Sunday, November 30, 2014
Tel: 00 357 99 966518
00 90 542 853 8436
Dr. Dervish Ozer, whose stories we have published in these pages has written `The diary of a child from Epicho (Abohor)…` It's the story of 18 villagers who had fled the village in 1974 during the war and stayed outside the village in a place called `Boghazi with Olives`. Dr. Dervish spoke with many people in order to create the diary of a child from the group. In summary, here is what he has written:
It was Saturday. We heard the voice of Denktash on the radio and watched the planes passing. As always we played war games in the yard of our house. My grandma collected and wrapped some things in bundles. And my mother filled up a bag to the full with loaves of bread she had just cooked and put the bag near the door. We laughed because who would eat so many loaves of bread!
A little while later the war began and how it began! It was as though the sky was falling and wouldn't stop.
My uncle came running to the house – my uncle is only four years older than me. I was 11 and he was 15. He was carrying water to soldiers. He came in rage to the house: `The Greek Cypriots came near the Two Olives, the whole village has evacuated, why are you still here!` he said.
Me, my mother and my sisters and brother got out of the house and ran into the dry stream. When an elderly neighbour saw us running, he stopped us: `It's raining bullets, where will you go?` he said. We slowed down a bit but we did not return home.
We had taken with us the bread and bundles of clothes that my mom and grandma had prepared but we had forgotten to take the money at home. I returned with my mother to the house, took the money and went back to run following the dry stream but could not find neither my siblings, nor my grandmother. My mother was carrying the loaves of bread in the bag and a pot for cooking macaroni.
Even today she does not remember how she got hold of that pot.
We went all the way to Petra tou Digheni but couldn't enter the village. The Greek Cypriots had taken the village and we saw some civilians running towards us. The Greek Cypriots could see us and were calling us saying `Ela`. We slept on an olive tree near Petra tou Digheni when night fell.
In the morning there was no sound of guns or humans. We climbed down from the tree and around eight persons started towards Kalavach (Kalyvakia) but we encountered villagers coming from Kalyvakia on the way. It too had fallen to the Greek Cypriots and the only place left for us to go was the mountains. We walked towards the mountains and when we saw some more of our villagers we decided to stay at the `Boghazi with Olives` (`Zeytinli Boghaz`). I was still carrying the macaroni pot.
We had become 16 persons at the `Boghazi with Olives`. We punched a little hole in the water pipe to get some water. But there was no food. There was a guy who had come as a refugee to our village and he came to join us with his sheep. We thought we will not go hungry.
On the first day we shared the bread we had. And the bread finished. The old people said there was some wheat bundles down and hiding and crawling, they went and brought those bundles and put the wheat in the macaroni pot to cook. It was good to eat the wheat but there was no salt.
We put a red blanket one of the old women had taken with her in order to protect herself from bullets (!) up on the hill and on it made a crescent and a star with white stones. This would protect us from the bombing of the planes. Plus they would see us and save us! A soldier who had got away from the village with his wife and kids buried his gun so the Greek Cypriots would not find it. The sheep we milked. We drank this from the macaroni pot and from its lid.
Our breakfast was again milk from the sheep – the macaroni pot and its lid proved to be very useful. We would drink the milk from the lid. It was too hot and we were trying to get a place under the six olive trees in the shade. We would move with the shade during the day. We were weak from hunger and could not go far anyway.
We changed our route in order to get some bundles of wheat and found a tractor and a car that belonged to those from Beykeuy. We could now listen to news from the radio of the car. According to the Bayrak Radio, we had won the war! According to the Greek Cypriot radio, Turkish soldiers were about to be pushed to the sea. Now we had to listen to the radio as a daily task. It was the elderly soldier who listened to the radio most and from time to time he would shout at us to be silent.
