The first grave monument for both T/c & G/c`missing persons`is built in Mari

On the 5th of September 2015 Saturday in the afternoon we go to Mari, the village of Leyla Kiralp whose husband had been killed in the Tochni massacre and whose remains were found in Gerasa together with the other `missing` Turkish Cypriots on the same bus as him… Leyla’s husband Ahmet had been from Zygi and were taken by some Greek Cypriot policemen from his house and `disappeared` along with two busloads of Turkish Cypriots from Zygi and Tochni… The remains of those `missing` Turkish Cypriots from one bus were found in Gerasa and the remains of those on the second bus were found in Pareklisia… The relatives of those on the second bus are still waiting for DNA identification but those on the first bus were identified with DNA tests and the remains were returned and buried by their relatives… Leyla had buried the remains of her husband in Famagusta, along with other relatives of `missing` Turkish Cypriots from Zygi…
Leyla wanted to build a monument-grave in memory not only of her husband Ahmet Mustafa but in memory of all Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot `missing` persons in Mari. Why Mari? Because this is where Leyla is from and before 1974 Turkish Cypriots of Zygi did not have a cemetery of their own and used to bury their deceased in the Turkish Cypriot cemetery in Mari.
Leyla would set out with her own funds she has collected through the sale of her wonderful biographical book published in Turkish and Greek to finance the building of such a monument-grave. She would visit the Ministry of Interior and take the necessary permissions to do that. She would visit the Mukhtar of Mari, Ms. Maria Georgiou and tell her about her plans… The ministry would allocate her the space of one grave where she would build this symbolic monument-grave… She would work for six months with all the relevant authorities in order to ensure things to run smoothly. On the monument-grave is a photo of Ahmet Mustafa, his birth date and the date he went `missing`: 14.5.1949-14.8.1974. Underneath is written `In memory of all missing persons of the Cyprus tragedy…
You were not there but your absence has always remained inside us…`
In order to ensure safety during the opening of this monument-grave, Leyla has visited the police in Nicosia and Larnaka and was in contact with the Kaymakamis of Larnaka as well as with the mukhtar of Mari. Police takes measures during the opening and we stand next to the monument while all around us people who come with peace in their hearts, Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots, coming all the way from Paphos, Limassol, Famagusta, Kyrenia and Nicosia…
First Leyla speaks and tells her feelings on this important day:
“Thank you everyone for coming here today… I wanted to build a symbolic monument-grave in memory of all missing persons of the Cyprus tragedy with the income I got from the sales of my first book entitled `The White and Wet Handkerchief That We Shared…` I am peaceful that I have achieved that and thank everyone who supported me in this aim. I want to thank everyone who is working for the finding of our missing persons, to the Cyprus Missing Persons’ Committee and to my dear friend journalist Sevgul Uludag.
I am one of those who struggle voluntarily for peace and for the reunification of our country. When my first husband Ahmet Mustafa was taken from our house in Zygi on the 14th of August 1974 as a prisoner of war and executed, he had only been 25 years old… Just like the bitter fate of thousands of Cypriots who had been, like all of them without a gun and innocent. They gave us in a small box, his bones that were found after 40 years from his disappearance. It is impossible for me to tell you what I have gone through and what I felt during those 40 years. Even the most prominent poets cannot describe this pain. Doctors too cannot cure this pain. Only those who live with this pain know this pain…
Not only those `missing` persons but their relatives also suffer living in a whirlwind of deep trauma. And they pull their families in this trauma. I had got married a second time. But just like me, both my husband and my son lived through this trauma for many years… This trauma lasts long years and is passed from one generation to the next.
Our relatives had gone `missing` but the pain of their absence was always inside us… It was impossible to ever fill that absence…
I struggled with myself for many years. I tried to understand why our relatives had been killed. We were the victims of the war and we were the ones who suffered. What remained for us was to mourn… Those who enjoyed the interests they got after they set out this war were the ones rejoicing, not us…
I lived through dilemmas inside myself… Despite the fact that I lived through this tragedy, the only result I deducted from this is that we owe bringing peace to this country in order to stop such pain from being lived again in the future.
