By Sevgul Uludag
I had first written in 2007 about a young Greek Cypriot soldier who had gone to Kampilli and kept there for some days as a prisoner of war and then killed and buried somewhere in the village… My Turkish Cypriot readers would continue to share their information and I would publish more details about this young man in 2008 – that he had gone to the village not knowing that it was a Turkish Cypriot village and was taken as a prisoner of war and then killed and buried in a well… My readers had provided the name of the owner of the house where the well was and they were insistent that if there was digging by the Cyprus Missing Persons’ Committee, his remains would be found in the well…
My readers would continue to call and tell me about this young man so I would publish more details about this `missing` Greek Cypriot back in 2011… In April 2011, I would publish one of my reader’s stories on the `missing` Greek Cypriot in Kampilli… He would share the following information:
`A `missing` Greek Cypriot is buried in Kampilli… This Greek Cypriot had come to the village during the bombing of the Turkish planes of Kontemenos and Asomatos… He was barely 18 or 19 years old… When he was asked why he had come to a Turkish Cypriot village, it would be clear that he did not know this area at all… They would put him in a house and would stay there for a day or so… Then the Greek Cypriots started bombing Kampilli from Myrtou and some of the leaders of the village got afraid and said, `What if the Greek Cypriots come to our village and see that we are keeping a Greek Cypriot as a prisoner of war` and they shot him. They buried him in a well… I can describe and also show you the exact location of this well… They would demolish the well over him…`
I was sharing this information with the officials of the Cyprus Missing Persons’ Committee since 2008 and in June 2011 I would go with them to show them the exact location of this well. We would go together with Xenophon Kallis, Murat Soysal and Okan Oktay from the Cyprus Missing Persons’ Committee to the village and thanks to the insistence and the information provided by my readers, we would find the well, as well as the house where he had been kept, this `missing` Greek Cypriot. One of my woman readers would offer us coffee and would assure us that `he is still there if you dig – no one has ever touched that well since he had been buried there…`
After about two years from the time I had shown the well to the CMP, exhumations would begin in 2013 and the remains of this `missing` Greek Cypriot young man would be found in the well, just as my readers had described to us… I would help the Cyprus Missing Persons’ Committee to get the necessary consent from the family from Kampilli who owned the well… From 2007 when we began searching for information about him, finally digging would begin after six years and his remains would be found in the well that we showed… I would stand next to the well watching the exhumations and feel relieved that finally he would reach his family, if you can call this a sort of `consolation`… Because they had sent him alive but now he would return to his loved ones in a small coffin to be buried which is a tragedy – a tragedy shared by both communities… Still I would have no idea about who he is and would wonder whether I would find out who he had been and whether I would ever be able to meet his family…
Two years would go by and then one day I would find out the identity of this `missing` Greek Cypriot… It was Panayiotis Karaolis from Lythrodontas and he had only been 18 years old… I would find out with the help of a relative of a Greek Cypriot `missing person` who would share with me the announcement of the funeral of Panayiotis Karaolis.
He would be buried at Lythrodontas on the 29th of November 2015 but because his family has no idea what sort of effort my readers has shown and how insistent they had been about opening up the well, I would not be able to go to his funeral. I would never go to the funeral of a `missing` Greek Cypriot if I am not invited by the family… But I would share the information about his funeral with my readers and would also print some photographs from his funeral that Katerina Antona had shared on her wonderful Facebook page on `missing` Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots from 1963 and 1974… And I would thank all my readers who had helped to find his remains and let them know who this young boy was… Some had thought he had been from Psimolofou village, some had thought he was from Lakatamia, some had thought he was from Paphos but finally we know he was from Lythrodontas…
Perhaps one day I would have the opportunity to go and visit his village and lay some flowers on his grave – that is if his relatives does not oppose such a visit… I would share the pain of their loss – such a young boy, another victim like all the victims of the bloody wars that have been waged on this island…
Another life cut so short – he did not have time to even finish his growing up and becoming an adult – he could not embrace life because death would embrace him and he would be killed in cold blood – an execution like so many others that took place on this island… May he rest in peace now…
I want to end this article with some wise words from Dalai Lama… Dalai Lama, recently wrote an article called `The Reality of War` and he said:
“Of course, war and the large military establishments are the greatest sources of violence in the world. Whether their purpose is defensive or offensive, these vast powerful organizations exist solely to kill human beings. We should think carefully about the reality of war. Most of us have been conditioned to regard military combat as exciting and glamorous – an opportunity for men to prove their competence and courage. Since armies are legal, we feel that war is acceptable; in general, nobody feels that war is criminal or that accepting it is criminal attitude. In fact, we have been brainwashed. War is neither glamorous nor attractive. It is monstrous. Its very nature is one of tragedy and suffering.
