Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Pleading for justice from the unjust

Another invidious aspect of the Turkish occupation of Cyprus is the way Cypriots have to explain their problems, listen to the stupid opinions and suggestions and ask for the assistance – indeed, plead for justice – from idiots.

Beseeching your inferiors for justice tries your patience, damages your ego and makes you cynical. It’s not easy being powerless. It’s not easy having interests that collide with the interests of those who, for whatever reason and however temporarily, have found themselves in a position of global influence able to shape your fortunes, to devastate your fortunes if it suits them. Even in today’s world – of the UN, international law, war crimes, human rights courts and so on – Thucydides’ observation – or rather the observation of the Athenians to the Melians – that ‘the strong do what they will and the weak suffer what they must’ still applies.

Where’s this leading? This is leading to Joan Ryan. Who is Joan Ryan? Joan Ryan is one of the idiots to whom Cypriots have to plead their case against the Turkish invasion and occupation. Ryan is Labour MP for Enfield North, a marginal seat in suburban North London, where there happens to be a large Cypriot community – Greek and Turk – and for this reason, and this reason alone, has meant she has taken an ‘interest’ in the Cyprus issue, initially as a supporter of the Greek Cypriot cause – attending rallies, making speeches in parliament, going on ‘fact-finding’ missions to the island – usually during the summer months, when the weather is good – then, since the Annan plan and since she began fancying a ministerial career in Tony Blair’s government – the most anti-Greek Cypriot British government for 50 years – as an advocate for the Turkish cause – speaking out in favour of the partitionist Annan plan, direct trade with the occupied areas, recognition of the occupation regime and so on.

Naturally, for those Cypriots in London who put store in having minor political figures of no substance taking positive positions on Cyprus, Ryan’s change of heart amounted to a betrayal. Worse was to follow for the lobbyists; because in June new prime minister Gordon Brown appointed Ryan as his special representative to Cyprus, in which capacity Ryan is currently on the island, ‘listening’, in fact wasting everybody’s time – including President Papadopoulos’ – by pretending that someone as insignificant and thick as she undoubtedly is has something to contribute to finding a way to end the Turkish occupation of the island.

Anyway, here’s a letter sent by the Kyrenian refugee association – Adouloti Kyrenia (Free Kyrenia) – to the British high commissioner in Nicosia concerning the appointment of Ryan and her visit to the island – which demonstrates not only Cypriot resentment towards the British, but how Cyprus is trapped by having to plead for justice from those it knows are out to destroy it:

Dear High Commissioner
Recently you made a public statement that Britain is on our side and we, the Greek Cypriots, misunderstand British policies on the Cyprus issue.
We would like it to be so. We would have liked to have Britain, not on our side, i.e. not on the Greek Cypriot side, but on the side of the Cypriot people as a whole, because, the way we see it, British policies in Cyprus are harming not only the Greeks but the Turks also.
It is not a matter of opinion, but proven fact, that British policies regarding Cyprus, from the 1950s, if not before, have been biased towards the official Turkish position on Cyprus and hostile to the Cypriots, irrespective of origin, race or faith.
This fact has been revealed through your own documents over the years, and is verified by the devastating effects your policies have had on all Cypriots.
We can discuss this claim and present volumes of proof, which, of course, you may brush aside and present all kinds of different interpretations and counterclaims, but the fact remains: Cyprus is still suffering from the Turkish occupation and we are on a daily basis witnessing Britain ‘washing its hands’ of the most significant consequences pertaining to this illegal situation.
One thing that is incontrovertibly true about British policies on Cyprus is that your country continues to push to conclude the agreement it has had with Turkey since 1956 to divide the island into Greek and Turkish zones, at the expense of the human rights of the ordinary people of Cyprus – Greeks, Turks, Armenian, Maronites and others.
Two hundred thousand Greek Cypriot refugees are still waiting to be vindicated, hundreds are still missing, the Turkish Cypriots, far from their own homes and properties, are either emigrating or disappearing under the pressure of the Turkish settlers and the military occupation.
For this situation to exist, on a small island, which is a member of the Commonwealth, is a shame, not on the people of Cyprus, but on Britain and the British people.
One recent development that increases our concern about British policies is the appointment of Joan Ryan as special representative to Cyprus.
She is a declared (by her words and deeds) pro-Turkish person and by this we mean she advocates the legitimisation of the ‘realities’ of the 1974 invasion and the illegal deeds associated with 33 years of occupation.
She is helping neither Greek nor Turkish Cypriots. She is, as revealed by her own statements, promoting the furtherance of division under the cover of a bizonal, bicommunal federation, which will permanently divide the Cypriot people on the basis of race and religion. This position, taken together with her failure to declare whether under a bizonal, bicommunal federation all refugees will be able return to their homes, undermines her mission.
We anticipate a broker for peace in Cyprus to advocate:

