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Cyprus Problem | Greek and Turkish Cypriots Living in Harmony

Cyprus Problem – Greek and Turkish Cypriots Living in Harmony

Here is a love story most of us would never have heard of. Now united in death, could we all learn something from this amazing couple?

A Turkish Cypriot man and a Greek Cypriot woman who overcame all the odds and made a life together.

“A true Cypriot worth remembering?

After all the alleged Shenanigans of the rich and perhaps not so worthy which we have been discussing under another heading in recent days, perhaps the following rather sad news will be of interest?

It was reported in both the Cyprus Mail and also in the Greek-language Politis yesterday that Hassan, the Turkish Cypriot shepherd who lived in the now almost ruined village of Androlikou, near Polis has passed away. Although born into a Turkish Cypriot family, he was given to a Greek-Cypriot family when he was young by his father and brought up by them in the village of Droushia nearby as one of their own children. Life in those days was basic to say the least, and pleasures were simple but people still grew up and married etc. Hassan, perhaps unsurprisingly, fell in love with one of the family’s daughters who was somewhat older than him and although the feelings were mutual the family would have none of it, mainly because he was a Moslem so they decided to elope to his village. But they were unprepared for the armed mob of Greek-Cypriot villagers who turned up to ‘rescue’ the girl and a vendetta threatened to erupt when the Turkish Cypriot villagers warned that they would stop them! There are no provisions in Cypriot Constitutional law for a Christian to marry a Moslem and in those days civil marriage was unheard of but the situation was saved by the wily intervention of Makarios who declared that ‘ neither Mohammed would become richer or Christ poorer if Hassan and Hambou’ married so that was that and a potential civil war was averted! As time went by they were accepted by people in both villages as a normal couple, although some objected and Hassan faced the refusal of the priests in Droushia to carry-out a funeral for her, alleging that she was not a Christian and cited as proof the fact that their son was not baptized. But resolute to comply with her wishes that they should both be buried in the same grave when the time came for each of them, Hassan went to the Archbishop and was given permission for this. He arranged the grave for her in a separate section of the Turkish-Cypriot cemetery in Androlikou and was himself interred there after he died last Wednesday with a stone to represent the Moslem faith, the Ruhuna Fatiha as it is called. Perhaps even more symbolic is that he also arranged for a Greek-Cypriot friend of his, a reporter, to erect the Cyprus flag on the grave and not that of Greece or Turkey as is often the case on either side.

The Turkish Cypriots from Androlikou left in 1975 after the war, and most of them went to the village of Myrtou (now called Canlibel) in Kyrenia district but Hassan opted to stay behind because he wanted to be with his wife, believing that they would soon be back again anyway……….

On a more personal note I met Hassan many years ago when I was exploring the Akamas area with my father-in-law. He comes from a mixed Greek and Turkish village in the Karpas and just like most of the people there, Hassan also spoke better Greek than Turkish. He was a man of few words but as his reporter friend wrote, a very wise one, despite his very simple life-style, living mainly from the goats he farmed, and when he spoke it was almost Homeric in content……when my father-in-law lamented the loss of his village and family farm etc. Hassan understood his feelings, saying that we all share this island, breathe the same air and drink the same water etc. and this is what counts. The beginning of this life and the end of it are the same for everyone and nobody can buy a ticket to avoid that, no matter how much wealth they have in their pocket or in the bank etc.

Androlikou is virtually a ruin nowadays although a few houses have been renovated and are sometimes inhabited. The nearby quarrying, which has been taking place for years, is ruining the natural beauty of the gorge in the area and the dust often pollutes the air, but attempts to have it stopped have always been resisted by those with ‘connections’. Which brings me back to the other story which we have been debating recently concerning the alleged irregularities by a developer etc.

Personally I would rather be remembered as Hassan will be any day than as one of those characters who seem to think that money is an end in itself…..he was a real Cypriot and knew far more about the truth and understood more than many of us ever will……

Many of the Turkish Cypriots on the island are descendants of former Greek-Cypriots who changed their names to Moslem ones during the Ottoman period to avoid paying higher taxes to the Caliphate and also still secretly practiced the Christian religion. This explains why in appearance there is often no difference between them, although there are some who are descendants of mainlanders who were based here in Ottoman times and look more typically Turkish. Some even appear almost black with negroid features and have traces of African descent.

But as Hassan said, we are all from the same island so what does it matter?”

Perhaps a lesson to us all, not least the negotiators of the Cyprob. We are all human under the skin.

Pauline Read

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