‘Occupy Nicosia’ seeks to crumble ‘stale bread’ of Cyprus

‘Occupy Nicosia’ seeks to crumble ‘stale bread’ of Cyprus

If you are weary of the Sisyphus-like politics of the island of Cyprus, of the eternity of boulders torturously rolled up hill only to repeatedly come crashing down again, you may want to catch up on a quite initiative in the “buffer zone” between the two sides.

Little media attention has been paid to “Occupy Nicosia,” an initiative by young local activists from opposite sides. It is inspired by the economically focused “Occupy” movements happening around the world. But this one has a different twist: an end to the occupation of the minds of Turkish and Greek Cypriots.

They call it “Occupy the Lidra St. Buffer Zone.” But they have also taken matters into the sphere of social media and their dialogue bears little resemblance to that which we are accustomed to from either leaders Derviş Eroğlu or Demetris Christofias. It is in marked contrast to anything you’ll hear from a latest delegation of United Nations or the European Union.

With a bit of hunting around Facebook you can track down the participants and the latest encampment this past weekend. Check out their pledge: “We will arrange events in the buffer zone, music, talks, art, etc… and produce media to diffuse online, to stop being silent, to stop being invisible, to raise awareness of how our beautiful island has been divided and used as a military springboard, to propose new ways of thinking about the Cyprus question, to crumble the stale bread that we have been passing around for years.”

A good primer on all of this is to be found at “The Stream,” a hip talk show on the TV network Al Jazeera. To listen to the leaders of this movement describe what they are doing, first go www.stream.aljazeera.com. From there, click “Episodes.” Scroll down and you’ll see “Occupy Nicosia.

“We live on a divided island but the two sides are very connected,” argues Mihalis Eleftheriou, a Greek Cypriot linguist and one of the “Occupy Nicosia” activists. “We don’t have to agree on the history to move forward.”

In turn, Turkish Cypriot sociologist Rahme Veziroğlu argues that the real problem is that Cyprus has long been a pawn in the greater game of Middle Eastern power struggles, and “we [refuse] to live on an island of power struggles.”

The half-hour discussion between these two and others is instructive for its effort to articulate a very new and different narrative of the problems that divide Cyprus. It’s also instructive in the tools of social media: a combination of studio guests, guests via Skype video link (including Eleftheriou and Veziroğlu) and video questions beamed in via Twitter and YouTube.

A consensus quickly emerges between the young Cypriots on the need for Turkish language curriculum in schools in the south, Greek in the schools of the north. The Cypriots quickly reject assumptions of the non-Cypriot questioners, including the assumption of “two communities.” Eleftheriou counters that “ethnically” they are one people and outsiders ignore the Arab, Armenian, Latin and other identities that have been part of the island for centuries.

There is, of course, a great deal more in this liberatingly original and thoughtful discussion. Please check it out yourself