Today must have been Thursday. Two sheep came and joined the other sheep. We were happy that we would at least have some meat. The group sat down and spoke whether to slaughter some sheep. The sheep did not belong to us, therefore it was not `helali` to slaughter or eat them. That was the decision of the `committee`. Again we ate boiled wheat without salt. We could hear the planes passing by but there was no sounds of bombing. We were too weak even to try to hide.
We found out that the shepherd who said that `it is not helali to cut the sheep` had in fact salt but would not share it with us. He would secretly lick the salt he kept in his bag. We asked for salt but he would not give it to us. He turned a deaf ear to my mom who begged him to give just a little bit of salt to us kids.
Arguments started in the group.
Two more persons joined us. They had been prisoners of Greek Cypriots and had escaped. We learned from them how bad things were. We would never see our village again…
We woke up to the wailing of the shepherd who had hidden the salt. He not only had salt but also dry katimeri in his bag and would wet and eat it – he was remembering his wife who had baked this katimeri and missing her and crying out her name… Still he would not give us his salt or katimeri.
Again we woke up to the crying of the shepherd and two elderly men tried to push him away from us. His wailing could be heard from afar and women were afraid that he would compromise our position. They threw some stones at him and pushed him away from the group but he continued crying. The elderly later on went looking for him but when his crying stopped they came back.
Nothing significant happened.
Today's menu was again milk from the lid and for lunch, cold golifa without salt. This golifa cooked above a wood fire, Abohor (Epicho) style was something the elderly could eat but they still complained. There was comments like, it could have been done better, it should have been cooked less…
Some of us went to the well of a villager to bring back a bucket.
We all started thinking of winter. We could not live like this and we needed to search for a place to stay.
The old soldier who was listening to the radio once a day and the crying shepherd had an argument. The old soldier threw a stone that hit the head of the chobani who had been hiding the salt. They were swearing at each other. The elderly intervened and blamed the loud noise of the crickets for driving them crazy. The news was not commented on, they were not worth it. As always it said Ecevit, Sisco, Junta, Sampson, Makarios but no one could see our situation. The head of the shepherd was wrapped with a cloth, the blood stopped. Some of us liked that since our revenge was taken. How strange that we were 18 persons hiding among the hills from the enemy, trying to survive, and we were bursting each other's heads!
Groupings began in our commune and some were coming together secretly and whispering to each other. Under fire, on the edge of death, people could not stand each other!
We had lost a lot of weight and could not even go to toilet anymore.
We had learned to use our hands quickly in order to get the golifa from the macaroni pot – if not, we would go hungry.
We were arguing about our place in our houses built of straw. The elders were trying to provoke the younger to go back to the village but nobody cared about that.
A sheep was chosen from the flock and said that each person had to pay ten shillings. They would cut and cook the old sheep but each had to pay so it would not be `harami`. Those who had money paid, those who did not borrowed it or promised to pay. The sheep was cut and we waited like hungry wolves next to the fire for the sheep to cook. After many hours we ate it. It was not cooked. The elders and those without teeth could not eat. They used the stock to put some wheat and eat.
It was the worst day. We all had diarrhoea. It was the sheep we ate…
The elders could not move because of diarrhoea. The younger ones started talking about who knew how to pray and what to do if someone dies, how to bury them.
We were losing hope. This war would never end. First the elders and then we will die here. No-one was talking now. Only the elderly soldier was listening to the radio and not commenting anymore. All his comments had proven to be wrong.
Two persons were chosen to go and check what was going on in the village. At night time they set out to go.
They came back and brought potatoes and dry bread from the village. They told us that animals died in the streets and a lot of houses were burned down. They did not see anything else. In the evening we ate potatoes. They had brought salt from the village and we licked that salt. The elders' eyes started shining with the salt. Their creases started going away. We were happy, we had eaten something with salt.
We woke up to the sound of bombs and planes. We opened the radio. The second war had begun. The elders were like owls, they all said bad things. `Whether we win or lose, we will all lose` one of them was saying. Five or six Greek Cypriot soldiers came and found us. They asked for water and we gave them water and they climbed towards Halevga. An hour later other Greek Cypriot soldiers came and asked for water.
