Cyprus Mail
CM Regular ColumnistOpinion

Loaded question: How much longer will Cypriots be considered refugees?

comment katerina displaced children following the 1974 turkish invasion

Listening the other day to my favourite breakfast radio show, some listeners asked via text message when will “this farce with the refugee identity in Cyprus” finally end? In other words, how much longer will people be considered 1974 refugees?

As a refugee, I was saddened and disappointed (once again) and scared. Just like that my refugee status, an integral part of my identity, not just my ID card but my very existence, was threatened. Not by some barbaric demons (UK, USA for instance), not by the Turks (aggressive neighbours) but threatened by Greek Cypriots. How was this possible?

Are there Greek Cypriots who don’t know that just a few decades ago many people lost huge amounts of real estate, which was the least they could lose as others also lost their loved ones? Do all school kids know that in 2023 some old men at a Karpas coffee shop wait for a humanitarian convoy to bring their bag of rice?

And if half of the population believe refugees are just thugs milking the state, then where did all the millions for promoting the “just struggle towards a Cyprus bi-zonal, bi-communal solution” go? What have those Cyprob professionals been doing? Besides recycling and mutating in power and exhaustively crushing their patriotism domestically and internationally? What have they accomplished? And if they failed, how come they survive lavishly, enjoying a Turkish Cypriot property holiday home?

This must be the greatest success of the deep-rooted Cyprus system, turning one citizen against another. The non-refugee against the refugee, the comrade against the right-wing, the private employee against the public one, the Limassol party animal against the Nicosia socialite. On another level, all together we stand against the Turks, the delivery boys who bring us food, the girls who clean the house and of course the international community. It is us, on a daily basis, exchanging fire without empathy, without knowing the actual statistics, without real knowledge of each other’s situation and never against the system that pulls the strings. The theatre of the absurd…

Hiding from the common good, the real common good, not just attending weddings and national memorials, behind a mask of patriotism is perhaps their greatest hit in their many failures. An exhaustingly tedious success that redeems itself in autoimmune disease, as you constantly have to fight for the obvious.

Because it goes without saying that all citizens have the right, regardless of age, physical condition or vulnerability, or their colour, to meet the challenges of everyday life with dignity. It should also go without saying that the ‘system’ protects them, safeguards and communicates their rights to the rest of the population, so that the country can exercise policies, progress and evolve. Instead, it promotes doubt, insecurity and fear to cover its own rigidities, to hide the inefficiency of a dysfunctional social model.

So there, as a refugee, I choose not to blame you for ignoring the definition of a 1974 refugee but those who have taken millions to fertilise your nationalism but failed to brief you on the details.

It is neither property, nor a benefit, nor origin, nor address, nor “connection” with the occupied land, nor place or date of birth that defines a refugee. It is a consequence of the war that constitutes the Cyprus problem. A refugee wants to go home but cannot return. And if a refugee ceases to exist then what is the Cyprus problem? What is the problem? Unless this is the solution…

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