21 Φεβ 2016

‘CYPRIOTISM’ AND THE PATH TO REUNIFICATION Ahmet An

I dedicate the following article to the memory of my late friend, Jus:

(This contribution by Ahmet An was included in the book “Resolving Cyprus: New Approaches to Conflict Resolution” edited by James Ker-Lindsay, published by I.B. Tauris, London 2015, pp.24-30)

History deals with the sum of the events that happened in the past. It should be studied in order to understand the present. Today’s reality in Cyprus is influenced by history. It directs our attitudes and preferences. In this context, an awareness of history, the way the history is written, and the teaching of history are crucial. As Cypriots, how much do we know about the history of our country and the history of the inter-communal relations?

The emergence of Greek and Turkish nationalisms in Cyprus
When the British occupied the island of Cyprus in 1878, ending a 300-year period of Ottoman rule that had begun in 1571, they preferred to keep the existing structures of education in Cyprus. Christian and Moslem schools were kept separate from one another. There were two Boards of Education, one Christian and the other Moslem. They ensured that the curriculums of the two communities mirrored those in Greece and Turkey respectively. The Greek Orthodox community was educated by teachers who had mainly graduated from Greece educational institutions and the educational system was under the control of the Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus. At the request of the Cyprus Government, the headmaster of the only lyceum in Nicosia was always sent from Istanbul. They were all Turkish nationalists. The Boards also prescribed the books to be used in the schools, insisting that the history textbooks were written in the so-called motherlands. As a result, the books emphasised the conflicts between Greece and Turkey, which fought against each other in 1821, resulting in Greece’s independence from the Ottoman Empire, and again in 1921, when Turkish Army defeated the Greek troops that had invaded Western Anatolia, leading to the formation in the Republic of Turkey in 1923. Both events therefore influenced the Moslem Turkish and the Christian Greek community in Cyprus. This was particularly the case with Turkish nationalism, which had developed during the national struggle to liberate the Ottoman Empire from occupation by imperial powers. Though it developed almost a century after Greek nationalism, this Turkish nationalism became influential among the Moslem Turkish population in Cyprus after the military defeat of the Greek occupation of Western Anatolia.

As well as through the schools, Turkish nationalism was disseminated in Cyprus by the Turkish Cypriot press, which followed the example of the mainland Turkish press, as well as through the activities of the Turkish Consulate on the island, which was opened after the foundation of the Turkish Republic. Meanwhile, the Greek Cypriots also pursued their own nationalism. They aimed to bring about the union of the island with Greece; a demand often put before the Legislative Council, which had been established by the British in 1879. The Turkish Cypriot members of the parliament used to resist these demands by saying that the island should be returned to the original owner, Turkey. However, following the annexation of Cyprus by the British Empire in 1914, Turkey gave up all of her rights on Cyprus when it signed the Treaty of Lausanne Agreement, in 1923. This was confirmed in 1925, when Britain declared Cyprus to be a Crown Colony – a status it retained until 1960.

The nationalism of both Greek and Turkish Cypriots did not originate from local historical circumstances, but was imported to the island through the teachers, books and newspapers that came from mainland Greece and Turkey. This nationalism was encouraged by the British colonial administration and the British tried to disseminate it among the unaware masses of people in accordance to their traditional policy of ‘divide and rule’.

The consolidation of nationalisms
When the Greek Cypriots started a terror campaign in 1955 to end British colonial administration, the Turkish Cypriot leadership collaborated with the British and provoked the Greek Cypriots by recommending the Turkish Cypriot youth to become auxiliary police and commandoes in order to fight the Greek Cypriot fighters, thereby defending the colonialists. Thereafter, as the Greek Cypriot EOKA (National Organisation of Cypriot Fighters) underground organisation killed Turkish Cypriot security forces, the Turkish Cypriot TMT underground organisation began to kill Greek Cypriots in retaliation. As both organisations were anti-communist, they also killed progressive Cypriots who were against the partitionist policies of the British and their local collaborators. The growing demand of the Greek Cypriots for the union of the island with Greece (enosis) was encountered with the demand of the Turkish Cypriots for the partition (taksim) of the island between Turkey and Greece.
Finally, neither the Greek Cypriots’ objective of union nor the Turkish Cypriots’ aim of partition materialised. Instead, a limited independence was given to a new partnership, the Republic of Cyprus, which was established in 1960. The British maintained their sovereignty over the two military bases and the island was declared an independent state, banning both enosis and taksim in its constitution. The Turkish Cypriots, with 18 per cent of the island’s population were given 30 per cent say in the administration of the new Republic of Cyprus. This was strongly opposed by the Greek Cypriots. In December1963, the President of the Republic, Archbishop Makarios, tried to change the 13 points of the constitution by abolishing the veto power of the Turkish Cypriot Vice-President Dr Fazil Kuchuk. Inter-communal clashes began and, at the beginning of 1964, the Turkish Cypriots withdrew from the state apparatus. This conflict of nationalisms between the pro-enosis Greek Cypriot leadership and the pro-partition Turkish Cypriot leadership complicated the solution of the ethnic-national question in Cyprus. The unity of action and aim of the Cypriots could not be developed under a common shared aim and this caused new bitterness.