We learned from the radio that we were free. Denktash was speaking nonstop. We took our macaroni pot and returned to the village. The elders who could not walk stayed one more day to be picked up by a car later. We paid for the sheep that was cut so it could be `helali`. We also paid for the wheat we had eaten.
We came to our houses even if they were burned or destroyed. No place to sleep at night, everything was a mess. Still it was big happiness to sleep under a roof and to be able to eat salt.
Nowadays we joke about these 26 days we spent… It looks like a game… A game was being played and the whole island was in this game. The deaths and the hunger, the wounded and the missing, the mothers waiting for their sons and the refugees, all a big game… Even today, all of these seem like a big game to me…`
(Dr. Dervish OZER – November 2014).
Photo: Dr. Dervish Ozer at the `Boghazi with Olives`, investigating the area...
(*) Article published in the POLITIS newspaper on the 30th of November 2014, Sunday.
Sunday, November 23, 2014
Τel: 00 357 99 966518
00 90 542 853 8436
My wonderful readers continue to call and write to me, giving hope for a better terrain for the future… One of my readers who had shown us a possible burial site near the old Grammar School where five `missing persons` had been buried near a small church calls me:
`I have spoken again with the guy who witnessed it all` he says, `and I found out that they had covered the bodies first with lamarina and then put soil over it…`
This is very good information since if and when `permission` is given for excavations in this military area, it would make things easier for the excavation team of the Cyprus Missing Persons' Committee… Because metal would show on a mine search, it would be easier to identify the exact location of the possible burial site…
Back in November last year, this reader had shown us from a high building the exact location of the little church… This had been the area where ELDYK and TURDYK had confronted each other back in 1974… We could not enter the area since it was a Turkish military zone but we could see the little church from a tall building from the southern part of Nicosia… According to my reader, the entrance of the little church was facing the north…
`If you face the north standing at the entrance of the church, fifteen steps to the north, you would find the burial site of four or five soldiers who had been killed in the war.`
Now he is giving new information that at the burial site, those who had buried these five `missing` Greek Cypriots and/or Greeks had used lamarina to cover them first, and then had put soil on top of them… The possible burial site is just outside the church, a few meters from the entrance… I thank him for this information and pass it onto the officials of the Cyprus Missing Persons' Committee so that they know if and when they get `permission` to dig here…
Another burial site that my readers had been telling me about in another military area on the shores of Lapithos has finally got `permission` to be dug… Starting from mid-2000s my readers had been calling and giving information about a possible burial site in a fenced military area on the shore… I had informed the officials of the CMP about this possible burial site and also had written about this area starting from 2008, finding witnesses who had seen human remains while the area was being fenced off… I had found witnesses who had worked during the fencing of the area who had seen human remains… Finally after so many years, the CMP gets `permission` from the Turkish military to dig in this area and even during the time spent for searching for mines before excavations, human remains are found on the surface… I feel relief because one more place where my readers have insisted that people had been buried is being excavated… There had been
various stories about this fenced area on the shores of Lapithos: That here was buried a lot of Greek Cypriots who had been killed during fighting in 1974… Some of my readers had claimed that the bodies buried here were brought from Vasilia and Lapithos, those killed in fighting in 1974… I hold my breath: I hope that this area has not been `emptied` and hopefully they will find the remains here…
Another reader comes to speak to me – it took her many years to tell me what she knows and I appreciate her courage to decide finally to speak to me…
