The other within ourselves
In recent years, I have had a number of comments made to me about being a Turkish Cypriot from Potamia, one of which was particularly interesting to me.
“You’re more like a Greek Cypriot but emotionally you’re a Turkish Cypriot.”
I must admit that this is indeed one of the stranger comments that I have received which I puzzled over for quite a while. However, I soon realised that I understood it completely.
I am considered ‘the other’ but at the same time I am not.
I’m like a Greek Cypriot because I speak the Greek Cypriot dialect and seamlessly move within the Greek Cypriot community but I’m Turkish Cypriot because so says my heart and the Republic of Cyprus (in Cyprus children automatically take the father’s nationality).
I have long puzzled over how to ‘categorise’ myself. Which ‘identity box’ should I place myself in?
Boxes are incredibly useful for storing things but eventually those things must come out of the box.
In Cyprus, many of us suffer from the affliction of trying to ‘put something or someone in a box’. In order to reconcile something or someone to our pre-conceived ideas we try and categorise them in some way or another. And I will admit, I suffer from this too. Otherwise how will we understand who they are? And how will we explain who we are?
Perhaps it’s similar to the way in which sometimes when we meet someone new there is an instinct to find out who someone’s parents, grandparents, neighbours are in an attempt to create some kind of link; something we can identify with.
Our affliction of trying to ‘put something or someone in a box’ unfortunately is not helped by our age-old and problematic 1960 constitution, which states:
“The Greek Community comprises all citizens of the Republic who are of Greek origin and whose mother tongue is Greek or who share the Greek cultural traditions or who are members of the Greek-Orthodox Church.”
“The Turkish Community comprises all citizens of the Republic who are of Turkish origin and whose mother tongue is Turkish or who share the Turkish cultural traditions or who are Muslims.”
My mother tongue is not Turkish and I’m not Muslim.
However, we can only hope that in a post-settlement Cyprus these problematic aspects of the constitution will be dealt with.
In the meantime though, it’s never too late to give ourselves the chance to step outside our own box.
- Why don’t you tell people you’re Turkish Cypriot?
- Envisioning the future
Out of your very personal circumstance, Natalie, you once again raise wide-ranging questions about our world. We are always caught between the involuntary circumstances of our past (birth, place, language, biology) and the voluntary claiming of beliefs, allegiances, associations, and inventions. In a flux of global change we often try to hold onto the fixities of the involuntary “identity,” but our world is being constructed and re-constructed on the basis of voluntary covenants, contracts, constitutions, and associations, not to mention marriages. But the path of free association takes imagination, patient negotiation, and communication that requires not merely leadership but active participation and cooperation. Maybe, just maybe, renewed commitment to this path is re-emerging now to heal the wounds of past injuries. Thank you!