Cemal Boransel, a Turkish Cypriot 

 

By Margaret SHEARD and Chris ELLIOTT 

Having met with my friend Cemal recently and told you how he loves his country’s heritage and shares it with anybody that cares to visit him, I thought I would share with you his life story which he told to Margaret and I a year ago and it makes compelling and interesting reading and also demonstrates how the Turkish Cypriots have moved forward despite all of the past difficulties and embargoes that hold their country back. 

“CEMAL – THE MAN WHO LOVES HORSES”

During a recent trip to Lapta, my friend and I stopped at the Aphrodite Restaurant for a cold drink and met a real character called Cemal.  When we arrived we were greeted by a donkey who tried very hard to come into the restaurant with us.   During our time at the restaurant,  Cemal  went off and reappeared with a beautiful mare with her foal which had been born a couple of weeks before, the foal he has named Deniz (Sea).  He has other horses which are in various places around the area. It was obvious that this man was a very interesting character and I decided to re-visit him to talk about his life, which he says has been very interesting but also very complicated. As you will now find from his recollections, his life has been fascinating and full of surprises.

Cemal Boransel was born on 25th August 1948 in Paphos in a village called Akarsu (flowing water), he is the son of a farmer and the middle child of a family of 9 boys and 4 girls.   They had a farm in Paphos where they had around 100 horses as well as sheep, goats, cows and donkeys. One of Cemal’s brothers still lives in Paphos.

In 1958 when Cemal was 10 years old, the village was surrounded by the EOKA and the family moved to Yilmazkőy (Sillura) where they lived for 2 years and in 1960 they then moved back to Paphos but found EOKA had burnt their village to the ground.  The Turkish Federation paid to have the village re-built, but as they did not feel safe they moved in March 1964 to another village in the South called Kofinu (Gecitkale) near Larnaca.

 (1963-1968) While all this was taking place, Cemal was attending school and at the age of 15 he was given a weapon and he recalled that there was a machine gun in every classroom as there was only a road separating them from the Greeks’ location around 50 meters away and they had to be ready to defend themselves. This was the start of Cemal’s time as a Műcahit (freedom fighter) which continued for the next 5 years.  He proudly wears military fatigues today and is well known by Turkish Cypriots and Expats alike for the red beret he also wears.  He has been given berets by various people but his pride and joy is the red beret given to him by the KKTC Special Forces at St Hilarion. He also showed me the original red beret he wore when he was fighting as a Műcahit and this had been given to him by a British Paratrooper.

 From 1963 to 1974 many villages and also Paphos were cut off and no-one could move anywhere.  It was a very bad time for the Turkish Cypriots who were surrounded in their villages.

 At the age of 16, in 1964, Cemal got married to Keziban and he is still happily married after 48 years.

In 1967 there was a big battle in Kofinu when the Turkish Műcahit were unable to hold back superior Greek Cypriot forces and Cemal moved to Polemidya with Keziban wheretheir 2 boys and 1 girl were born.

In 1968 Cemal worked at RAF Akrotiri base in the Officers’ Mess and he talked about the time Princess Margaret came to visit the base and had dinner in the Officers’ Mess.  For 7 years Cemal continued to live in Polemidya while he worked at the RAF Base in Akrotiri and at the end of this time he was planning to start a new life in Australia but when he visited the Paphos District Officer on 15th July with his wife they were unable to make the application due to a security alert as an attempted coup against President Makarios had just taken place in his Nicosia Palace and rumours were rife that he had been killed. Makarios had in fact escaped.

There was heavy fighting throughout the area and the Greek people were fighting each other, those for and those against Archbishop Makarios.

On the 20th July 1974, after consultation with Britain, Turkey as a Guarantor Power had to intervene alone with a Peace-Keeping Action code name Atilla 1 to protect the Turkish Cypriot community. This action was taken in accordance with Article 4 of the Treaty of Guarantee to safeguard the rights and security of the Turkish Cypriots. On the 14th August Operation Atilla 2 was undertaken to prevent further Turkish enclaves from being overrunby Greek forces and Cemal’s experiences during this time are shown below.