`In 1974, in Agios Georgios Kyrenia, in the garden of a two storey house, a mass burial site had been uncovered… A family who had been refugees had been given this house and when they tried to plant something in the garden, they saw human remains all over the garden. Wherever they dug to plant something, human remains were coming out… If you are going from Kyrenia towards Lapithos, it's on the shore, as soon as you pass the open air military museum, it's just next to it, a two storey house. In those days, the ones who lived in this house had notified authorities about this mass burial site and immediately they were evacuated from this house and placed in another house. They were telling me that afterwards, they put pebble stones and cement in the area where they had seen remains and on top tanks and other war memorabilia were placed. Please investigate what happened to the remains…`
I call a Turkish Cypriot official of the Cyprus Missing Persons' Committee and find out that in 2002 before the open air military museum was built close to this house, there had been exhumations in the area by the Turkish Cypriot antiquities department… The military had called them and told them that they would build a museum there so they should come and remove the remains. Remains of 6 or 7 people were found and later on when the CMP started working in 2006 these remains were given to CMP, they were identified with DNA and returned to the relatives for burial. But there is no information whether the excavations done here back in 2002 were extensive enough to cover the garden of the two storey house that my reader is talking about. We don't know if the remains of all those buried here were uncovered… Since it is the area where the war began in 1974, perhaps the committee would investigate again the garden of the house my reader is talking
about… I notify the officials of the Cyprus Missing Persons' Committee about this reader's information… They can decide whether they want to investigate or not… Our humanitarian mission is to pass all information that our readers find the courage to tell us, so that proper investigation can be done by the CMP…
I thank all my readers for sharing valuable information to help pave the way for a less painful future…
LETTER FROM A READER
I receive a very touching letter from Victoria Koutalistra Stavrou, the youngest daughter of `missing` Christos Antoni Koutalistra whose story we had published here in POLITIS as well as YENIDUZEN… She says:
`Dear Mrs Uludag,
I have read in Politis newspaper the article you wrote about my father, Christos Antoni Koutalistra, and I would like to thank you and to express my gratitude for all your efforts and caring. I would also like to thank your readers for their precious help and for all the information they gave us about my father, who has been missing since August 1974.
I am Christos' youngest daughter and the pain that my family and I had suffered for 40 years cannot be described. Down deep inside I was hoping that my father was alive... I needed to believe that he was somewhere, out there alive. Your research findings put an end to all our hopes but at the same time my heart flooded with joy because I realized that kindness and compassion still exists in people's hearts.
I make a plea to the people who know where the remains of my father are to help us find the place in order to make an excavation and give our father a proper burial. This will close a 40-year-circle of pain and suffering. If you are reading this and you have any information, please do drop us a line - anonymously - or send a picture of the burial place if possible. It would be much appreciated. We really wish to bury him somewhere close, to take care of his grave, to light him a candle... We do not seek vengeance or hold a grudge against the person who shot my father or his descendants. It was a very difficult period for both communities and we all had suffered a lot. Let's put an end to this drama.
Thanking you in advance,
Victoria Koutalistra Stavrou`
Photo: The little church in the military area near the Grammar School...
(*) Article published in the POLITIS newspaper on the 23rd of November 2014, Sunday.
Sunday, November 16, 2014
Tel: 00 357 99 966518
00 90 542 853 8436
Today I want to share with you the touching story of a young refugee boy from Paphos, moving from Paphos to Nicosia and then to Kyrenia back in 1975 and finding a sweet orange tree in the yard of the house they settled in Kyrenia. Metin Erduran wrote this story in our newspaper YENIDUZEN's weekly magazine ADRES and I am sharing his story with you… Here's what Metin Erduran wrote:
`It was the year 1975. It was the year after the war. I had just become fifteen years old. Our family was one of those families who were thrown here and there due to the population exchange. All of a sudden we had found ourselves in a very old Armenian house in Trachona area in Nicosia. Ktima, Paphos where I had been born and grew up was so far away. Now we had become `Sheherli` (`from the city`). I was just about to get used to the atmosphere and the people of Nicosia and my new school that my father was giving us news of becoming refugees a second time: We were moving to Kyrenia.
