Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Turkey: Hostage to Cyprus

One of the most extraordinary aspects of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus (1974) is how the island’s Greeks – despite the catastrophe and depredations they endured, the shattering of the island’s economy and society, bearing all the scars associated with a brutal assault, including the creation overnight of 200,000 refugees (one third of the Greek population of the island) deprived of their homes, possessions and livelihoods – through sheer hard work, determination and ingenuity were able to rebuild their lives, strengthen their state and improve their society.

(This peculiarly Cypriot form of resistance to violent displacement and occupation is, according to this article by Shlomo Avineri, an example the Palestinians should have followed).

The recovery of the Greek Cypriots from the Turkish invasion – which should never be mistaken as contentment with the status quo or hesitation in pursuing reunification of the island – is contrasted by Nikos Konstandaras in yesterday's Kathimerini with the way Turkey since 1974 has become trapped by its involvement in Cyprus and held back and deformed by the justification of Turkish nationalism and militarism the invasion represents. Here’s what Konstandaras says:

‘When a country loses in war or diplomacy it is logical to expect that it will be bound by the conditions imposed by the victor. It is less logical, and yet commonplace, that countries can be trapped by their success and thus persist with policies that turn out to be disastrous in the long term. History is full of great victories that ultimately became defeats.

‘In our region, the clearest example of this paradoxical entrapment of a victor is the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974. The Turks are so proud of this episode that one might think it was an earth-shattering achievement – something like the conquests of Alexander the Great. The Greek Cypriots suffered all the evils of the invasion and the occupation of a part of their country. But, though the wounds remain open, the Greek Cypriots recovered. With hard work and persistence they created a country that today is flourishing, is a member of the European Union and provides its citizens (including any Turkish Cypriots who want them) all the freedoms and opportunities of a full democracy. For Greece, the invasion of Cyprus signaled the fall of the military dictatorship in Athens and the establishment of the longest period of democracy and social development our country has ever known.

‘What did Turkey get? It has been trapped into sustaining the primacy of the military over all aspects of life, culminating in the 1981 coup and the continued “guardianship” of the political system by the generals. The occupation of northern Cyprus has cost Turkey billions to support the Turkish-Cypriot economy and fund a large occupation force. But, above all, Turkish policy on Cyprus – as in the Armenian and Kurdish questions – has been trapped in an intransigence born of military success that was followed by repeated diplomatic defeats…’

Read the whole article here.

8 comments:

Hermes said...

I am surpised Aristophanes is not on your essential reading list. I would have thought you two might have a lot in common.

john akritas said...

I think I know what you mean, Hermo; but really it’s them, not me. And you’re right about Aristophanes – he should be on my list and I’ll rectify this. Actually, I’ve just added Parmenides. I’ve only just read On Nature and couldn’t quite believe what I was reading. I think I could read the poem a thousand more times and find something new. Extraordinary stuff. Is Heidegger of any use here?

Margaret said...

Aristophanes ... now that gives me an idea for something else women could do to ensure that proper attention is given to the peace process in Cyprus ...

Hermes said...

Heidegger wrote extensively on Parmenides (and Heraclitus) although sometimes his interpretations are esoteric but not neccasarily wrong.

Margaret said...

Demo,

We've just come back from a reading of a new poem by the Palestianian poem, Taha Muhammad Ali (read first in Arabic, then translated into English) called "Revenge". I thought you might like to hear the poem, with its resonances for Cyprus. It made both of us cry. I'm going to write it up for my own blog in due course. This is a link to the text of the poem and, I think, a video of Taha M A reading it.

http://www.grdodge.org/2006festival_revenge.htm


M

margaret said...

Poems cannot read, so it was "Palestinian poet" ...

john akritas said...

The poem has particular resonance for Turkish Cypriots. What I’ve learned over at MT in exchanges with TCs is not only how deluded and psychotic they are, how incapable they are of imagining they are anything other than complete and total victims, incapable of the slightest transgression – a trait they share with Turks worldwide – but how jealous and resentful they are of Greek Cypriots; and that 1974 can also be explained as a frenzy of revenge by the TCs against Greeks, prompted by this jealousy and resentment, just like Germans were jealous and resentful of Jews, the Turks of the Armenians and the Hutus of the Tutsis. More and more, I’m coming to see 1974 as a pogrom, like the one inflicted on Greeks in Constantinople in 1955 – another act of blind Turkish jealousy and resentment.
For me, engaging with TCs has been a disappointing experience, to learn how Turkish they are in their mentality and perceptions. What can one do? Not sink to their level; and keep telling the truth.

Margaret said...

I am not sure that we understood the poem in the same way, or perhaps I have misunderstood your comment. I understood the poem to be about forgiveness, forgiveness when you don't feel like forgiving. One day I'll get round to writing another post on Derrida's statement that forgiveness starts (only starts)with forgiving the unforgiveable.