Meanwhile, those who sought to promote coexistence were silenced. In 1958, Turkish Cypriot trade unionists started to come under attack. In 1962, two prominent lawyers, Ahmet Muzaffer Gurkan and Ayhan Hikmet, founders of the ‘Cumhuriyet’ weekly newspaper, which advocated cooperation between the two main communities of new Cyprus state, were murdered. In 1965, Dervis Ali Kavazoglu, a Turkish Cypriot communist trade-unionist, was murdered by the Turkish Cypriot underground organization TMT (Turkish Resistance Organisation). These actions of intimidation silenced the democratic opposition within the Turkish Cypriot community, which was fighting against the partitionist policy of the Turkish Cypriot leadership. As a result, the separatist policy that the Turkish Cypriot leadership had pursued since 1958 was one of the reasons that Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots did not have a common political aim during the inter-communal negotiations that began in 1968.

From 1968 until 1974, various rounds of inter-communal negotiations were carried out, ending with a coup d’état by mainland Greek Army officers against Makarios, on 15 July 1974. This was followed by the invasion of the island by the mainland Turkish Army, on 20 July 1974. Together with Great Britain, Greece and Turkey were supposed to be the guarantor powers of the independence, sovereignty and the territorial integrity of the Republic of Cyprus. The Turkish Cypriot leadership unilaterally declared independence in 1983, forming the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, on the Turkish occupied territory of the island; a move that was immediately condemned by the UN Security Council. Nevertheless, in the Turkish Cypriot textbooks of Cyprus history, the Turkish invasion in 1974 was described as an act of salvation. In contrast, Greek Cypriot students were taught nothing about the events between 1963 and 1974. The struggle for the union of the island with Greece during 1955-59 was portrayed as a struggle for the independence of the island. The Turkish Cypriots were ignored and excluded.

As imperialist foreign powers were against the independent development of the Republic of Cyprus, which followed an independent non-aligned foreign policy, they continuously incited nationalistic and anti-communist feelings among the island’s population. Yet again, a Cypriot awareness could not be developed to a sufficient degree. The guarantors of the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Cyprus were members of the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) and did not want to see a Cypriot state free from their influence. That is why they still do whatever they can to prevent the development of independent internal political and cultural structures.

Challenging nationalist histories
 In order to draw useful lessons for the future, we have to have a good knowledge of our history and a multi-perspective approach to our past without any prejudice. For this purpose, it is necessary to have well-educated historians; rich archives open for all; multi-communal platforms, where everything can be discussed freely; and a democratic environment free from all taboos. Without all these, it would be very difficult to bring historical realities to light. Even then, it cannot be said that the Cypriot communities are likely to be at ease discussing these subjects.
History has to play a unifying, rather than a discriminatory role between the nations and communities. In the nationalist way of history-writing, the writer chooses ‘we’ in every stage of history and sees ‘the others’ as enemy. Seeing those from his nationality as different from and superior to others is the minimum characteristic of the nationalist history-writers. Some writers state this in a hard form. Others take a softer approach. But what is seen in all the nationalist history writers is seeing their own nation state as superior and defending, if necessary, the interests of their own nation at the expense of the others. This way of looking at history and commentating on the past is a dominant characteristic in various stages of writing official history and in the development of a nation state.

The review of textbooks and history teaching with multilateral and international efforts is a very long and much tiring process. Efforts to produce new models for text-books in European countries as well as in Turkey, Greece and the Balkans are being conducted by non-governmental bodies, historians and social scientists. In this respect, it would be very valuable to form a common committee of the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot historians which could try to achieve an interpretation of the common history of the communities living in Cyprus. I can name some subjects to be discussed and researched by such a Committee: the common rebellions during the Ottoman Occupation against the local governor’s arbitrary taxations; the common struggles in the Legislative Council during the British colonial rule related with the economic policy; the common struggles of the trade-union movement, which was united until 1958; the common struggle of the Cypriots against fascism during the World War II on the side of the Allied Forces.

