Yesterday when I sat down to write, I didn’t want to write about the one thing that’s been on our lips for some time now: Andreas Soudjis.
Soudjis was recently sentenced to a month in prison in north Cyprus for taking photos in a military area, more precisely the fenced off area of Varosha. It should be noted, however, that he took photos of places of which hundreds of photos already exist online.
Although he has now been released, the injustice of a very real situation continues to echo certainly in my mind and probably in the minds of many Cypriots (whatever community they below to, be it the Greek Cypriot, Maronite or Latin community) who cross to the north every day and weekend. Cypriots who are simply eager to explore their homeland, meet up with friends and so forth.
The reason I didn’t want to delve into this topic is simple: it is the realisation that this occurrence represents something more than its sum total. It serves as a reminder of what could happen in a place which is plagued by army bases (I am referring both sides). In fact, Cyprus – only the south though – ranks 15th on the Global Militarisation Index (GMI) for 2020. Yes, our tiny island ranks 15th!
Fear is at the core of what I’m feeling about what has happened.
A friend once mentioned to me that her husband wanted to take their children to the north to have a wander around; to explore. She, on the other hand, was determined not to allow that to happen, citing how scared she was because “anything could happen”.
At the time, I remember thinking that this was more an irrational fear stemming from not ever having visited the north. And I consider it perfectly reasonable to fear that which you do not know.
Up until this point, I realised my own rather nonchalant attitude about going across to the north, when a photographer told me how uncomfortable he was exploring abandoned houses on the other side due to the status quo.
In fact, I happen to cross every Monday for choir practise with Kıbrıs Havaları (Cyprus Songs Association).
In trying to conclude this blog post, I realised that the optimist in me can no longer tell you that these fears of crossing a border are unfounded, but I can tell you that on the other side of that border there are people that need us. And they need us for so many reasons; friendship, economic support and that’s just the start of it. The failure of a solution at a political level compels me to keep going.
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