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Our View: A woman’s plea cuts to the heart of the Cyprus problem

Students demonstrating in Nicosia on Thursday to condemn the 35th anniversary of the unilateral declaration of independence in the north

SOME 10 days ago, the day after President Anastasiades’ address to the people about his latest reservations about a federal settlement, a young woman stood up at a seminar in Nicosia and made an eloquently convincing speech about the need for a solution to the Cyprus problem.

Andromache Sophocleous, who was speaking at an event organised by the NGO Opek on ‘The Cyprus problem on a course without a compass’, made no reference to the legalistic platitudes that we are bombarded with daily by our small-minded politicians to justify their cowardly choice of doing nothing, nor did she delve into high political principles that have become the currency of the Cyprus issue.

Resorting to a common-sense approach that is completely lacking from political debate she highlighted a few simple truths. She said: “Whatever every Cypriot builds, dreams of, plans for their future on the island is at risk with the Cyprus problem unsolved. Everyone should understand this – every parent that worries about her children, every young person who wants to set up a business in Cyprus, and all us who are being peddled promises of geopolitical grandeur, which have become very fashionable lately.”

She then pointed out that no solution would be viable if people had no desire to back it. The words ‘peace’ and ‘solution’ had become part of the political wishful thinking, but “what do we think these words are? Unspecified meanings that would be transferred in some way over Cyprus at the appropriate time? Peace is built internally and the question is what are we doing for this thing?”

The answer, which she did not give, is nothing.

Our political parties and all our governments have been turning people against any possible settlement as a matter of policy claiming it would dissolve the Republic, turn Cyprus into a Turkish protectorate, be unworkable, unviable, unfair, a violation of human rights etc. As our president currently likes to say he cannot accept “any solution”.

Sophocleous also highlighted the absence of a vision for a united Cyprus, blaming the education system as much as the politicians for this.

“We raise our children with hatred, paralysed by hatred with a deficient understanding of what Cyprus is and we think the only vision we can give them is the vision of the past decades.” Her generation was brought up with slogan ‘I don’t forget’ and she pertinently asked: “Why have they not taught us to remember, but also to forgive and move on? Why have they not taught us to have our eyes turned to the future and not the past?”

It was a scathing critique of the politicians and the education system they have created. Anyone who saw the Elam students demonstrating in Nicosia on Thursday to condemn the 35th anniversary of the unilateral declaration of independence in the north would have known what she was talking about. In black T-shirts and brandishing Greek flags, they gathered at the Ledra Street checkpoint chanting ‘Turks, Mongols, murderers.’

No media covered this event, pretending it did not happen, in case the politicians would have to be asked to condemn the fascist youth, something they would be reluctant to do in case their warped sense of patriotism was questioned. People need to know though that schools are facilitating the recruitment of young fascists by Elam, by producing students who are taught to hate and have their eyes set firmly on the past.

The reality is that none of our politicians has offered a vision of re-united island which would ensure the peace, security and prosperity of the whole population. They have always refused to look at the bigger picture, pretending they could build a common future with the Turkish Cypriots by cultivating and maintaining a toxic climate, to which the Turkish Cypriots also contribute, and by viewing efforts for a settlement as a zero-sum game rather than a win-win situation. We have never had a Nelson Mandela-type politician to lead us and that is why the two sides often try to outdo each other in pettiness, negativity, bad faith, paranoid suspicion and mean-spiritedness. Nobody however seems to understand that if there is ever to be a lasting peace and security there has to be a radical change of mindsets and attitudes.

The video of Sophocleous’ speech had more than 60,000 views. This suggests there are people open to a different discourse away from the hackneyed, backward-looking rhetoric served on a daily basis by the politicians. Perhaps people will gradually accept the simple truth of her conclusion that “if we want a re-united Cyprus with prospects, first we have to create the vision.” This is something the politicians have always avoided doing.

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