I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. *
I have a dream to walk down streets clear of police, barrels and sand bags.
I have a dream where Ahmet and Constantinos start out as school friends and become friends for life.
I have a dream where nonsensical checks and taxes are not imposed upon the island’s population, in the name of protecting either side’s legitimacy.
I have a dream where I’m not asked at checkpoints whether I am Greek Cypriot or Turkish (you know who you are).
I am as emotionally exhausted about division as everyone that I surround myself with, so I’ve written the below to allow myself (and whoever else would like) to experience an alternate reality through a revised Wiki page of Cyprus.
Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, after the Italian islands of Sicily and Sardinia (both in terms of area and population). It is also the world’s 80th largest by area and world’s 51st largest by population.
The population of Cyprus is 1.1 million Cypriots, made up of five communities: Greek Cypriot, Turkish Cypriot, Armenian, Latin and Maronite.
In July 2017, following an agreement for a settlement between the two leaders of the island, Nicos Anastasiades and Mustafa Akinci, the Republic of Cyprus was re-named as the Federal Republic of Cyprus.
The Lead up to Reunification
Following the disappointment of the failed Annan Plan in 2004, whereby Cypriots voted on two separate referendums on a plan for the reunification of the island (65 per cent for by Turkish Cypriots and 76 per cent against by Greek Cypriots), civil society rolled into action.
From 2004 up until the reunification of the island in 2017, civil society was a major player in bringing the two communities together islandwide. They organised cultural festivals in villages, highlighting the common elements of Greek and Turkish Cypriot culture, they put together women’s discussion groups to talk about how they were impacted by division and most importantly, they made their presence so pertinent that subsequent governments consulted them on all matters regarding Greek and Turkish Cypriot relations at ground level. They consulted them on matters that aimed at building bridges between an average Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot.
With funding from the EU and prominent pro-solution figures both within the island and outside, they set up language schools in key cities and districts including Nicosia, Paphos, Limassol, Larnaca, Famagusta, Kyrenia (Girne), Morfou (Omorfo) and Iskele (Trikomo). These schools taught Greek and Turkish from age 5 upwards to whomever wished to learn.
Breaking down the language barrier aided in breaking down stereotypes between the two communities.
In turn, they provided the backbone to reunification achieved in 2017 between Cypriot leaders Nicos Anastasiades and Mustafa Akinci at Crans Montana, Switzerland in July 2017.
The people of this small island nation, despite consisting of various communities of Greek Cypriot, Turkish Cypriot, as well as the Armenian, Latin and Maronite, are proudly Cypriot.
This is reflected in their culture, gastronomy and education.
*Quote from Martin Luther King Jr’s speech, delivered on the steps at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. on August 28, 1963.