I remember the day we moved to Kyrenia with merely a small truckload of belongings. It was a stifling day left over from the summer. When we reached the house there awaited a very big disappointment. We had left a newly built, modern house but in the house we were moving into had the date 1925 on it. Somehow our luck in the northern part of the island was always for the old… But at least this house was the choice of my father – the Armenian house was chosen for us by the temporary authority of that time. All the members of my family had a feeling of being heartbroken except my father. Because my father always wanted to live in Kyrenia…
The house had a wide garden. We threw ourselves to the garden, as though looking for some solace. There were a few tangerine trees and lemon, five or six pomegranates, an apricot and an orange tree. The orange tree attracted me immediately, perhaps because I love oranges.
It looked a bit desolate but it was clearly a young tree. Its branches were thin but full of yellow oranges. Probably the former owners did not take care of it much…
Immediately I picked an orange and peeled it and ate it quickly. The taste was so good… Apparently this was a sweet orange tree, a taste quite different from the oranges we had been eating. I had never eaten a sweet orange in my whole life. It was like lokoumi! I picked one more and then another one and ate and then another one without realizing that my stomach was becoming davouli! I remember sitting there for a while, under the sweet orange tree. On the earth I had drawn ships, plans and houses… When I got up, I felt better, it was as though my morale had improved. I liked both its taste and its branches, its stalk, its leaves, its earth where its shadow fell… After that day the sweet orange tree became a friend with which I shared my worries. Time for fruit, time for watering, time for trimming and as the time flew by, this orange tree became more valuable for me. Whenever I got some bad news and felt sad, I would come under this sweet orange
tree and cry under it secretly. When I had lost my grandfather I loved so much or when I could not win the entrance exams to the university or when I missed my friends from Paphos, I would always come and sit under this sweet orange tree and look for consolation.
I said `grandfather`, I remember the cosy winter nights… In front of the fireplace I would listen to his stories of the past with big attention… I would learn so much about life from what he told me. Unfortunately he had lost his sight a few years after he crossed over to the northern part. It was not easy to uproot an old tree and try to re-root it elsewhere… He was feeling so sad from being uprooted from the land of his ancestors… When it was time for oranges, he would always ask for sweet oranges and then he would continue his stories. Whether rain or mud, I would take our old style fanari, go out in the garden, collect the oranges, peel them and give them to my grandfather…
I spent almost ten years in Ankara studying… In those times we could only come twice a year, once in February and once in the summer. There was no cell phones or internet in those times. I was writing letters to my family. It was a real pleasure writing letters. Especially receiving a letter from Cyprus. After asking about the family, I would then ask about the garden and our newly bought Lancer car. Because these were the two things I loved most. As soon as I would come for holidays, I would run to the garden to my sweet orange tree. I would climb on it and each time exaggerate, eating so many oranges…
After graduation, I found myself doing my military service for two years. Because I was an officer, I could come often to my house in Kyrenia. Time for pomegranates, time for figs, time for apricots, I could always find something to eat in the garden. But even if it was not the time for oranges, I would still go and look at my sweet orange tree. My father would trim it, take care of it and water it. Each time my shoes would get muddy and I would bring this mud in the house but my mother would never get angry with me… She was happy that her son had come home…
After I finished my military service, it was time to make a living. I would have a big disappointment when I applied to get a job in the civil service and I was turned down – I went to a bank and would ask for credit. We had no money. I needed credit… I got the credit and finally I opened my laboratory with a simple ceremony. My mother had made borek, pilavouna and other delicacies and I had squeezed sweet oranges… Our guests would eat and drink these and I would begin my working life. Later my son Erdoghan was born – we were still staying with my parents… My son was breastfed with his mother's milk and vegetable soup. As his doctor the late Alpay Shah suggested some fruit juice, the address was clear: My dear old sweet orange tree. We would collect a lot of oranges, squeeze and have my son drink it. Then my small son Erdi was born: His menu was also mother's milk, soup and sweet orange juice… Then cousins and neighbours so there was
almost no one who had not drank this sweet orange juice.
