April 1, 2023

By Ahmet Abdulaziz….

Every country and every society has got its own problems, and these problems remain in news according to the depth of impact it has made on society. Cyprus is one such place, where the people and the communities living here, have gone through a number of events the effect of which can be seen and noticed.

But as I said earlier the impact of such events differs, from one to another. One such event in Cyprus is that of “missing persons”. Interestingly when we use the term “missing persons in Cyprus” we all mean those people who disappeared during the communal disturbances during the 1950s and later or those who met the same fate during the 1974 crisis. But today I am not discussing any of them.

There is another category of “missing persons” in Cyprus, which unfortunately people usually do not want to discuss. Yes, I am talking about some 4,000 and more Turkish Cypriot girls who were literally “sold” to the Arabs from the 1920s until around the 1950s. More than two generations have passed, and still most relatives of those “sold brides” avoid discussing this issue.  For sure they all feel guilty due to the actions of their elders, but they do console themselves by saying that whatever the elders had done, was perhaps the best possible solution in those circumstances.

It so happened, that Palestine and most of the other Arab areas were under the control of the British, in those days, and so was Cyprus too. The island was facing a serious drought and the already poor Turkish Cypriots were struggling to survive against all odds. In those circumstances, some Arabs had started coming to the island to buy a “bride” for themselves against a price. I am not sure who were the pioneers of this idea, Arabs or Cypriots, but that’s not important at all.

The “price” that those Arabs used to give in those days was sufficient enough for the survival of the remaining members of the family. But for that, they had had to give away one of their daughters, with no chance of seeing her again.  This is exactly what had happened then. More than 4,000 Turkish Cypriot girls left the island for good, without returning or having any contact with their parents or siblings, or any other relative.

Over the last 80 years or so, once for a while someone tried to find any of these girls. They did find one or two, with difficulty, and the matter ends there. The main difficulty is that those girls never had any contact with their parents, who on their part had already made up their mind of not contacting them at all.

Neriman Cahit is one such Turkish Cypriot writer, who took great pain in carrying out research about this issue. She published her findings in Turkish in a book entitled ” Araplara Satılan Kızlarımız”, published in 2010. The English version of the book ” “Brides for Sale” was published in 2014. Though I have not yet read the book and have yet read some parts of the books on the internet, I felt the need to share this information here.

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