Simone Veil: une vie

 

I found Simone Veil’s autobiography Une Vie while buying groceries in the Super-U. In France, culture and quality can be found everywhere, a characteristic that I adore in that country. It is a breathtaking book about a life that started in an ordinary, middle-class way and got heavily interrupted by the Second World War, went through the Nazi death camps and then on to government positions at the highest level of France and Europe. Compared to the intensity of that life, the book is short (343 pages Livre de Poche). There are many chapters where the reader would like to know more because her experiences are unique and give insights one rarely gets.
Simone Veil was a Holocaust survivor and she was also a major player in France’s after-war period. Une Vie tells a lot about the things she did, but her influence went much further than that because of who she was, a woman with clear principles that she followed in any function she would fulfill: ‘le sens de la justice, le respect de l’homme, la vigilance face à l’evolution de la société‘ (p. 262).
She says she liked politics but not the political game and indeed in her book the description of such games are rarely found. It is about the goals Simone Veil was going for and about what she achieved. The reader can only wonder how she did that. The same goes for all the positions she got – it seems to be just the natural flow of her life and it would be so interesting to learn more how she got there. The political part of Une Vie shows little relations or emotions; if I may criticize Une Vie, the only point by the way: this is not about living a (political) life, it is too factually descriptive for that (though very interesting).
Anyway I highly recommend this book that was translated in many languages; (just) some parts of the book that I found breathtaking:

* the description of the Holocaust, an inside story. ‘l’enfer‘ (p.53-89)

* the question whether governments should have stayed or left their countries during the Second World War. France hat the Vichy-régime that collaborated with the Nazis. Simone Veil always thought that was wrong, until she met Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands who told her how heavily her mother Queen Wilhelmina was criticized for leaving to Canada and thus ‘abandonning her people’. ‘aucun événement historique, aucun choix politique des gouvernants, surtout dans des périodes aussi troubles, n’entraîne des conséquences uniformément blanches ou noires‘. (p.46)

* the letters she got when she fought as Minister of Health for the first Law on Abortion in 1975. The verbal abuse was so terrible that her staff destroyed some letters. Simone Veil regrets that because these letters are witnesses of a history of reform and should have formed study material by now to remember that changes come with pain. ‘il faut rappeler aux esprits angéliques que les réformes de société s’effectuent toujours dans la douleur‘. (p.165)

* in the beginning of her European period she expected that in twenty years countries would go beyond their national frame. She found out that it doesn’t work like that and that everybody looks for their roots. Thus nowadays she compares the EU more to the aggregate of Russian matrushka puppets than a monolithic building. (p. 190)

* her ideas about human rights that she supported all her life; how militant activists rarely bring peace and rather increase human rights violations because their approach is too one-sided; that there are no universal human rights when it comes to business and other modus vivendi. ‘Au fond, ce sont toujours aux faibles que l’on fait la morale, tandis qu’on finit par blanchir les puissants‘. (p.194)

* Simone Veil concludes that she has become more and more a fighter for women’s rights because equal chances for women are not naturally based in laws or in the rules of the game. ‘Les chances, pour les femmes, procèdent trop du hasard‘. (p.258)

Links:
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jun/30/simone-veil-funeral-paris-pantheon
http://www.theheroinecollective.com/simone-veil/
https://www.editions-stock.fr/livres/essais-documents/une-vie-9782234058170
https://www.trouw.nl/cultuur/simone-veil-succesvol-omdat-ze-een-vrouw-is~abb3e42e/

De inspirator: innemende en rake film

 

Een pareltje is het, deze in elk geval voor mij onbekende film De Inspirator die ik bij toeval tegenkwam in de filmagenda van het onvolprezen Amsterdamse Ketelhuis. Slechts een dag zou de film vertoond worden. Terwijl ik met toenemend plezier naar de film keek, verwonderde ik me daar steeds meer over. Waarom verdient deze film geen uitgebreidere presentatie en publiek?

