April 1973) before the Turkish invasion covering the entire island, the population of Cyprus was 631,778 with the ethnic Turkish community estimated at 19% of the total (about 120,000). In the beginning of 2010 the estimation was that the population of Cyprus was somewhere around 800,000. More than 162,000 colonists have been illegally transferred to the occupied area by Turkey to alter the demography of the island – Mr. Downer in that seminar talked about 80,000 but he emphasized that this was estimation and perhaps far from reality – on top of the growing local Turkish-Cypriot minority. And that while in search for a better life after the invasion – with some having lost everything because the invasion - more than 200,000 Greek Cypriots have immigrate to UK, Greece and USA. Add to that 43,000 Turkish occupation soldiers and now you can understand why this Turkish Cypriot feels foreigner into his own country and why he feels that other’s decide for him ignoring him! And something very important, the Turkish settlers lack Cypriot ethnic identity but they have strong Turkish nationalism.

Without adding anything more than these numbers – including the enormous financial help the Turkish government has given to those settlers over the locals and that the Turkish army in northern Cyprus has some special and extreme privileges even in local decision making – you can see that the worst nightmare for the Turkish Cypriots are their own savours and forty years after they have become the problem instead of their solution.

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