my Cyprus, my Κύπρος, my Kıbrıs

Contact Theory

Keep calm and you know the subject. Credit: Old Nicosia Revealed

Checkpoints bursting with endless queues of Greek Cypriot-plated cars leading each other to cheaper fuel; interacting and engaging with Turkish Cypriots and Turks along the way.

Some might say that these people are simply taking advantage of the weak TL. The optimists among us though see something else.

I am an eternal optimist.

The optimists among us see the Contact Theory unfolding before our eyes; these people are breaking down barriers and inadvertently shedding their inhibitions and fears.

They say that the Contact Theory is one of the best ways to improve relations among groups that are experiencing conflict.

As someone who belongs to the Turkish Cypriot community, and grew up surrounded by at least Turkish Cypriot relatives, it may seem that I’m not the ideal person to be covering this topic. However, I beg to differ.

I need the Contact Theory as much as any Greek Cypriot who still continues to hold steadfast to their beliefs of not crossing to the other side (I have explored the many complex reasons here).

I need it because knowing one Turkish Cypriot or having one Turkish Cypriot friend is not enough. I know that this will never be enough to open my mind, so I can lay claim to the term ‘open-mindedness’. Subsequently, I also don’t feel I can lay claim to understanding everything about the other community.

Like many things, even the Contact Theory is a journey, a process and sometimes there may be no end in sight. I consider my own journey into exploring my identity, expressed throughout this blog, as unending. My blog is three years old now, but there are always new topics to explore, new ways of looking at things and incidents that must be spoken about.

Perhaps the end point is when we can understand the island’s past and present from the viewpoint of all its communities (Greek Cypriot, Turkish Cypriot, Latins, Armenians and Maronites)? When we realise that being a ‘Cypriot’ refers to all these communities and not just the community that constitutes the majority. Or perhaps it’s when our rhetoric changes to reflect neutrality and sympathy as opposed to one that legitimises one state and condemns another (raises one people and condemns another)?

My own experience with the Contact Theory began in part last October when I joined Kıbrıs Havaları/Cyprus Songs Association, headed by the legendary Selçuk Garanti. Apart from the utter and complete joy that comes from singing and most importantly, singing in both the Greek and Turkish Cypriot dialects, I had the much-needed opportunity of being around Turkish Cypriots every week. We rehearsed together every week and took part in festivals mainly across the north of the island throughout the year. We spent time together, sharing stories, feelings and experiences.

Perhaps you’ve heard this story before? And perhaps you’ve heard it so many times that it has begun to sound somewhat trite. Whether it sounds trite or not though, the Contact Theory is THE solution to the Cyprus problem, at least from us, the people.


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