Agnieszka Rakoczy meets DJ, artist, former hotel manager, political analyst and Cyprus expert Mete Hatay, and is not at all surprised to learn he reads four books at a time

With his distinctive head full of white hair, Turkish Cypriot writer and researcher Mete Hatay, aka Uncle Mete, is one of the permanent fixtures of northern Nicosia.

Even though his house is now located on the other side of the Pentadaktylos mountains, not a day passes wihout Mete visiting his birth place. One can always bump into him, rushing through the old town’s narrow streets, bound for a buffer zone seminar on the Green Line regulations, a meeting at the newly established Arkhe cultural centre in Arab Ahmet, or the simple pleasures of a coffee with some friends.

An astute political analyst, Mete, a senior research consultant with Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) Cyprus Centre, has been focusing on the Cyprus conflict and the island’s cultural history, demographics, and ethnic and religious minorities for more than 25 years.

He is renowned and respected for his unique insight into all that is north-related in the island. He thrives on tracking down the most obscure details and the most unlikely stories one can imagine. So wide and deep is his knowledge and institutional memory, that my advisory mantra for anyone doing research about any subject related to Cyprus has always been “if you cannot find it, go to Mete”. Invariably, it turns out that he has researched it.

When we meet, I tell him as much and he laughs, acknowledging his omniverous interests. Whether the subject is history, social science, art, music, cooking, the list seems endless.

“I don’t come from any discipline so it allows me to look at every discipline. It is enough to look at my library. Most of the books there are completely unrelated but they do represent all I am interested in,” he declares. “Recently I have been diagnosed as having ADD (Attenion Deficit Disorder) and that has explained a lot about me. For example, I never read just one book at a time. I start with one and end up with four… It is because when I read something in the first one that is really interesting and it is there only in the footnotes, I immediately need to read more about it somewhere else. And at the same time, when I am really interested in something I really concentrate on it, I want to get to the very roots of it.”

That must be very tiring, I remark, and Mete agrees.

“Yes, it is, but this is how I do it. I cannot stop… Throughout my youth, I had difficulties concentrating but nowadays I have learnt how to put a certain discipline into it. Before, whatever I was doing was based on instincts and improvisation. Now, with time, I have learnt methodologies, contextualisation and conceptualisation. When you write academic articles you need a certain discipline.”


He admits that at times he can still get “overloaded” but says that his antedote is to “take a break and work on my art or do some DJ-ing…”

Hatay was born in old Nicosia in 1962. His father, Ozer Hatay, was a well-known Turkish Cypriot journalist, who for many years was a correspondent of Hurriyet, the Turkish newspaper.

His mother, Muzeyyen, was a multi-lingual graduate of the former St Joseph Lycee, a Catholic school run by nuns.

Before entering journalism, Ozer, a keen footballer, was the only Turkish Cypriot employed by a large American insurance company. However, in 1957, while cycling to work, he was injured in an bomb attack that prevented him from playing soccer again.

According to the newspaper accounts, “the bomb was thrown by Eoka members at a passing British soldier,” Mete says. “But my father always suspected that he might have been the real target because the company he was working for was in a Greek Cypriot neighburhood and just before this incident he received threats from Greek Cypriots demanding he quit his job.”

In 1960, his mother started working in the car registry office of the newly founded Republic of Cyprus. However, within a few days of the conflict flaring up again in 1963, that office was moved to the Greek Cypriot area.

“She was told by her boss, he would call her when the things become quiet again,” according to Metin, but the call never came. “Instead, my mum started working in the newly established Settlement Office, assisting displaced Turkish Cypriots with finding housing and clothing.”

Mete was a year old when the intracommunal violence erupted and just two years of age when the UN came to Cyprus. His family was never displaced but the family home was soon to become overcrowded.

“We weren’t displaced but we received the displaced – four or five other families moved in.”

Despite these difficulties, Mete recalls his childhood as being very happy. A spirit of solidarity and cooperation prevailed in the Turkish Cypriot community. While the enclaves were small and spaces were crowded, people took care of one another. Everybody got by, receiving the same money and food rations.

Mete’s primary school was close to home, located in what had been a Greek Cypriot matchbox factory. It was full of displaced Roma children since their camp was located nearby.

In the late 1960s, when the situation had stabilised a little bit, he remembers going for a swim in the sea for the first time in his short life.

“We went with a UN convoy to Larnaca to the MacKenzie beach… Before, I had only seen the sea from a distance, from the top of the St Hillarion castle… Kyrenia was off limits for us.”

In 1974, a 12-year-old Mete passed exams to study at the English College (an equivalent of the English School established in north Nicosia in 1964). However, that summer the entire family decided to go to Turkey, subsequently being spared the coup and war that were to follow. Nonetheless, they hurried back to the island as soon as it was feasible, boarding the first ferry to sail from Turkey to Kyrenia once the shooting stopped.

By September, Mete was already back at school. “On the first day, all the kids were told that we were going to get a new school now. We were given flags, Turkish and that of our college, and told to walk towards Neapolis. Everywhere there were ruins, abandoned houses, barricades, wild dogs, everywhere was silent. Finally, we saw two Greek Cypriot schools in front of us and one of them was given to us. This was a real school, with a library and laboratory, built only three-four years before. I spent six years in this school.”