1. The unconditional and immediate withdrawal of all the Turkish troops and settlers from Cyprus.

2. The immediate restoration of the sovereignty and authority of the government of the Republic of Cyprus.

3. The initiation of practical steps for the resettlement of all refugees.

4. The creation of a reunited country and people, the establishment of a new democratic constitution for Cyprus, based on international law, the European acquis and the Universal Declaration for Human Rights, guaranteeing democracy and equality for all the island’s citizens.

Is Mrs Ryan prepared to do this?

To propose a bicommunal, bizonal Cyprus without a commitment for the return of all refugees to their homes and property is to propose keeping the island divided, in the way the Turkish occupation has done for 33 years.
As freedom-loving people who respect international law and, what is more, respect ourselves, we shall not accept the de facto situation in Cyprus becoming a de jure situation, which would condemn us to remain refugees in perpetuity.
Therefore, if Mrs Ryan, and the British government which appointed her as its special representative to Cyprus, are genuinely interested in helping, she should agree to meet us during her visit to Cyprus and be prepared to listen to ordinary people, especially those not in favour of a bizonal, bicommunal solution to the Cyprus problem, because of their fear of becoming permanent refugees.
The Cypriot people deserve to live in a united, democratic country under the EU umbrella, enjoying stability, peace and progress. In short, we believe our future will be guaranteed through a united Cyprus, in which all are allowed to return to their towns and villages of origin.
Please forward our letter and request for a meeting to your government and to Mrs Ryan herself.

Sincerely, for the association,

Ioannis Shekersavvas

Read a fuller version of the letter here.


Hermes said...

Isn't it incredible how these people have also managed to make Cyprus a separate identity from Greek in the minds of many Greeks?

By the way what eventuated on the Syrian ferry issue?

john akritas said...

It was one of the cornerstones of British policy in Cyprus to persuade the Cypriots that they weren’t Greeks and had no interest in uniting the island with Greece – so that the island could become denuded of a strong ethnic identity and more malleable, like Gibraltar and Malta. This was never going to happen in Cyprus and never will.

That (some) Greeks – or Elladites, as Cypriots prefer to call them so as not to make a distinction between Cypriots/Kyproi and Greeks/Ellines – since Cypriots consider themselves to be Greeks/Ellines too – preferring instead to assert a distinction between Elladites/Greeks from the state of Greece and Ellines/Greeks who belong to the Greek ethnos – tend, in certain circumstances, not to consider Cypriots as Greeks is a phenomenon which I’m not sure can be laid at the door of the British, not directly at least.

The current degeneration of Greek national consciousness is probably more to blame; as is the humiliation of 1974 – who wants to be associated with a humiliation, best to believe it happened to someone else, not to you; as is the perennial disparaging by Greeks of other Greeks who live outside or on the fringes of Greece’s borders – the Asia Minor Greeks suffered from this questioning of their Greekness too, especially when the war started to go wrong in 1922.

To be honest, as a Cypriot, it’s never bothered me that some Greeks doubt our Greekness – this reflects badly on them not on us. It’s the same as Macedonians being called Bulgarians, Epirotes Albanians, Eptanissiotes Italians and all the rest of it. Generally, it’s a good thing that every region of Greece thinks that it and it alone is the best and most untainted region of the Greek world, while all other Greeks are contaminated foreigners. (Cypriots are not devoid of such prejudices themselves. When not distinguishing between Elladites and Ellines, Cypriots will distinguish between Kyproi and Kalamarades).

