When walls fall

– not always a blessing?

November 9th 2014 marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Nearly one year Berlin wall_2after that event in 1989 the reunification of the divided Germany followed. That reunions are not always a solution, Heidemarie Blankenstein argues in the case of the Cypriot separation. Our guest author, who has been traveling around the world for many years and still travels a lot, knows: Sometimes walls as borders are as well a good protection.

Heidemarie BlankensteinBorn in Berlin, Heidemarie has been active since 1990 as a freelance journalist (heidiblankenstein.blogspot.com). Her previous residences included Asian, African and European capitals: She for example reported for various weekly newspapers and magazines from Madrid and the Sultanate of Oman. Meanwhile she writes from the TRNC and Berlin, while her children and grandchildren now have been living in Australia and Mexico for almost ten years. She and her husband Hartmut, a retired German ambassador, live partially in Northern Cyprus and are year-long members of The Foreign Residents in the TRNC (TFR). Remember an earlier interview with them by clicking here!

When walls fall – not always a blessing?

By Heidemarie Blankenstein (translated from German by Ralph Kratzer)

MosqueThe call of the muezzin wakes me up one day at beginning of October just before sunrise, exactly at 5.45 am, with: Allah is the Greatest. He does not care that the Germans today celebrate their Day of German Unity [3rd October].

People in the Turkish part of the Mediterranean island of Cyprus rather prepare themselves for Kurban Bayram, the Feast of Sacrifice, comparable to our Western Christmas holiday. They are looking forward to four days of holiday, many visits with their families, many treats, many picnics in the countryside. No celebration is omitted in the Turkish part of the island: There are the various village festivals, the Olive Festival in Zeytinlik, the Lapta Festival, Wine Festival in Akdeniz, the Tourism Festival of Girne, the Ecological Festival in Büyükkonuk.

MakariosThroughout the whole year there are reasons for celebrations. So it is not surprising that National Day is celebrated twice. First on 15th November, the remembrance day of the National Foundation in 1983, and then on 20th July. On that day in 1974, the Turkish military came across the sea as the saviour of the Turkish Cypriot community, as five days before Greek nationalists had made a coup d´etat against President and Head of the Church Makarios. He then threw off his cassock and was able to escape through a loophole to one of the British military bases.

The island was under British ruling until 1960. Greek nationalists chased the Brits off the island – only a few British military bases have been left over since then. It was agreed on a smart constitution on the island in 1960, one that should be just for all ethnic groups. But only three years later the Greek Cypriots, who thought they could decide everything on their own as the majority, simply dissolved the Constitutional Court. They, from now on threatened, Turkish Cypriots retreated into enclaves, so that the island has been divided since 1963 and de jure ceased from those days to exist as a state. Nevertheless, Greek Cyprus became an EU member in 2004 as the “Republic of Cyprus” without being clear, on which territory this “republic” extended to.

Border TRNCA border for protection. The island is divided, and indeed since 1974 by a proper border. With this, the Turkish Cypriots – despite suffering heavy sanctions – live quite well, because for them, this border is a protection against Greek extremists, while Greek Cypriots see it as a threat. They desire, according to the German model, a reunification. However, they don´t want to do it with the German motto “we are one people”. Under no circumstances the Turkish Cypriot community would be accepted or even respected by them, as it was prerequisite for the German reunion in dealing with the Germans in the former GDR (Eastern Germany).

Most of all Greek Cypriots want the island free of Turks. So decades of peace talks have failed again and again. Recently, the Greek Cypriots have once again left the negotiation table, because they show themselves as not being ready for any compromises.

Taurus mountainsSo I sit here on this October 3rd on my balcony with a view to the just 60 miles distant Taurus Mountains in Turkey and enjoy our peaceful Mediterranean domicile, although I am surrounded by current trouble spots such as Syria, Iraq, Israel and Palestine.
“As it may sound paradoxical for German ears, I enjoy my peace on this island which was created by the separation through a border in 1974.”

A new West Bank? As much as many people may wish to overcome the division of Cyprus, time is working towards its cementation. No one should forget that a change in the status quo would bring new injustice, suffering and probably also new atrocities. A democratically constituted Northern Cyprus could become a new “West Bank” then….

Source: ohfamoos.com, pictures no. 2 and 3 by Hartmut Blankenstein