Since 1974, the influx of mainland Turkish settlers in the occupied areas of Cyprus, which is contrary to the Geneva Convention, has been a threat to the existence of the Turkish Cypriots. This has led many of them to reassess their communal identity. Turkish Cypriot intellectuals, in particular, have started to ask themselves the question ‘Who are we?’ and ‘How can we preserve our own identity?’ as they have looked into the history of their cultural heritage. Cultural, scientific and the literary heritage are three important components of the national consciousness. Here we see the responsibility of historical researchers for the development of a common Cypriot consciousness. They have to research the common cultural heritage of the island and use these common elements for a common political aim. The various examples of cooperation between the two communities in the commercial and social life and in trade- union movement in the past are good examples of the coexistence of the two main communities in Cyprus. This highlights the degree to which the class character of the state has a big role to play in the formation of the Cypriot consciousness. There has to be a clearly designed state policy for the support of a Cypriot identity. The organs of the mass media should also play a constructive role in this respect since they can easily reach the homes of almost all citizens. 

Conclusion
 Over the past century and a half two different identities have emerged in Cyprus. Since 1974, these have been consolidated. Today, one is North of the divide. This holds the separatist TRNC as an expression of the nationalist identity of the Turkish Cypriots. The other is in the South of the divide. This views itself as the sole owner of the Cypriot state, which has distinctively an Orthodox Greek Cypriot character. To combat this, there needs to be an effort to challenge the separate histories told by the two communities. However, it needs to go further than this. There also need to be common political parties of Turkish Cypriots and the Greek Cypriots, seeking common political aims. The New Cyprus Association, which was formed in March 1975, aimed to preserve the existence of the state of Cyprus and avert the danger of permanent partition by encouraging people to behave first as Cypriots and then as a member of their respective community. Unfortunately, during the past 37 years, this movement of intellectuals was unable to become a political movement that could organise Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots under a common Cypriot identity. Nevertheless, the full equality of all the communities living on the island in the fields of politics, economy and culture can only be achieved through common political parties that will fight for a democratic federal state and against all kinds of separatism and discrimination. As the Turkish-Cypriot Coordinator of the Bi-communal Movement for an Independent and Federal Cyprus, which was formed in 1989, I fought for 11 years to win a case against Turkey in the European Court of Human Rights, in February 2003 (Djavit An v. Turkey, 20652/92) for depriving me of my freedom of assembly due to my efforts to promote greater contacts between the two communities in Cyprus. My experiences since then have showed me that all Cypriots who want to see a reunited island should organise themselves and fight for the same goal: ending the occupation and the colonisation of the Northern part of our island by Turkey and forming a democratic federal state through power sharing. Policies are needed to solve the problem of nationalities. Rather, a single Cypriot nationality is needed. This can only be done by challenging the historical presentation of the past and promoting political cooperation in the present.

1.      An, Ahmet, An Overview of the Research Studies on the Identity of the Turkish Cypriots, in “Articles on the Turkish Cypriot Culture”, Nicosia 1999, p.222-230, (in Turkish)

2.      An, Ahmet, The Political History of the Turkish Cypriots (1930-1960): The Forgotten Political History of the Turkish Cypriots and the Struggles for the Leadership in the Mirror of the Press, Nicosia 2006 (in Turkish)

3.      Attalides, Michael, Cyprus, Nationalism and International Politics (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1979)

4.      European Court of Human Rights, Djavit An v. Turkey (application no. 20652/92)

5.    Worsley, Peter and Pashalis Kitromilides (eds), Small States in the Modern World (Nicosia: The New Cyprus Association, 1979)

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1 σχόλιο:

  1. ...interesting reading. I too look forward to a Pan Cypriot Party, based on Universal Principals, thus having the same reason for its appeal among voters, whatever their ethnic origin.

    Labour Unions are a gateway i suppose, for this kind of militancy. Flying the Flag of Cyprus, is also a good start. Thanks to Koray Basogrultmacı and Cinel Senem Husseyin, it is "legal" to fly this flag north of the Green Line, more people making the same effort would send a strong signal to the Leadership in their negotiations, that a Federal solution is relevant.

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