I had a big dream since I had started working and that was to build a big and modern laboratory that our community would appreciate. I lived with that dream for many years. After working for 20 years, now was the time to realize that dream. I had the plans drawn up by my talented architect. I had described my dream to him and he had drawn up my dream. But we had a big problem. We were going to build in the garden of our house and we had to cut many of our fruit trees. It was extremely difficult to take that decision. But I had one condition to the constructor: That they would not touch my sweet orange tree, that it would be protected. My father had a similar condition, that they would not touch his date tree… It took years to finish this project and finally as the calendars showed the date 15th of May 2010, our first patients started coming to our new building. We were all very happy, especially me…
I had ordered a wooden sitting area for my visitors… I took care of my sweet orange tree – I must help it to live as long as possible…
It is the year 2014. Again it is autumn… It is the 28th of September, my birthday and I am sitting next to my sweet orange tree. I have whites among my hair now and my tree has grown old… Its body has become think, it has become shorter and there is gum coming out of its body. Still it continues to give me peace and harmony. Every morning before I start work, I drink my coffee under my tree, I go ever the sweet and bitter memories we lived through with it. Although my tree does not talk, see or hear, it is better than many people who have these feelings – my tree is much more understanding, patient and peaceful than most… As I sip my coffee I look at my building and at my tree… One of them was my dream and my future, the other is my memories and my past. I can't give up either of the two and both are my joy of life…`
Photo: Metin Erduran having his coffee under his sweet orange tree...
(*) Article published in the POLITIS newspaper on the 16th of November 2014, Sunday.
Sunday, November 9, 2014
Tel: 00 357 99 966518
00 90 542 853 8436
One of my readers, a woman over 70 years old calls… I remember her from my childhood days… She too, has a close relative `missing`…
`I wonder if he is buried at the Tekke Gardens in Nicosia` she says…
`I don't think so… I think he might be buried somewhere around Yeri…`
Her relative had gone `missing` back in July 1964…
`Actually I have to tell you something about Lapithos` she says:
`One of my relatives was given a house in Lapithos after 1974… When we went there, there had been a military post in her yard which was very wide… Inside the military post were five dead bodies – four men and a woman. I remember the woman was wearing an orange skirt with a wide belt… I can't really remember what the men were wearing, whether it was military or civilian clothes…
When they were taking them out of the military post, I was there… A bulldozer came and dug a big hole because they were going to bury not only one but five Greek Cypriots. The hole had been more than one meter deep… Then they buried them there, the four men and the young woman with the orange skirt… Later on they would also close the military post…
Where they had buried them was a mimosa tree… I remember thinking that `Ok, they have a good spot, with the mimosa tree nearby…`
I had put a big stone over the burial site…
They must have been killed in the house because I remember our relative's kitchen: There was blood all over the place… No matter how hard she tried to clean, the stains would always remain there… There was no cleaning liquid she did not try… It was like a reminder that some people had been killed there, in the kitchen…
Years passed and someone removed the stone… Some villagers cut the tree or the tree grew old and branches fell but the tree is no longer there…
When kids were small and they were playing around the burial site, I would shout at them to go away… `Don't play there kids, there are some dead bodies there, go away, go further!` I would say and the children would go away…
There was a huge yard and there was a neighbour of my relative living in this house in Lapithos… When the time came to put some wire to separate the yard so they could each have their own, I made sure that the burial site would stay in the neighbour's yard, not my relative's yard… So they put the wire and the grave remained in the neighbour's yard… But still, it was impossible to remove the blood stains in the kitchen, a constant reminder…
Some years ago, I heard that the Missing Persons' Committee came and dug but did not find anything… I was shocked and could not believe that they could not find them… They went away and later came back and dug some more, someone showing them another place but still they did not find anything… I know all five are there so how come they could not find them? I had put a big stone on top of the burial site but someone removed it… The mimosa had been there, very near where they were buried but the mimosa is gone… I still think about those five bodies, one of them the woman with the orange skirt and the big belt and can't believe that they were not found… Surely they did not evaporate into thin air…`
`Can you show us this place?` I ask her…
`No, no, no! I can't be involved… I don't want to be involved, I am just telling you…`
`At least can you tell me the name of your relative's neighbour? So that we can go and investigate in his yard?` I ask her.
