My last wish
When I die
Is that you bury me in Cyprus
Let my body be merged
With the soil of my native land
My head to my guts in the South
My loins to my feet in the North
Let me have two graves
In the North and in the South
For I must lie in both
Yaşar İsmailoğlu (Vivesection- 1995)
The intense tragedy of Cyprus expressed in a very moving way by my poet friend, Yaşar İsmailoğlu.
Cyprus: the island of Aphrodite. A paradise island? An island of love? In truth, it is a small, tragic Mediterranean island that has never been allowed to have a happy existence.
The two major island communities have been at loggerheads with each other for years. Cyprus was only allowed to be independent for 3 years, between 1960 and 1963.
A political solution will one day arrive in our island. However, peace will be more difficult to achieve. For peace to arrive, it requires hard work by both communities. We must re-familiarise ourselves with each other. We must re-establish trust, understanding and compassion.
I have never believed that peace in Cyprus will come about because of politicians. The recent break-up of negotiations to resolve the conflict is a sober example proving my belief. We ordinary Cypriots will bring about peace ourselves, despite the politicians.
There is no doubt that joint cultural and artistic events have an important role helping to resolve conflicts. In April 2014, a global seminar was organised in Salzburg titled Conflict Transformation through Culture – Peace Building and the Arts. The seminar brought together sixty artists, activists, policymakers, educators, and cultural actors from twenty-seven countries around the world to discuss how arts and culture can contribute to conflict resolution by bringing people together. It’s well worth to read the report of the seminar.
What are we, diaspora Cypriots doing about resolving our own conflict? Precious little.
I was proud to have been among the organisers of the peace concert in London on 17 Feb. 2017. Four Cypriot organisations – two from each community – came together to organise the event we titled “Together for Peace”. It was a hugely successful concert.
Young musicians Umut Albayrak and Koulis Theodolou were brilliant. They came from Cyprus especially for the concert. The Intimate Theatre in Palmers Green was full of Cypriots longing for peace and reconciliation. We sang peace songs together with watery eyes.
My father says
Love your homeland
My homeland is divided
Which half should I love?
Neshe Yaşın’s immortal poem. Umut and Koulis ended the concert by singing these words in Turkish, and in Greek, in unison.
On 17 Feb., we took a small step to bring our two communities together to contribute to peace on our beleaguered island. It’s our duty to future generations to keep going in our efforts.
T-VINE columnist Ertanch Hidayettin is a Cypriot Turk of African heritage who came to the UK in 1970. A qualified teacher he chose to pursue a career in local government, working for local authorities in a variety of posts including as an Equality Officer for Islington Council, before retiring in 2007. Since then he has worked with the National Resource Centre for Supplementary Education (NRCSE). He is a community activist and a commentator in Turkish and Cypriot media.