Aspects of the period of change and adjustment that followed are described and analysed by Mete and his wife, cultural anthropologist Rebecca Bryant, in their brilliant book Sovereignity Suspended. Building the So-Called State.

Displaced Turkish Cypriots were given Greek Cypriot houses, churches were transformed into mosques, street names changed and blue shutters painted green. Lots of ammunition and bombs still lay around. Mete remembers how his younger brother had once found an unexploded bomb and brought it into his grandmother’s garden. “Fortunately I was three years older and mature enough to alert our parents.”

Like most children at the time, Mete worked during his summer holidays to earn some pocket money. Tourists were returning slowly to the north and his summer jobs included stints in Nicosia’s Saray Hotel, and later in Kyrenia’s Dome Hotel, which had been taken over by the Evkaf Foundation.

At 17, he was unsure of what he wanted to do. There was an offer of a scholarship to study ship engineering in Istanbul and an opportunity to study fine arts. His family wanted him to do something “more solid”, so off he went to the UK to study the hospitality business, working for a year at the Sheraton Hotel at Heathrow airport where he learned the basics before going on to study at a hotel college in London.

It took him three years to graduate but a lot longer to get back home. From the UK, he moved to Vienna where his then girlfriend lived and it would be several years later after they broke up that he found himself once more back on a Kyrenia-bound ferry from Turkey.

“The year was 1987 and to be honest I really didn’t want to go back to the island but when I saw Kyrenia and the mountains I fell in love with it. I felt I was home.”

Did the island fall back in love with him, I ask and he smiles.

“Well, the moment I landed and they saw my passport they called the military police because I had missed my military service so to start with I had to go to the army for two years. And then I went to Evkaf and they sent me to work at the Dome Hotel, first as a temporary worker, and then gradually climbing up the lader from marketing coordinator all the way to the manager.”

Was he a good manager?

“I believe I was,” he answers, giving me a quick course on the history of tourism in north Cyprus, the deals he struck with the trade unions and Evkaf in order to renovate the hotel and other challenges he had to surmount.

Not that this was all that he was doing at the time, he hastens to add. In the 1990s, he became active in the bicommunal movement, which led to him quitting his job as a hotelier in the early 2000s and getting involved with PRIO.

He recalls the period leading up to the opening of the first crossing point in 2003 and the referendum in 2004; Cyprus on the verge of joing the European Union; the ongoing negotiation process under the auspices of the UN that everybody thought would lead to reunification.

Mete and some of his friends from both sides of the divide devised the idea of an information campaign promoting awareness of the Annan Plan. Supported by PRIO and UNDP, they prepared the so called “green book”, a 20-page citizen guide explaining how the federal system would work, how the property issue would be resolved, who would move where, and how and when the Turkish army would finally withdraw.

Their afforts proved very successful on the north side of the line in a campaign that included television programmes, conferences, seminars and outreach visits to remote villages. In the south, Mete’s Greek Cypriot colleagues were given neither the same access to the mass media nor the same opportunities to distribute the booklets or to hold public meetings.

When Greek Cypriots rejected the Annan plan, many hopes, local and international, were crushed. PRIO, however, determined it wanted to remain on the island and work for the future.

And PRIO needed people like Mete, cooperating with each other and being objecive.

“I have been working as a consultant with them for many years now, both on my own and with other researchers from both sides of the island. It is going well. We have these official lines on both sides, producing knowledge. But PRIO is the third space for research, looking at multiperspecivity of the situations in Cyprus and bringing an alternative perspective to certain things. It creates a platform for a more healthy debate.”

Yet PRIO is not Mete’s sole focus. He works on numerous other projects, does his own research, writes books and articles, makes documentaries, participates in seminars and workshops, gives lectures and interviews, and helps young researchers from all over the world who come to Cyprus in pursuit of further understanding and insight into the Cyprus problem.


Recently, as if all of the foregoing wasn’t enough, Mete decided to revert to his first great love – art. This March, he mounted his second solo exhibition at the Rustem Bookshop in old Nicosia.

“It has been long in coming,” he laughs. “I was very creative in middle school and also was doing some art while in Vienna but then once I came back to Cyprus and started working at the hotel there was simply no time for it. Several years ago, during Covid, I started again.”

Mete’s works, mostly digital collages, in which he combines his photography, paintings and drawings, amount to an insightful and at times acerbic commentary on the prevailing realities that surround us. Currently, he is building an art studio in his garden to allow him space to pursue an interest in painting traditional oils.

His first show two years ago at the same venue was called “Palimpsest” and dealt more with the Turkish Cypriot past and present.

“It was very self-critical, like putting a mirror in front of us and saying, see this is who we are. In this series I was inspired by Jean-Michel Basquiat because in a way we are similar – he was doing his ghetto art in New York and I in Nicosia,” Mete explains.

“The second show, entitled ‘Hesitations’, is more focused on environment and what we are doing to this island, how we destroy it, how we sell it out.”

He stops and then continues: “A lot of it is again about the north but let’s face it, the south is doing the same. I feel pessimistic about what is happening on both sides… We are selling everything and building on top of everything, and we justify it by dwelling on the past – we utilise it like some kind of capital for gaining something out of the current situation. Egoism, self-obsession and victimisation have become the determining factor and justification for all the crimes we are committing on the whole island.”