Reluctantly she gives me the name of the neighbour and I note it down…
`What if I come and take you and we go there alone, just the two of us, you show me and later on I can show to the Committee?`
`No, no, no! I don't want to be involved!` she says.
It looks impossible to convince her but even this information is very valuable so I would try to find another way to try to locate the burial site…
I thank her for calling me and promise to visit her one day…
Imagine her relative's and her feelings: Having to live together with blood stains in your kitchen where you suspect they had been killed and no matter how hard you try, you cannot remove the stains! Imagine how horrifying it is to try to get used to this, waking up in the middle of the night to go to the toilet and have a sip of water and you would walk into the kitchen, only to encounter the blood stains… Imagine looking out at your garden and always knowing that four men and a woman, five Greek Cypriots have been buried in your own yard and having to live with this information for forty years… Imagine not being able to do anything, not being able to open your mouth until now, having to live with this trauma even if you had nothing to do with it! Imagine the shock and horror of having to live with five dead bodies in your own yard, chasing away kids, in case they fell in the mass grave! Imagine thinking of the mimosa tree and feeling grateful
that at least these five persons have a good spot with the mimosa tree, next to the mass grave where they have been buried… Imagine locking up this information inside you and not being able to speak to anyone about it until one day, you would find the courage to pick up the phone and make a call and blurt it out…
I call Okan Oktay, the Coordinator of the Exhumations of the Cyprus Missing Persons' Committee, as well as Xenophon Kallis, the Assistant to the Greek Cypriot member of the Committee to tell them what I found out from this old woman reader of mine…
Okan promises to find the photos of the excavations in the place she has mentioned…
`Perhaps I can take her these photos and maybe over the photos she can show us the location, since she refuses to come with us to the site…` I tell Okan… `And later we can go and check this site to see if anyone remembers the mimosa tree that has been cut…`
Next week we plan to go and see… Meanwhile I must get the photos from Okan when they had done the excavations there back in 2007 and show them to my reader to see if she can show me the burial site…
I feel sorry that both she and her relative were traumatized in this way and had to live almost half a century with this trauma…
And I feel proud of her because she managed to get herself out of the `paralysis` created by this trauma and pick up the phone and call me… Even this is a step forward in curing her traumas…
(*) Article published in the POLITIS newspaper on the 9th of November 2014, Sunday.
Sunday, November 2, 2014
Tel: 00 357 99 966518
00 90 542 853 8436
Back in May 2011, a Turkish Cypriot reader had called to tell me a story about Exometochi…
`I had been 10-11 years old in 1976` she said… `We had gone to the house of a relative in Exometochi… The house was on the northwest of the village, at the exit of the village. We were playing around in the field near the house that I tripped on something and fell down. Where I fell was actually a burial site… I had found the arms of a woman who looked like a nun… She was dressed like a nun and the bones of her arms were still in the sleeves… As you can imagine, I was so frightened and horrified… I read everything you have been writing about the `missing` so I wanted to share this with you so that you can go and investigate this place…`
I had thanked her with all my heart and sometime later had gone to find the field she had been talking about…
After finding the field I had arranged with the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot officials of the Cyprus Missing Persons' Committee to go and show them this possible burial site. This had been three years ago, back in October 2011.