As for the Syrians, I think the next ferry is due to sail in a couple of weeks, so I imagine we’re knocking on Syrian doors trying to persuade them not to do anything silly that might force us to use our veto against them when they start asking for EU handouts, though the Turks have the Syrians by the balls too because the Syrians want water from the Ataturk dam project.

Finally, I got thinking about this post – partly about the relationship between Cypriots in London and British politicians – after reading Dean Kaliminiou’s piece on Diatribe about Greek Australians and the Macedonian issue, about pleading for justice from our superiors. I’m sure you’ve read this excellent piece. DK is very smart.

Hermes said...

I was thinking more about how Diasporan Greeks will sometimes frame Cypriots as being "Cypriots" - another ethnic identity separate from Greek identity. Diasporan Greeks, due to lack of appropriate paideia, are usually incapable of distinguishing between Macedonians, Epirotes, Eptanissiotes and so and Greeks. But they have no difficulty separating Greeks from Cypriots. This is because in their undeveloped minds - tainted by Anglo-American legalism and more fundamental Cartesian dualism - they see a different flag and political boundaries. They do not realise that the ontology of the Greeks is beyond borders. Being for Greeks is pre-borders, international treaties, US State Department directives and other modern neoliberal cosmopolitan innovations. As the Pontians say, "a soul has no borders".

I agree that the drive within the Greek world (at lease until recently) to prove Greekness relative to geographic differences is a good thing and should be encouraged unless it gets in the way of unity when it is needed. The fact that Greeks are so proud of the idea of being Greek as to denigrate those they percieve as being less Greek proves that Greekness as an idea has strong and enduring currency.

Yes, I have read Dean's piece. He makes a good point that once the conquering power knows it has its subject peoples on side it will not hesitate to favour the weaker subject people because it knows the loyalties of the stronger subject people will not waver in the long term. Essentially, all the subject peoples remain weaker and dysfunctional if they are all levelled. This is what the United States and increasingly the EU implements around the world.

Who are the Greeks going to go to if they feel agrieved? The Iranians? No, better to stay with the Americans and cop slaps time and time again. Better to cop slaps from your big brother than the bully down the road.

Margaret said...


john akritas said...

I see what you mean, H, about the diaspora, and I don’t know why this is the case – since there’s not really a Greek-from-Greece diaspora in the UK, as there is in Australia, America, Canada and so on. What I can say is that Cypriots – there are maybe 150,000 in the UK– like other Greeks who have a strong connection to their specific patrida – can be quite exclusive about their associations and organisations, not really feeling comfortable with other, non-Cypriot Greeks. Maybe there’s a parallel with the Sicilian/Italian or Sardinian/Italian dichotomy.

This sense of ‘Cypriots’ and ‘Kalamarades’ is strong in Cyprus and among Cypriots generally and permeates all aspects of society and personal relations. For example, the attachment to the Cypriot dialect is strong in everyday life and any Cypriot who tries it on with ‘proper’ Greek will be ridiculed, or persecuted. There’s even a verb for it: kalamarizo – to try and speak like a kalamara. Personally, like you said, I think this regionalism is a good thing – the Cypriot dialect is a fantastic treasure; so it’s definitely worth resisting Athenian hegemony – which is detrimental on a variety of levels. Unfortunately, many periphery Greeks often think they have to think, speak and be like Athenians in order to prove they are sophisticated or European or other such rubbish and this poses a danger to Greek regionalism. A pity.

The point you make about who Greeks go to in pursuit of justice is a good one; and illustrates Cyprus’ tragedy – in a literal sense – inasmuch from 1960-74 wherever Makarios turned to to ward off the permanent Turkish threat – to its big brother (the USA/UK), to its mother (Greece) – all, in one form or another, were in cahoots with Turkey and backed, to a greater or lesser extent, its desire to destroy/partition the island.

Makarios’ only option was to turn for ‘friendship’ to countries like Yugoslavia, Egypt, Syria, Kenya – the non-aligned movement essentially – a hopeless bunch of dictatorships – all of which made big brother – who thought the non-aligned countries were communist fellow travellers – even more anxious to pursue Cyprus’s demise.