I read Ozay Mehmet’s article on the ‘Tyranny of Terminology’ in Sunday Mail, June 25, and I was immediately profoundly shocked. Not of the context of the article, for similar arguments regarding history and the veracity of one’s statements appear often on both sides, but rather of its source. I always thought – or hoped for that matter – that academics presented certain reflexivity in their writings, an ability to locate their role in the social world, an acknowledgment that they ought to present a critical thought, especially when it comes to lay and ‘common’ ideas and theories.
It seems Ozay Mehmet ‘forgot’ how to be critical of his own words, and his end-result is an article which overwhelms everything in its passing. I will not deal here with the historical facts that he mentions. I am rather concerned with his historiographical efforts, and the terminological profusion which his writings brought upon turning points of “our” common history.
Mr Mehmet’s “hard look at historical truth” is nothing more than a function of the feeling of loss, mourning, and absence (see De Certeau’s ‘The Writing of History’) that characterised both sides of the conflict; he however simply ‘chooses’ to present only one. The re-writing of history, according to Mr Mehmet, starts with concerns over the legitimacy of the two political entities that exist on the island.
His argument can be summarised as: “why should one be recognised and the other not, when both were built on violence”? And the terminological profusion, which so passionately he accuses the Greek-Cypriot side of, acquires a new look through a rigorous spin. I do not wish to deal here with questions of numbers of victims as per that violence (the inter-communal violence against the event of 1974), as each loss carries with it its own weight. The usage of an active form of the verb “eject” however (the “13-point plot, backed by armed force, ejected the Turkish Cypriot partnership…”), does nothing but to overload it with an abstract weight and unclear significance.
The reader in the year 2017 is left to assume that the Greek-Cypriot side is full of nothing but nationalistic brutes who will hold up arms and go after the Turkish Cypriots at the first opportunity. History is written about past events but always has an eye for the present.
Why should the Turkish Cypriot political entity then be called ‘pseudo’, while the Republic of Cyprus’ Greek administration is recognised worldwide, Mr Mehmet questions. They were both after all built upon the “doctrine of necessity”.
The RoC does not represent the Turkish-Cypriots he writes; “only by assumption” it does so. The feeling of absence which characterises Turkish-Cypriot political representation kicks in. ‘Since we do not deserve representation, neither do they’. No matter that Turkish Cypriots flanked the Cypriot ministry of interior to attain the European identity cards upon European Union membership, and still do so. Assumption was replaced by convenience I guess.
Let us now turn to the “logic of the invasion”. According to the Treaty of Guarantees, Turkey had every right to intervene in 1974. Yes, there was a provocation by a military coup which sought for Enosis. And that coming from a Greek-Cypriot, a second-generation refugee even.
Let me however deconstruct Mr Mehmet’s arguments. First, he offers as justification for the invasion the historical reason of the coup and the Enosis attempt. As previously argued, the coup and the Enosis attempt are historical realities, which cannot be denied.
He then however follows this argument with an ethical/moral justification, that of ethnic cleansing, with the term being accompanied with the historical weight of significance which grants the Turkish-Cypriot side as victims. What I find offensive however Mr Mehmet is that when you then turn on the Greek Cypriot side, their pain and suffering are simply reduced to “losing their homes and lands”. The invasion was much more than that for the Greek Cypriot side and your reduction of the pain I find insulting – as a Greek Cypriot – and ethically dangerous – as a human being. The same way as myself acknowledge the pain that ‘we’ inflicted upon the Turkish-Cypriot side, I would expect an academic to be able to acknowledge the pain of others as well.
Your historiography I find inexcusable for an academic. It, at the end of the day, grants you nothing more than a modern-day Franjo Tuđman. I just hope our island does not have the same fate as his country!
Christakis Peristianis, Ph.D. researcher, Department of Sociology, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, University of Essex, United Kingdom.