Marita Anastasi is currently studying International Relations at American University Washington DC. She has volunteered for numerous NGO’s in Cyprus including the Cyprus Friendship Program and the Cyprus Community Media Center.
As someone who comes from a displaced family, who was born and raised in the last divided city, who has some of her best best friends being identified as ‘the other’ and as a 19 year old who simply loves her island so much, you cannot imagine how much my heart is broken as I witness the reunification efforts of the past couple of months, simply crumbling before our eyes. If you read this right now, you are probably as angry and frustrated and desperate as I am. Why wouldn’t we be after all.
Two of the most promising leaders this island has ever had are succumbing to micro-politics, third party interests and the old time classic of absurd nationalism which seems to be unremovable from our blindfolded society. In other words, both sides are gradually falling back to 2004 basics. However, someone could argue that in reality, we never left those ‘basics’ behind us. To be honest I see merit in this argument. Before we start talking (once again), on how nationalism and chauvinism have been dictating Cypriot politics we should consider our role. By our I refer to all those of us who see themselves as activists, peace builders, educators or simply people who would be willing to truly collaborate and interact with ‘the other’ in order to boost our island’s productivity. I do not refer to those who simply want a ‘solution’, because it is important to realize that various groups of people define the term ‘solution’ in completely different ways.
In my own, very personal opinion, the biggest error in regards to the pro-solution movement, which no one pays adequate attention to, is the direct association of the bi-zonal bi-communal federation (BBF) with the left. This applies to both the ‘official’ left of our island as well as the so called marginal left and it is problematic mainly from two aspects. Firstly, both kinds of left, especially the organized left and consequently AKEL, which holds most of the power in the spectrum, are not taking the responsibility that is being (wrongly) attributed to them. The ‘No’ vote of 2004 is merely an example of that. AKEL has being in numerous government coalitions and has even held the Presidency in the recent past. Yet, no effective measures were ever put in place to promote peace building curriculum in schools, or to minimize the influence of the church in our educational system and in the government. I am not saying that no efforts were made because I might just not be aware of them, what I am saying is that even if efforts were made, they were not enough. Secondly labeling BBF as a product of the ‘left’ prevents a very large sector of moderates from actively supporting it. It is evident that left wingers have some sense of ownership over anything that is considered to be pro-solution especially pro- BBF. To be fair, history can justify this attitude to a great extent. However, we should all recognize the danger of this sense of ownership over a solution, becoming just as chauvinistic, as the sense of ownership demonstrated by the right. A recent example is the rhetoric that sparked out of the RoC parliament vote on revising the laws regarding school celebrations. What I personally experienced was an exchange of arguments that presented 2 sides of the same coin. We are all used to the argument of ‘Us Vs. Them’ being used by the right, however it is at least worrying not to notice that the very same argument was also used by the left. What I am trying to say is, that marginal and official left are putting so much effort on separating themselves from racists and extremists that they have forgotten to unite the moderates.
“Marginal and official left are putting so much effort on separating themselves from racists and extremists that they have forgotten to unite the moderates. “
This article is not published to blame particular groups or stakeholders and it by no means intends to question the motives behind the efforts of people who identify as leftists. It is them who have in the end of the day, sacrificed so much time and effort to make this island a better place, and of course it is them who must be feeling the most hopeless right now. However, it is at this moment we shouldn’t give up. It is at this very moment that we should redirect our energy into un-labeling the idea of solution. We need more than ever before, to make the effort to explain that BBF is not a solution for the left (something which is actually inaccurate even from a political perspective), but a solution for the people of Cyprus. Before we give up, we should ask ourselves, ‘have i protested enough?’, ‘have I talked to as many not like-minded people as I could?’, ‘have I pressurized my political party as much as I could?’. There is so much Nicos and Mustafa can be blamed for, but before doing so, we should ask ourselves, ‘have they been pressurized enough?’. I am not arguing that the solution of the Cyprus Problem relies entirely on activism, however, activism can at least unite the two sides between them. Facing the challenges imposed by external factors from a united Cypriot front can make a difference. In other words, activism and mobilization cannot solve the Cyprus Problem per se, but they can contribute into the creation of a united Cypriot front. The deal here in order to achieve this, is to change the perception of the ‘solution’. Numbers in the parliament talk by themselves. We worry so much for people who represent less than 30% of the population to the extent that we have alienated the majority. This is not the time to give up on the Cyprus Problem. This is the time to try even harder.
“This is not the time to give up on the Cyprus Problem. This is the time to try even harder.”