April 1st, 2017
On a number of occasions, I have met persons visiting Cyprus that had from little to zero knowledge of the political history of the island. Most visitors seem to know that there is “a Greek part” and “a Turkish part” to the island (it’s actually much more complicated than that). A number of the visitors I meet is curious to know more and I am always glad to be able to share the knowledge I have …. but I’m suspecting that the majority of the 2-3 million mass tourists that visit the southern part of the island every year (I don’t have the statistics for the northern part) don’t have “Find out more about the political situation of the island!” in the top 5 spots of their Cyprus-To-Do list.
As I have already noted under “A bit of history”, it would not escape the attention of an observing visitor that the whole of Cyprus is filled with the flags of two other countries: Greece and Turkey. Many times those are flying alongside the flag of the Republic of Cyprus and the flag of the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. In my eyes, it is equally ridiculous to see a 60-meter-long flag of Greece being waved by the fans of a right-wing Cypriot football team during an international football match or the 400-meter-long flag of the TRNC, painted on the southern side of the Pentadaktylos mountain range, flashing at night with Christmas lights.
Imagine visiting Belgium on a random day and seeing it full of flags of France and Holland. Or visiting the USA on a random period of the year and seeing it full of flags of Germany, the UK, Mexico, Ireland, Japan, Cuba, etc. It would seem very strange, to say the least. Surely, it would create many questions as to the reasons for having so many flags in the first place and of being so attached to the national symbols of other countries. Similarly, imagine traveling around the countries of Latin America and telling the people of Chile, Uruguay, Bolivia, Colombia, etc that they are Spanish just because they speak the Spanish language or because their territories were colonized by the Spanish conquistadores a few centuries ago.
Does the island of Cyprus belong to Greece? No, it does not! Is Cyprus a part of Greece? No, it is not, regardless if some Greek Cypriots and Greeks insist this is the case.
Does the island of Cyprus belong to Turkey? No, it does not! Is Cyprus a part of Turkey? No, it is not, regardless if Turkey and some Turkish Cypriots insist this is the case.
Does the island of Cyprus belong to any other country? I would like to say “No, it does not!”. Unfortunately, a total of 255 sq. km (2.8% of the whole island), split in two separate military bases in the southern coastline of Cyprus, remained as a British Overseas Territory following the 1960 independence agreement with the British Empire. It seems these areas will retain their current status even if Cyprus is reunified as a federation in the future.
April 1st is a national holiday in the Republic of Cyprus. I wish I could say that what is being celebrated is April Fool’s Day. Sadly, what is celebrated is beyond just foolish: the myth that Cyprus is Greek and nothing but Greek. This is the same myth, together with the slogan of Enosis (Union with Greece) that led my beloved island to so much pain and turmoil in the last 100 years. It is this same myth that led to the shameless murders of Greek-Cypriots and Turkish-Cypriots between 1958-1974; just because they refused to follow this narrow-minded ideology.
It is this same myth which led to the creation of a counter-myth, that Cyprus is Turkish and should be divided into a Greek and a Turkish part (Enosis vs. Taksim/Partition) so that each part is attached to its “motherland” (Greece or Turkey).
It is this myth that led to the attack on the constitutional order of the island in 1974 (through a coup d’ etat organized by the military government of Greece, the Greek army stationed in Cyprus and insane Greek Cypriots) which opened the doors for Turkey to capture by force and control 37% of the island.
It is this same myth that the current Greek-Cypriot neonazi political party (branch of the criminal Greek neonazi party), followed by those political parties that do not wish to see a reunion of Cyprus, wishes to preserve through celebrations in public education, in the name of “patriotism”.
I wish I could say that what these films* portray (two separate narratives with their own truths, half-truths and biases) are all lies. However, they are not. And the chances of repetition of the pain they present will remain if the same destructive myths continue to be reproduced in Cyprus.