We can’t forget what we have lived through but we can forgive those responsible… After struggling within myself for many years, I forgave those responsible for my tragedy and I called on them to question their consciences.
My first husband Ahmet Mustafa was from Zygi (Terazi) and I am from Mari (Tatlisu) village. We had met and got married in this village. Our marriage ended in less than a year due to war, with his death…
I wanted this monument-grave in memory of my first husband Ahmet Mustafa and in memory of all missing persons of the Cyprus tragedy to be in Mari. Because Mari is where I have been born and it is every single breath I take…
We did not lose only our loved ones after 1974. We also lost our homes, our land, our country. With pressure they built the illusion of `our side` and `their side` and wanted us to forget our houses, our towns and our villages. How can one forget the house that a grandfather had built with his own labour, how can one forget his or her past or his or her memories?
Dear friends, I am very emotional today… But I am happy that I see you here. You give me pride and strength. I ask all of you, particularly from my new villagers in Mari to protect this monument-grave.
Last but not least I hope that the remains of all `missing` Cypriots would be found soon and I embrace the relatives of `missing` with love. I thank also Christina Pavlou for being here on this emotional day with me, Maria Georgiou, the Mukhtar of Mari for her help, Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Cyprus for allowing me to build this monument…`
Next is Christina Pavlou Solomi Patsia from Komikebir – both her father and brother are still `missing` and she speaks in the name of `Together We Can` – The Bicommunal Initiative of Relatives of Missing Persons and Victims of War… She says:
“I feel very privileged to be asked to say few words, in this symbolic gathering, here in the Turkish Cypriot Cemetery in Mari…
A Cenotaph is erected in memory of Ahmet whose life was cut short at the age of 25…
He was among a group of Turkish Cypriot men from Zygi, Tochni and Mari, who fell victims to acts of hatred and terrible revenge, by Greek Cypriot men in August 1974.
Today 41 years on, Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots, together, are paying an overdue tribute, not only to Ahmet, but also, to those who died, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.
All of them were ordinary people with parents, brothers, wives and children…
They had the right to have dreams of a prosperous and peaceful life, with their families but they were not allowed to fulfil any of their dreams…
Today it’s an occasion, to reflect on the turbulent years of our past, which led to the loss of innocent lives, causing deep pain and divisions amongst both of our communities.
We are standing here today, before Ahmet’s Cenotaph, with resolute commitment…
To bury deeply fanaticism, ethnic hatred and nationalism…
To work for peace and better future for our children and grandchildren…
Together We Can!”
Next is the son of Leyla, Shevki Kiralp who says in summary:
“I believe that sooner or later we will realize that we are from the same land and will live in peace on this island. Today there is a friendly atmosphere where the two leaders and progressive circles are working for peace sincerely. I want to stress that politicians from both sides generally when they speak about missing persons they say `I hope that they are found…` but I do not hear of any steps taken for this or for the relatives of missing persons. I am sad to say that it is not sufficient to `wish` for the remains of the missing persons to be found. The politicians from both sides must work together to see how they will reinstate the relatives of missing persons who have gone through the greatest tragedy in Cyprus, they should develop common formulas and both sides must apologize from the relatives of missing persons and make more concerted efforts for the remains of missing persons to be found. This is their historical responsibility and their
debt vis a vis the Cyprus people and humanity…`
The academician Niyazi Kizilyurek also says a few words at the opening, pointing out that symbolically this is a very important monument-grave. And then I say a few words:
“Both Leyla and Christina are our heroes. Because despite the fact that they lived through hell, they managed to put aside their horrible pain and took a step forward. They make an effort not only for their own `missing` but for all the `missing` to be found. Not only Leyla and Christina but all those relatives of `missing` who work bicommunally in `Together We Can` voluntarily are showing us how we should be acting…
Today history is being written in Cyprus because this is the very first monument in Cyprus built in the memory of `missing persons` from both communities. Only if we listen to Leyla and Christina and those like them, can we really reach peace in Cyprus…`

Photo: From the opening of the monument in Mari…

(*) Article published in POLITIS newspaper on the 4th of October 2015, Sunday…

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