By Sila Ulucay
The two leaders, Nicos Anastasiades and Mustafa Akıncı, are continuing the talks in an atmosphere that has been identified as positive by many. Albeit hesitantly, many of us are expecting a solid result to come out of their ongoing work. Yet, the 12 years that has passed since the opening of the checkpoints in 2003, indicate very clearly that the ingredients for a reunified Cyprus that is pluralist and democratic in spirit are interaction, mutual understanding and empathy between the people of Cyprus. To this effect, it is essential that we start now to open to discussion and to challenge some of the ‘pre-given’ notions we hold with respect to the historical, political and social dynamics of our island. It is with this aim that I seek to ask questions regarding the idea of Turkey and Turkish Cypriots in the official Greek Cypriot discourse.
Turkey plays a central role in the official Greek Cypriot discourse on the Cyprus Problem. Specifically, Turkey’s policies in Cyprus are often depicted as ‘barbaric’ and ‘bloodthirsty’. Without much discussion, it is taken for granted that Turkey follows an expansionist policy in Cyprus, merely for the sake of gaining territory, achieving partition in Cyprus or inflicting pain upon the Greeks. Challenging this view, Niyazi Kızılyürek, in an article in the Yenidüzen newspaper last year, has argued that Turkey’s policies in Cyprus have been shaped primarily by the possibility of a threat that may be posed to Turkey’s southern shores rather than expansionist or ‘Ottoman-Islamic aspirations’. He argued that Turkey’s opposition to Enosis in 1950s, advocacy of the survival of the Republic of Cyprus in 1960s and its support for the establishment of a federal state in Cyprus, rather than permanent partition in the aftermath of 1974 , are evidence for this view. In his book that was published in 1966, Denktaş had written of his disappointment in Turkey’s policies in Cyprus, claiming that Turkey had failed to develop a national policy with respect to Cyprus and to prepare for a military intervention. Above all, Turkey’s policies in Cyprus sought to further her interests. When, during a meeting at the UN in 1958, the Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs , Evangelos Averoff, tried to reassure his Turkish counterpart, Fatin Rüştü Zorlu, about the security of Turkish Cypriots in the case of Enosis, Zorlu responded by pointing out the importance of the strategic and security concerns of Turkey with respect to the island. In a similar vein, current leader of AKP, Davutoğlu, has argued in his well known book ‘Strategic Depth’ that “a country that neglects Cyprus cannot be influential in regional politics” This, he argued, is the case “even if there is no single Muslim Turk” on the island.
As for Turkish Cypriots in the official Greek Cypriot discourse, we are often depicted as innocent parties in contrast to Turkey, with the clashes between Greek and Turkish Cypriots before 1974 rarely being mentioned. This, too, has to be challenged if we are to confront what has happened and base our common future on a truthful basis. Apart from the inter-communal killings and clashes of 1958, and 1964-1967, Turkish Cypriots were also involved in a number of killings and lootings in the summer of 1974. It was from Sevgül Uludağ’s writings that my father came to discover the massacre of 18 Greek Cypriots by 3 Turkish Cypriots that took place in August 1974 in his village of origin, Palekythro or Balikitre. Ironically, the Turkish army who arrived at the scene few hours later were the ones to treat the 2 children and the women who survived the massacre. Also, Turkish Cypriots were partly responsible in the looting of Varosha.
In conclusion, I definitely do not intend to dispute or to vindicate the responsibilities of Turkey in the Cyprus Problem nor do I intend to demonise the Turkish Cypriots. I simply intend to raise questions with respect to the depiction of Turkey as merely ‘evil’ and to indicate the ways the country has acted and will act to pursue its own interests and strategy in an attempt to obtain regional power. A similar intention is behind my raising questions about the depiction of Turkish Cypriots as disempowered ‘angels’. In order to build a truly common future and perhaps to set an example of unity in our region, we, as the people of Cyprus, need to scrutinize our perceptions and knowledge that we take for granted. Facing the past without the safety net offered by our official histories and understanding the nuances, dynamics and the not so simple nature of the involvement of various parties to our problem, is essential for taking a solid step ahead together. We need to chase away both the demons and angels of our history.