By Ahmet Abdulaziz……..
When I look out of my window, I simply do not see Five Fingers Mountains only. What I see around are the people. They all carry differing colours of skin, with varying tones. I see colours flowing around me, ranging from pink to light yellow, and from stark black to grey, and whatever.
Each of us carry a different coloured skin, which distinguishes us from others, but looking collectively we all make a flood of varying colours, spread over a large canvas, which is Northern Cyprus. Now, when you go out on the street, just try to look at the people around you, with this point of view. You will be astonished to see that there are much more colours on the street than you can count. That’s really awesome and interesting. This is the wonder created by nature, in this small piece of island, in the Mediterranean sea.
But each of these colours are not just colours only. Every one of them has his/her own lives, own social attachments and behaviours. Each of them carry a totally different story to tell, if we try to listen to them.
Going from Nicosia to Kyrenia and back, frequently, I get a chance to speak to different people, by taking them in my car for a free ride. Over the years, the skin colours of these people have changed, so have their stories. They used to be university students mainly of Turkish mainland origin, who used to ask for a lift. But over the years, their numbers have declined, but the number of African born students have increased. With them comes differing colours and different social behaviours and experiences.
The other night as I was coming back to Nicosia from Kyrenia late at night, a young man asked for a lift. However, when I stopped, I found out that there were two, not one, people. They took their seats in a very hectic way. Instantly one of them started complaining to me about the behaviour of the traffic police. The police had just booked their car, which did not have complete papers. “What type of country is this”, he was almost shouting. I asked him about what would be the action of the traffic police in their own country (Turkey) in such a situation? He did not reply, and did not open the same topic again. Of course both of us did know that they would have been dealt with in the same way in their country too.
On an another night, when going from Nicosia to Kyrenia with my wife, a African girl asked for a lift. As we stopped, all of a sudden her three friends jumped into the car. I tried to raise my voice, but they asked for this favour in a very polite tone. Interestingly, the three guys were quite overweight and I was just thinking if my old car would be able to take all of us to Kyrenia, without a problem. Indeed it did.
On our way we developed good mutual understanding. They complained that mostly people do not stop for them, just because they are black. I told them that it’s not like that, maybe it’s difficult for everyone to accept all four of them at a time. But it seemed that they did not agree with my response.
On another day, there were three young Turkish students, who asked for a ride. While talking I came to know that they missed their homes very much. They were not from very wealthy families, but still manage to visit their families whenever they could. I asked them about their feelings when they remain in Cyprus, during their session holidays, with all of their friends gone for holidays with their families? “You just cannot understand our feelings in such situations”, they replied. “So, how do you kill time, when none of your friends are around”, I asked. They told me that they just roam around, and try to work part-time, to have some personal financial support.
An Ethiopian student, who I took into my car, on another occasion, complained about the working conditions in Northern Cyprus. He told me that he works part-time, to finance his studies. He was studying Management, and was more curious to find some part-time job in his own field, but could not get anything. “All that I can get is working as a helper on construction works”.
Indeed this is the fact that I witness frequently, in local industrial areas. Here one can see a majority of African students working as simple labourers. I do not know how much wages they get, but of course they must be cheaper than other workers. I wonder how do they meet their educational expenses, paying board and lodging bills, particularly when they get their wages in Turkish Lira and pay rent in pound sterling.
Of course the influx of African students has added a lot to the existing colour varieties in Northern Cyprus. We do find them here and there, rather than everywhere. But what we usually do not find out are the students and workers who come from far away countries, like Vietnam for example. There are many Vietnamese living in Northern Cyprus. Of course the number of Filipinos far exceed the Vietnamese.
We cannot ignore the colours brought in by the Pakistanis, Sri Lankans and those from Bangladesh. The Indians are relatively much less in number. But they all represent shades of brown. Some twenty years ago darker brown skin colour people in Cyprus were supposed to have their roots in south eastern Turkey, mostly Mersin, Adana, etc. But now a dark skinned person in Cyprus, even speaking Turkish language fluently, might have come from Dhaka or Karachi or Colombo. Their skin colours differ slightly in grades, but they all carry one thing in common. They have left their homeland, for a reason. The reasons differ from person to person, but they all are here to add a different colour to the social life of Northern Cyprus.