my Cyprus, my Κύπρος, my Kıbrıs

The changeable face of nationalism

An abandoned UN checkpoint in Nicosia courtesy of Old Nicosia Revealed

Nationalism takes many forms, I’ve come to realise recently. A nationalist is not simply your Turk-hating neighbour anymore, they can be someone who dares to spew hatred under a Facebook post or send you a hateful message.

All over the world, nationalism takes different shapes, but underpinning all types of nationalism are extreme feelings of patriotism and superiority, and the undeniable feeling that they are right and you are wrong. With the negotiations for a solution to the Cyprus problem in full swing it is inevitable that all these forms of nationalism will make an appearance in some form or another.

Someone recently reminded me of the existence of Cypriot nationalism, be it Greek Cypriot or Turkish Cypriot, and unfortunately the existence of this was demonstrated to  me not long after in the derogatory terms used by some to address settlers on the island. Whether occupation of one third of the island by Turkey caused Turkish Cypriots to join ranks or to be ‘Turkified’ as the phrase goes is by the by, nationalism has no place in the battle for the right solution to the Cyprus problem.

Of course, I can never understand what it’s like to be isolated in one part of your country and watch helplessly as the island is filled with what some may deem ‘foreigners’; to be surrounded by a people who apparently don’t like you, look down on you and mock the way you speak. Once upon a time there was an influx of Greeks in the south, but obviously it bears no comparison to what happened in the north in order to boost the population.

Since the checkpoints opened there have been a number of attacks against Turkish Cypriots. Whether these were due to nationalism, fascism, ignorance or downright stupidity we don’t know. As I have mentioned here and here I recently spent at least two and a half months going backwards and forwards to the north in a car with Republic of Cyprus number plates and not once did I suffer a hate crime (not to my knowledge at least, unless reckless driving counts). On average I would cross four times a day, thus increasing my time on the road; but still no attacks.

Yet I was attacked recently on Facebook by someone I’d gone to school with (in the south), as he believed because I had posted an article that blamed Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias for the swift close of the Geneva talks, undoubtedly it meant that I was promoting a Turkish narrative. He was relentless, attacking anyone that came to my rescue! This is not the first time I have been misinterpreted on Facebook, but it always seems to come down to the repetition of the same rhetoric: the person that blindly shouts ‘Turkish troops out of Cyprus’ and constantly references 1974, but cannot even for a second listen to the person opposite them shouting the same thing with one difference. The difference being that the more open-minded person is also shouting about 1963, Turkish Cypriot refugees and missing persons, Latins, Maronites, gender equality and human rights, because after all we’re all human. If nothing else connects us let it be this.

Unfortunately this young person was also incredibly misinformed, claiming that Turkish Cypriots had Greek blood, and should therefore pick the ‘right’ side. Let me point out at this point I was lucky enough to attend a strict private school, where there was zero tolerance for racism and no mention of anything to do with the Cyprus problem (that of course can be considered as both bad and good).

Someone once told me that not everyone can be converted; not everyone wants an end to division; not everyone wants to live with Turkish Cypriots and share power with them; and not everyone wants to embrace this island for what it truly is, a cultural and linguistic wonder. A place where being Cypriot encompasses so many different elements: you could be fluent in English, Greek and Turkish and be a Cypriot or you could simply be fluent in one of those languages. It doesn’t make you any less Cypriot.

2 thoughts on “The changeable face of nationalism

  1. wmjeverett

    Thank you, Natalie, for giving me, an American, another optic to look at the nationalism we are struggling with here. May Cyprus’s struggle for a remarkable pluralistic life give us all hope for our own efforts. Above all, keep on writing about your experience.

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