There were enormous problems for the Turkish Cypriots in the South during this time and Cemal went from the Akrotiri Base to care for his family in his village and to again join the fighters as a military reserve. There were 13-14,000, Turkish Cypriots,mostly males, who were put into prison camps around the Limassol area during this time, some of the women and children of the area made their way to the British Bases to seek refuge. 

Cemal managed to escape from where he was fighting when Polemidya was overrun and made his way to the mountains at the edge of the Troodos range. At that time he did not know what had become of his family, but his wife and the 3 children had fled from the village when it was overrun by Greek forces and they had hidden overnight, the next day they were rescued by British Forces and taken to the Episkopi Baseto the refugee centre called Happy Valley.

Cemal hid in the mountains for 15 days which he says was the worst time of his life, there was no food and he lived on carobs, almonds and grapes and managed to find water at a monastery, where he had to go very late at night in order not to be seen.  During this time Cemal tried to make his way back to the village in search of his wife and children and on one occasion he was noticed by a small boy who became very scared at seeing this figure with a beard and very ragged clothing, he also came across a cottage with a garden and managed to get some melons and tomatoes. Near the cottage was a barley field and when he tried to cross it the barley crackled which alerted the Greek soldiers who opened fire, luckily he again escaped and went back to the mountains.

After 2 weeks in the mountains Cemal decided to make a move and walked about 30 km to the British Base at Episkopi, he had decided it would be too difficult to go to Akrotiri and when he arrived at Episkopi he was very tired and hungry and virtually had no clothes other than the remains of what he was wearing, he was given some overalls by the personnel at the Base.  By a stroke of luck Cemal met his uncle at the Base who told him that his wife and children were there, he was taken to the refugee camp where the women and children were encamped and when he saw them again he cried with joy and said it was the best day of his life to have found them.   During this time the family remained at Episkopi and Cemal resumed working and was taken by bus daily to the Officers’ Mess at Akrotiri for the next 7 months.

Following the Peace Intervention there was an exchange of Greek Cypriots from the North and Turkish Cypriots from the South. The Greeks captured during the fighting were detained in Turkey and when the exchanges with Turkish Cypriot prisoners were made these took place at Ledra Palace crossing.Cemal, his family and other Turkish Cypriots were taken from Episkopi by an escort of Ghurka troops to the Base at Akrotiri and were then flown by Turkish Airlines to Turkey. Many other refugees in the refugee camp were transported in the same way in groups of around 500 to safety.

So in February 1975 Cemal and his family travelled back from Turkey by ferry to Famagusta and then on to Guzelyurt where he was met by some of the family already in the North and taken to Lapta, where he has stayed to this day.

In 1999 the Aphrodite Bar and Restaurant was built by Cemal’s youngest son and daughter who run a construction company. His eldest son is an antiques dealer and many of his artefacts can be seen in the restaurant garden.

Cemal says that his life has had its bad times but now life is good and he and his family are happy together and with their 3 grandchildren their life is complete and at peace. He also has6 horses, 2 donkeys, 1 dog and chickens.

One last story from Cemal and this is what he is about and well known for.

He owned a donkey named “Isabella” who follows him around, and when she was 4 months old the local vicar from the church of St.Andrew’s in Kyrenia asked Cemal if he would bring her along to the church on Palm Sunday,although Cemal is a Muslim he promised to take “Isabella” in his truck. This he did by picking up the donkey and placing it in the passenger seat, on the way he was stopped by the police and asked why he had a donkey in the front of the vehicle,Cemal explained the donkey was not well and he was taking her to the veterinary hospital and they sent him on his way. At the church service “Isabella”was parading down the aisle and around the altar,the church was packed with people and the children loved her. The Rev. Michael Houston explained that donkeys in the Middle East were a sign of peace and Jesus rode on a donkey into Jerusalem and palms were strewn in his way, so “Isabella” was significant with his sermon. Later Cemal said jokingly “I do not intend to take “Isabella” to St Andrews very often as she might want to become a Christian”!

Cemel is typical of the individual Turkish Cypriots who suffered so much and despite the difficulties, have made a success of their lives and contributed to the success of this country. I hope we will meet a few more and be able to tell you about them.

 

 Click here to read more of Cemel Boransel

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