Cypriot text books and the will for resolution

Cypriot text books and the will for resolution

Nicos Katsourides, a senior member of the Greek Cypriot Progressive Party of the Working People (AKEL), let the cat out of the bag. “What’s being achieved at the [intercommunal] talks is nothing further than a reaffirmation of the past convergences; in reality the talks have landed in a deadlock,” the veteran politician said during an interview with the Alithia.

Perhaps the statement of AKEL’s former parliamentary spokesman might be considered a political gimmick in view of the recent separate declarations of Katsourides, as well as Democratic Rally Party (DISI) deputy Eleni Theoharus and former House of representatives speaker and Democratic Party (DIKO) leader Marios Garoyian denying claims that they were in efforts to form a new center-right party. Though they have lately been meeting frequently, Mustafa Akıncı and Nikos Anastasiades, the Turkish and Greek Cypriot leaders of the island, could not even approve the agenda of a joint cultural committee they initiated in hopes of breaching the confidence crisis between the two peoples through cultural exchanges.

The road that any Cypriot peace negotiator must walk through is not just a “winding uphill one” but also full of mines, the most important one of which is the acute confidence crisis between the two peoples. How that confidence crisis erupted and how it was allowed to reach the present dimensions, thus haunting every prospect of reconciliation, cannot be even discussed in today’s Cyprus diplomacy format as “we should not live in the past.”

Well, can anyone successfully move forward by turning a blind eye to what happened recently in the history of the island? Greek Cypriots cannot forget the trauma they suffered in the 1974 Turkish intervention that most Turkish Cypriots consider “a peace operation” that saved them from being exterminated by Greek Cypriots. On the other hand, Turkish Cypriots cannot forget and forgive the immense trauma they suffered from the black Christmas of 1963, when Greek Cypriot hordes, supported by Athens as well as the Greek Cypriot members of the Archbishop Makarios government, intermittently attacked Turks throughout the island until the 1974 Turkish intervention. How could they forget their expulsion at gun point from the joint government in 1964?

To move forward and build a common future on their common homeland of Cyprus, the two peoples, without forgetting the past and with precautionary measures to avoid repeating of past mistakes, must write a new contract. For Turkish Cypriots, this has been the aim ever since the Cyprus talks started in Lebanon in 1968.

Greek Cypriots, however, forget what the Turkish Cypriots were compelled to live through because of their failed utopia or annexing the island to Greece. They consider the 1974 Turkish intervention as the beginning of the Cyprus problem. That is one reason why there has not been a Cyprus settlement so far. Both sides must acknowledge their share in past mistakes and mishaps.

In another interview, Katsourides stressed that the attacks on Turkish Cypriots by the fascist ELAM gang and some students were the product of provocations that could only serve Turkey’s ambitions on Cyprus. He did not say, of course, that ELAM and the students were provoked by Turkey as that would be a gross and insane accusation. He did, however, confess that the “Best Turk is a dead Turk” slogan embroidered on entrance gates of military barracks up until recent times, the anti-Turkish propaganda in textbooks and persistent anti-Turkish brainwashing of the Greek Orthodox Church all served Turkey’s alleged designs of achieving a two-state resolution.

As is said – and again with no intention to upset the gypsies – “The bravest of the gypsies lists his crimes while boasting what a great and courageous man he is.” All along the past many decades Turks have been complaining of the anti-Turkish propaganda in school textbooks and sermons of the Greek Orthodox priests. Years ago, there was a Turkish Cypriot education minister. His name was Mehmet Ali Talat. Often this writer has been very critical of him and perhaps he must have done it reciprocally but he unilaterally ordered textbooks be rewritten and cleansed of hate speech. His order was carried out with exaggeration and Turkish Cypriot kids are graduating from secondary schools without learning much about the atrocities committed by Greek Cypriots. Greek Cypriots promised many times that they would do the same and never ever walked an inch towards this.

Now Anastasiades perhaps should prove his sincerity in demanding peace by taking the initiative in this area… That is how he can contribute to confidence building on the island. Can he demonstrate his commitment to build a common future with Turkish Cypriots by eradicating hate speech and enmity in text books?