Three years later the Cyprus Missing Persons' Committee start excavations in the field that my reader had told me about and I had shown to the Committee…
And they start finding the remains of `missing` persons… They find the remains of the woman, just as my reader had told me… But it doesn't stop there: They find the remains of three more `missing persons`, a total of four `missing` persons have been found – one woman, three men and the exhumations continue…
I call the mother of my reader who had told me about this burial site to inform her and to thank her…
`If you dig more, you will find more… The whole village knew about this burial site` she says…
I feel grateful to Sema and her daughter… She too has a brother `missing` from Paphos from 1964 and her husband had been killed in 1974… Although we tried hard, we could not find his remains… She was from the Mononero village near Episkopi but when the village was burnt down in 1958 they had moved to Ktima, Paphos. Sema Kilinch who now lives in Famagusta had told me the story of her brother and her village Mononero back in 2010… She had said:
`Some Greek Cypriot fascists from around Episkopi had threatened to kill the Turkish Cypriots from Mononero and they had felt frightened and left in 1958. After the Turkish Cypriots left, some Greek Cypriots had burnt down and demolished the houses in Mononero which was a Turkish Cypriot village in order to make sure that they would not return… But for instance my grandmother had remained in the village. Some people would go from time to time to look after their trees… My brother Zuhtu had had polio and his hand and leg had been affected… But he was a very strong person… He was a gardener and always missed his village and would always try to go to Mononero to look after our trees. Even when Turkish Cypriots were not allowed to get out of the Turkish Cypriot area in Paphos, he would still find a way to get out… Sometimes he was punished by the Turkish Cypriot authorities for not listening to them and still going to his village… In the summer
of 1964, he left Paphos to go to Mononero and never came back. My mother cried for years, she expected him to return any day – she never believed that he was killed: He was `missing`…
My husband Coshkun Mavrali was arrested in Paphos in August 1974 and was beaten up very hard – they had arrested the Turkish Cypriot men in Ktima and beating them up, had taken them to the football field. After they released him, he died a few days later due to internal bleeding from these beatings. He was only 37… I had three small daughters: they were aged five, six and seven… We lost four persons from our family: My husband's brother Kemal Mavrali was killed in 1964 in Ktima, Paphos. My brother went `missing` in the summer of 1964… My husband's cousin Ihsan Kilinch was also killed – they were relatives of Ihsan Ali… And my husband was killed in 1974…
In August 1975 we came to Famagusta… I was a seamstress and I tried to raise my children the best I could… I have always been in the forefront of the struggle for peace on this island because they create wars for some interests and only the innocent people are killed… I saw that the fire burns where it hits… While our poor kids of 15 years old were given guns to wait in military posts, the rich people were hiding under their beds… I saw that…
When I first went to Paphos with a group of women, I couldn't speak, I couldn't stop crying – I was remembering all those killings, all those memories of war… Then I went again with my daughters to our village Mononero – our house was made of stone, it has been demolished – perhaps the stones were useful for them… Each time I went to Paphos and Episkopi, I asked about my `missing` brother Zuhtu but no one told me anything… They all treated me well, invited me to lunch and so on but never told me anything about my `missing` brother…
Why was this country divided? It was in the interest of America… I know that this war was created in cooperation with Turks and Greeks, they made this war, they took the place they wanted and did not go forward. That was the agreement – there was an agreement on partition. Why? So that there would not be communism… At that time AKEL was strong, there were a lot of socialists who were struggling together… In the end all the innocent people died… They did whatever they could to partition this island…`
A kind hearted Greek Cypriot reader had told us about what he had found out about the `missing` brother of Sema, Zuhtu Mehmet Emirali, we had gone and visited him and he had shown us the place Zuhtu had been killed and possibly buried but during the excavations, nothing was found. Perhaps those who had killed him later had moved his body elsewhere… Although we had not been able to find the remains of her brother, this Turkish Cypriot relative of `missing` and her daughter has helped us to find the remains of four Greek Cypriot `missing persons` and this shows what a big heart they have… It is actually not very often that we meet such humanitarian people on our island – generally relatives who lost someone are so much immersed in their own pain that they have no energy left to try to help others with similar pain… But I thank the earth for having known Sema Kilinch for many years – she is and will always be a corner stone for the struggle for
the reunification of this island… Despite her big losses, she retains her humanitarian heart on this divided island…
Photo: Sema Kilinch, the woman with a big human heart...
(*) Article published in the POLITIS newspaper on the 2nd of November 2014, Sunday.