my Cyprus, my Κύπρος, my Kıbrıs

Will the ‘real Cypriots’ please stand up?

Potamia, facing the green fields

Potamia, facing the green fields

I have always made it abundantly clear how proud I am to be a Turkish Cypriot of Potamia, or even just a Cypriot of Potamia.

The subject of identity has been touched upon many times in my blog posts, in fact perhaps I can say it is at the very core of many of my posts. And I will continue to write on this subject because I still feel it’s necessary to express and emphasise certain things about Cypriot identity currently and going into the future.

In recent weeks I’ve heard quite a few interesting comments from people regarding identity, be it Turkish Cypriot, Greek Cypriot or simply Cypriot and felt the need to tackle this subject once more (I’ve also spoken about it here , here and here).

In the article ‘Developments in the peace negotiations in Cyprus: Finding a solution by Cypriots for Cypriots’, Alev Adil talks about ‘a new kind of Cypriotness’ and the desirability of this new Cypriotness. Despite the article being published in 2008, unfortunately (or fortunately, however you want to see it) many of the points she raises are still relevant today, in our pre-solution Cyprus.

She says: “For our country, our people, our institutions and our economy to become integrated, for the settlement to work, we, that is both Cypriots as individuals and Cypriot society as a collective, must undertake a major cultural task. Restating and redefining a new Cypriotness is not an adjunct to the political task at hand it is the bedrock on which the settlement will rest –this is not to underestimate the hard work of political negotiation, but without a consensual conviction amongst the majority of Cypriots of the desirability and practicability of a new kind of Cypriotness a settlement is quite simply unachievable.”

Many of us in our day to day lives seem to have to or want to defend our identity. We are proudly Greek/ Turkish/Greek Cypriot/Turkish Cypriot/Cypriot (or anything else for that matter). As someone who does not really look Cypriot, I have had to do this all my life and I have found that the best way of doing this is through language.

For me ‘a new kind of Cypriotness’ means not dismissing someone’s claims of being Cypriot simply because they do not fit into your box of what that ethnicity should be or look like.

Let’s not pretend that some people consider themselves more Cypriot (Greek Cypriot/Turkish Cypriot) than others. Let’s be truthful and accept that some people have no qualms about feeling this way and voicing it. And so be it; in a new Cyprus where many will have to re-educate themselves on certain aspects of bi-communality and identity, the least we can do is be honest with ourselves and each other. It can be the only way forward, past the pain and the rhetoric of pain that we’ve all come to know so well.

For many many years I lived in ignorance of the plight of other Turkish Cypriots, be they in the north of the island or even those living abroad. I was living in a blinkered world where I didn’t much identify with anything. However in time I have come to understand that I’m not the only one that has had to fight to lay claim to a particular identity.

I am no less of a Turkish Cypriot or Cypriot even, either because I’m not from the north and grew up amongst Greek Cypriots mainly, or because I have an Irish mother.  It seems sometimes being Turkish Cypriot has become synonymous with the north and being Greek Cypriot has become synonymous with the south.

I can and will lay claim to being Turkish Cypriot (or simply Cypriot) even though my mother tongue is English, my second language is Greek and my third language is Turkish.

We are what we feel after all.

Natalie Hami circa 1987

Natalie Hami circa 1987

4 thoughts on “Will the ‘real Cypriots’ please stand up?

  1. Savvas Christodoulou

    For me, the issue of language is very important. Turkish and Greek must be taught in every school. It is through the medium of language that we will grow to understand and appreciate just how similar we are: like two siblings, reunited and learning to speak to each other again.

    Secondly, both ‘sides’ must understand how colonial powers used (or rather abused) the bi-communality of the past. This history will serve to unite rather than divide. We were pawns in a much greater scheme.

    Lastly, a serious constitutional reform is needed in Cyprus to ensure sustainable peace: the current constitution is largely a colonial piece of legislation. We cannot underestimate the power of a new uniquely Cypriot constitutional reformation that is both inclusive of all ethnicities but is historically sensitive and insightful.

    Thanks for your piece. A new identity is certainly needed.

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