After being apart for nearly 30 years, in April 2003, we were finally able to meet our parents’ childhood friends.

I was lucky to grow up in an open-hearted family. Mum’s dad was constantly reminding us that there are Good Greek Cypriots and Good Turkish Cypriots, as well as there are Bad Turkish Cypriots and Bad Greek Cypriots. Growing up in Pentakomo, hanging out a lot with Greek Cypriots, playing and working with them made my granddad who he was. He was Cypriot, who taught his grandchildren to be one, above all.

Since the opening of checkpoints on April 23, 2003, many women from my city, as it is close to the holiday resort Ayia Napa, have been going to work in the hotels in the service sector. Mum was one of them. Looking back reminds me how brave and open-minded my parents, especially my mum, were, even though she was a refugee from the south side. Mum was one of those who lost their childhood friends, toys, memories and many more overnight because of the conflict that started even before they were born. She is a member of a generation that lost everything, everything which could be the road to mentally healthy life. However, she had to learn how to be happy that she was alive, and nothing happened to her parents and her siblings.

My dad had his first Greek Cypriot friend right after the opening of the checkpoints. He was born and raised in a very small Turkish Cypriot village in Karpasia. So until he was in his mid-30s he didn’t have much interaction with Greek Cypriots.

When I was 14, in 2008, I found out that there is going to be a bicommunal camp in Troodos, and I wanted to take part in this programme. I remember that my dad got even more excited than I was. He was super happy that I was interested in taking part in such a project. Parents of kids who wanted to attend this event were divided. Some decided not to send their kids, as the south side was not safe for Turkish Cypriots! Let’s not forget that back then there was no signal between the two phone networks on the island.

Still, fear and all the other negative emotions that I had in that period could not stop me from getting to know the unknown: the other side.

However, that was the first time that I shared a bedroom for two weeks with Greek Cypriots.

My true journey began with Cypriot communities. I still vividly recall the sensation of watching the ice slowly melt away until it disappeared completely in that very room. And since then, I have been active in bicommunal projects, EU projects, and I then ended up running Niyazi Kizilyurek’s campaign in 2019 for European elections. I then ended up working for Niyazi’s office, the first Turkish Cypriot MEP since May 2019, sharing the office with a Greek Cypriot fellow.

It’s not easy as we both carry our own emotional baggage which is full of war trauma. However cliched, true communication is the key.

Whether we like it or not, we are here to live together and are interdependent. Cyprus is the common homeland for Greeks, Turks, Armenians, Maronites, Latins and others.

As my mum and many other mothers, as my grandfather, like many other grandfathers started over and over and over, we will be starting again, again and again!

Our dream is to unite this island, and we will do whatever we can till the end.

Unite Cyprus Now!

Hakan Coban