Cyprus Mail
Letters

Women in racist incident showed their lack of education

“There is nothing more frightful than ignorance in action,” said Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. A crucial sign of civilisation in our modern society is tolerance towards those who are different. Hatred and intolerance for foreigners supersedes logic and obvious facts and truths.

For almost a week, a video featuring Cypriot women showering invectives and offensive remarks at a Russian woman in a car park in Larnaca went viral on YouTube.

The obscenity and verbal violence of the attack is beyond belief! I was truly flabberghasted!

Inevitably, as a Romanian-born, but Cypriot citizen for more than five decades, it is difficult to take the place of an outside observer.

But tolerance to intolerance is dangerous and I have to take a stand and express my outrage  at this specific incident, on behalf of the Romanian community.

Addressing this issue, it is necessary to access its complexity.  Caught in the act of shunning responsibility for the damage caused to another car, the women feared they might be reported to the police. The woman who caught them unawares was a foreigner. It did not matter what nationality – she happened to be Russian – and they did not bother to ask. Romanian was considered the symbol of ”the bloody foreigner”, and from that moment all hell broke loose.

Although many Cypriots and the press expressed their embarrassment and shame about the abusive words of their compatriots, stressing that it does not represent them as a society, this act of xenophobia is not unique.

Many members of the Romanian society – especially of the younger generation – have experienced or felt it on many occasions. And what is worse, when such incidents are reported to the authorities, they are rarely given the due consideration, being considered minor altercations of day to day life.

The Romanian community in Cyprus, which represents almost 5 per cent of the workforce, is offering inestimable services to Cypriot society on the whole.

They have done nothing wrong to be born in a particular country. The fact that they are Christian orthodox helps them to adapt themselves quite easily to the Cypriot way of life. They learn the Greek language, their children attend Greek schools, and they offer their services in many domains like tourism, medicine, management, IT, farming, building, hotel industry, etc., being generally considered efficient, adaptable, quick-witted.

More than 40 Romanian Orthodox priests were called to serve in various Cyprus Orthodox churches. What is more, the sons of the Romanian families settled in Cyprus, serve in the National Guard and are ready to defend Cyprus, their motherland of choice.

Cyprus is a multicultural society. Diversity is an aspect of our modern society that cannot be eradicated by self-consuming hatred. The ideology of superiority which the women in the Larnaca incident exhibited on the basis of their wealth, accounts for their lack of education. It is a symptom of monocultural societies, where the natives tend to develop stereotypical prejudices towards people of other groups: the Romanian girls = whores!

These  “elite ladies”, engrossed in their €30,000 car, their privileges (”my dad’s a lawyer”) and in their posh appearance did not understand that  in a multicultural society you have only to gain. There is mutual enrichment.

I was raised to believe that excellence is the best deterrent to racism. Education in of vital importance. We must teach our children to accept foreigners and maximise our efforts to counter ethnic stereotypes. If we are to move forward and unite this island into a multicultural European state, we must accept diversity and co-existence of various cultures,

For each person is unique and different and interacting with others is the best way of enriching ourselves.

A word of praise for Mrs Svetlana Zaitseva who during her ordeal, under the shower of invectives, managed to keep her composure and what is more, had the courage to use her phone and record the unspeakable obscenities!

The Romanian Society in Cyprus is determined to support her in any action she will take to see that justice is done, and such ugly phenomena will not be tolerated.

Christina Christodoulou Todea, President, The Romanian Society in Cyprus, Nicosia

 

 

Tweeting #Not all Cypriots does not solve the problem of racism

It’s about time that we admit that there is an endemic problem of racism in Cypriot society. And it’s about time that actions were taken to address this.

Over the last week I have heard politicians and journalists explain away the events that took place in the car park in Larnaca as “a one off”, “one bad apple” “an isolated incident”. Of course it’s #Not all Cypriots.

The vast majority of us were disgusted and embarrassed by the appalling outburst of these women in the car park. But saying that it’s not all Cypriots, does nothing to address the fact that it is at least some. And it’s not enough just to call out the racism. You have to find the root cause of the problem and fix it.

In my opinion, what underpinned the racist reaction of the Cypriot women in the car park in Larnaca is the same thing that underpinned the slow and muted reactions to the serial killer a few months back, and perhaps even the actions of the serial killer himself. It’s the fetishization of women of non-Cypriot descent by Cypriot male culture.

This results in women of non-Cypriot descent being belittled, stereotyped, objectified and exotified but also bullied by other women who are envious of the adulation they receive from men.

The problem has historical roots. No one can deny what happened in Cyprus some decades ago, with a massive influx of women from Eastern bloc states, mostly getting employment in sleazy nightclubs and cabarets or low paid jobs.

Society was quite affected. A lot of marriages fell apart. It’s a very real part of Cypruss recent history. Times have changed, but obviously the prejudices born from this era subsist, at least in some people. You have to acknowledge this if you are going to address the matter in any effective way.

It’s very overdue, but hopefully this recent incident will instigate the implementation of some educational programmes to tackle inequality in racism– for school children for public servants and particularly for the police force. As things stand today, if a non-Cypriot woman were to go to the police with a complaint, one has to wonder, are the police sufficiently without prejudice that she would be believed or taken seriously without a viral video to corroborate her story?

 

Name withheld

 

 

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