War is like a fire in the human community, one whose fuel is living beings. I find this analogy especially appropriate and useful. Modern warfare waged primarily with different forms of fire, but we are so conditioned to see it as thrilling that we talk about this or that marvellous weapon as a remarkable piece of technology without remembering that, if it is actually used, it will burn living people. War also strongly resembles a fire in the way it spreads. If one area gets weak, the commanding officer sends in reinforcements. This is throwing live people onto a fire. But because we have been brainwashed to think this way, we do not consider the suffering of individual soldiers. No soldiers want to be wounded or die. None of his loved ones wants any harm to come to him. If one soldier is killed, or maimed for life, at least another five or ten people – his relatives and friends – suffer as well. We should all be horrified by the extent of this tragedy, but we are too confused.
Frankly as a child, I too was attracted to the military. Their uniform looked so smart and beautiful. But that is exactly how the seduction begins. Children start playing games that will one day lead them in trouble. There are plenty of exciting games to play and costumes to wear other than those based on the killing of human beings. Again, if we as adults were not so fascinated by war, we would clearly see that to allow our children to become habituated to war games is extremely unfortunate. Some former soldiers have told me that when they shot their first person they felt uncomfortable but as they continued to kill it began to feel quite normal. In time, we can get used to anything.
It is not only during times of war that military establishments are destructive. By their very design, they were the single greatest violators of human rights, and it is the soldiers themselves who suffer most consistently from their abuse. After the officer in charge have given beautiful explanations about the importance of the army, its discipline and the need to conquer the enemy, the rights of the great mass of soldiers are most entirely taken away. They are then compelled to forfeit their individual will, and, in the end, to sacrifice their lives. Moreover, once an army has become a powerful force, there is every risk that it will destroy the happiness of its own country.
There are people with destructive intentions in every society, and the temptation to gain command over an organisation capable of fulfilling their desires can become overwhelming. But no matter how malevolent or evil are the many murderous dictators who can currently oppress their nations and cause international problems, it is obvious that they cannot harm others or destroy countless human lives if they don’t have a military organisation accepted and condoned by society. As long as there are powerful armies there will always be danger of dictatorship. If we really believe dictatorship to be a despicable and destructive form of government, then we must recognize that the existence of a powerful military establishment is one of its main causes.
Militarism is also very expensive. Pursuing peace through military strength places a tremendously wasteful burden on society. Governments spend vast sums on increasingly intricate weapons when, in fact, nobody really wants to use them. Not only money but also valuable energy and human intelligence are squandered, while all that increases is fear.
I want to make it clear, however, that although I am deeply opposed to war, I am not advocating appeasement. It is often necessary to take a strong stand to counter unjust aggression. For instance, it is plain to all of us that the Second World War was entirely justified. It “saved civilization” from the tyranny of Nazi Germany, as Winston Churchill so aptly put it. War is violence and violence is unpredictable. Therefore, it is better to avoid it if possible, and never to presume that we know beforehand whether the outcome of a particular war will be beneficial or not.
For instance, in the case of the Cold War, through deterrence may have helped promote stability, it did not create genuine peace. The last forty years in Europe have seen merely the absence of war, which has not been real peace but a facsimile founded dear. At best, building arms to maintain peace serves only as a temporary measure. As long as adversaries do not trust each other, any number of factors can upset the balance of power. Lasting peace can assure secured only on the basis of genuine trust.”
Photo: The funeral of Panagiotis Karaolis…
(*) Article published in the POLITIS newspaper on the 17th of January 2016, Sunday.
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