Cypriots must ‘share the pain and have more dialogue’

27 May 2011: “Share the pain & have more dialogue” was the message to emerge following last night’s panel discussion on Cyprus’ recent tragic past at a packed seminar in North London. Organised by human rights group Embargoed!, the panel for ‘Remembering the Past for a Better Future’ was writer and journalist Jonathan Fryer and Embargoed!’s Ersu Ekrem. Dignitaries included Gina Adamou, the Mayor of Haringey, Councillors Bevan [Haringey, Labour] and Ekechi [Enfield, Labour], and Ahmet Basturk (chairman of the British Council of Turkish Cypriot Associations or ‘Konsey’). One of the speakers, Simon Hughes MP, was unable to attend and a statement was read out by his representative.

There was standing room only at the seminar in the Amber Suite at Regency Banqueting Suite, North London last night, with nearly 100 people in attendance. The event formed part of 50 Dark Years – Tell the Truth!, a year-long campaign by Embargoed! designed to coincide with the Republic of Cyprus’ fiftieth anniversary. It aimed to highlight how certain parts of the island’s recent history had been airbrushed out, particularly the suffering of Turkish Cypriots between 1963-74.

The evening event comprised of an exhibition prepared by Ismail Veli on the Turkish Cypriot victims from 1963-64, with many of the elderly attendees emotionally moved from seeing photos and details about family members and friends who had been killed in Cyprus. There was a screening of ‘Digging up the past in search of the future’, a documentary featuring four young Cypriots and The Elders’ Cyprus team (Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former US President Jimmy Carter and former Algerian Foreign Minister and UN Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi), followed by a panel discussion about the island’s tragic past and how to leverage it for a better future. The audience was then invited to make comments and ask questions.

Jonathan Fryer said: “It is vital [both sides and outsiders] to acknowledge the past and pain in Cyprus, and to share this pain as a means of healing.”

Embargoed!’s Ersu Ekrem, whose presentation included an insight into the suffering of Turkish Cypriots during 1963-74 and their life  under the ongoing embargoes, called on both sides to: “Tell the truth about the conflict and to apologise to each other for the pain they have caused.”

Evi, a young Greek Cypriot attendee, said: “I am really happy to come to such a balanced event and to learn about this part of the conflict, which I knew little about. I know my community has not been too good about these issues, but we are finally starting to talk about them, although we have a long way to go…. We need to have more of this type of dialogue.”

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