The celebratory orations, the fanfare and the folk-dancing of last Saturday (April 1) commemorating the beginning of the Eoka liberation struggle made me feel a little disgusted but also angered because the leaders of the Greek Cypriot community appear to have managed to attain the unattainable.
They have managed to place nearly half of Cyprus under foreign military occupation. They appear committed to perpetuating the status quo indefinitely, despite the fact that the occupied areas are being rapidly turkified. Their argument is that “the currently prevailing conditions are not conducive to the resolution of the Cyprus problem”.
In the meantime, they proclaim their obligation to honour those youngsters who sacrificed their lives for the freedom of Cyprus, while asserting that the division of Cyprus (on the basis of the celebrated “we on this side and they on the other side” or the infamous “velvet divorce”) is the best solution, under the circumstances.
The Eoka struggle found me sitting behind school-desks. Along with several of my classmates, we enrolled in the ranks of the Eoka youth branch ANE. At the beginning, our task was to affix slogan-posters on street walls. At a later stage, we were given the task of dropping the leaflets that were primarily used by the Eoka leadership for communicating messages to the public at large. This process indelibly inscribed in my mind (a) the unconditional acceptance of the greekness of Cyprus and (b) the absolute selflessness of the liberation struggle. At that stage, our Turkish Cypriot compatriots were in the same boat as the Greek Cypriots. They were part of the same factor in the equation.
The fact that we have ended where we are today is the consequence of the tragic mistakes committed by our leaders. Nevertheless, these are the leaders we continue to honour and praise today. The wrong strategies and the wrong tactics they employed in the 1950s pushed the United Kingdom to get Turkey involved in the game. Rightly or wrongly the British concluded at the time that they were thus serving their national interests while we were unable (and we are still unable) to understand that it is natural for others to aim at serving their national interests rather than ours.
The declared goal of Turkey was the division of Cyprus into two pieces (taksim) while Eoka’s goal was to avert such a development. At that time, whoever was against the division of Cyprus was “a patriot”. Today, whoever is struggling for the reunification of Cyprus and for averting the turkification of northern Cyprus is “a traitor” and “a turkophile”.
Certain people appear to have embraced the idea of dividing Cyprus into two, either because they are naive or, more commonly, because they thus serve their political or their economic interests. I honestly fail to understand how these people can simultaneously appear as paying homage to the youngsters who, in the course of the 1955-59 liberation struggle, sacrificed their lives for liberating Cyprus from colonial rule. The tragedy is that these people appear to expect their audience to believe that they are discharging this obligation by vaguely promising that they will “fight for the liberation of Cyprus”, in an unspecified manner and at some future, unspecified point in time.
It is indeed tragic that today we have reached the stage where certain Cypriots (who brand themselves “patriots”) push the rest of us to effectively become passive observers of the turkification of Cyprus.
Promoting the idea that a few pompous proclamations, a large dose of wishful thinking, an element of luck and the conviction that God will ultimately intervene on our side will do the trick is irresponsible. I am afraid that I have no choice but to advise these people that this is not how one pays homage to those who have sacrificed their life for their homeland.
Christos Panayiotides is a regular columnist writing in the Cyprus Mail and in Alithia