July 20, 2012 - “Peace and Freedom” Day in North Cyprus

Once upon a time, a fair island in the lovely waters of the Mediterranean Sea was home to both Greek and Turkish people. The two groups had different languages and religions, but they lived and worked side-by-side peacefully for many years.

And then the British took over the island, Cyprus, and began to pit the groups against each other (according to some), and also teachings in schools and churches and mosques began to emphasize separation and nationalism. Struggles and fights began to break out between the two groups, and both sides have done senseless, violent acts. From the first killing in 1955, the two ethnic communities began to pull more and more apart.

When a Greek nationalist group staged a military coup and threw out the Cypriot president, in July of 1974, people were killed and jailed, and Turkish people were rightly upset by the horrible behavior of the Greek group....

...and then violence was used to “stop” violence. On this date in 1974, Turkey invaded Cyprus in what was called (by Turks) “the 1974 Peace Operation.” This operation was supposed to safeguard the republic but ended up dividing the country.

My daughter has been to Cyprus and said that it was so odd to be in cute little tourist shops in the capital city of Nicosia and then to suddenly come upon the “buffer zone,” sometimes called the Green Line: a barbed-wire fence with warning signs, abandoned houses and cars and streets, and armed soldiers on patrol.

She said that people unlucky enough to have lived in the area now inside the buffer zone lost everything that they hadn't grabbed in their hasty fleeing of the violence during that long-ago July. I'm sure they didn't imagine having their stuff still sitting there, inaccessible to them, almost 40 years later!!!

As North Cypriots get out their Turkish and North Cyprus flags and gather to watch military parades today, ready to celebrate Peace and Freedom, we would be wise to consider that these people had more of both before any of this violence started, when the two ethnic groups lived side by side as “just” Cypriots. When voices on the radio and talking heads on TV, and people on Facebook and even friends and relatives try to stir up fear and hatred of other ethnic groups, even if they are saying that they are just looking out for your safety and economic best interests, try hard to hold onto a more tolerant and neighborly perspective!

Also on this date:

Moon Day (here and here)

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