Hoofdpersoon Gijs Schippers zet een buitengewoon rake schets neer van een bewogen managementgoeroe op het terrein van organisatieverandering, transities noemt hij het ook, en leiderschap. Zijn type is vanaf het eerste moment herkenbaar zonder dat het een karikatuur wordt.
Sowieso zit De Inspirator goed in elkaar. Je verveelt je geen moment, hier is een buitengewoon goede scenarioschrijver aan het werk geweest. Het verhaal zit vol verrassende wendingen en humoristische details – hoewel ik zoals wel vaker merkte dat ik erg moest lachen terwijl niemand in de zaal leek mee te lachen. Over wat grappig is. kun je van mening verschillen, dat is duidelijk.
Twee mensen die een bestaande relatie hebben, onderhouden samen een geheime relatie: de managementgoeroe Gijs zelf en zijn vriendin Judith. Hun partners blijven onderbelicht tot in het laatste deel van de film: dan krijgen zij plotseling vorm en kleur. Daarmee veranderen de verhoudingen en ontstaat er een diepgaander verhaal dan in het begin van de film als de partners slechts bijzaak lijken te zijn.
Je zou kunnen beweren dat De Inspirator gaat over zingeving. Of over de vraag wat je nu eigenlijk wilt in de spanning tussen carrière en liefdesleven. Of over het jezelf verliezen in succes of in de schaduw van succes. Eigenlijk doet dat er niet toe. De film is goed genoeg om er elke toeschouwer zijn eigen verhaal en betekenis in te laten vinden. En een geweldig leuke ervaring te krijgen.

Nergens heb ik kunnen opsporen waarom deze film is gemaakt en wat de makers beweegt; intrigerend want het is toch veel tijd en energie die men eraan besteedt en het lijkt alsof ze veel creativiteit moesten ontplooien om alles voor elkaar te krijgen. Hoe dan ook wil ik hier wel kwijt: goed gedaan! Het is een verrijking voor de Nederlandse film. De Inspirator verdient meer vertoningen en als je in de buurt bent van zo’n voorstelling: zeker gaan kijken.

Trailer De Inspiratorhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ocv1VA9ZvmM

Vesunna Museum in Périgueux

Such a fabulous museum, the Vesunna Gallo-Roman Museum in Périgueux! A complete villa (‘domus’) has been covered and integrated into a museum together with many very interesting Gallo-Roman objects found – and with a surrounding parc that shows the beautiful and quite well preserved Vesunna Tower. To do so was not just an ambitious idea, it has effectively been realized in an impressive way.
Vesunna or Vésone was a celtic (gallic) goddess that gave her name to the capital of the home of the Petrocorii, the ancient Gallo-Roman inhabitants of the actual Périgord region (in French: from Petricores to Périgordin). The first remains of Vesunna were uncovered in the ’60s already and it was step by step developed into the actual shape of the Vesunna Museum and its surroundings. Visiting it is an amazing experience. If you visit the Dordogne region, don’t miss out on this one. The price is 9 euro only for a combined ticket of both the Musée d’Art et Archaeology and the Vesunna Museum; and for a family ticket, 20 euro.

It was not my best day in taking photographs, alas. But I have a few objects here to show from the Vesunna Museum Périgueux that I liked most:

 

A taurobolic altar from the 2nd/3rd century. It remembers the sacrifice of a taurus to the mother of the gods Cybele. The four sides of the altar show the symbols and the accessories of the cult.

 

 

A figurine of the mother goddess who is breastfeeding two children. It was made in white terracotta. Copies of it can be bought in the museum shop.

 

A bit difficult to see on this picture but this is a
bronze balance weight with the head of Bacchus.
Very beautiful!

 

Interesting websites:
1. The Vesunna Museum in Perigueux itself has a wonderful website:  http://www.perigueux-vesunna.fr/
2. Also useful: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vesunna_Gallo-Roman_Museum
3. And this one about the Vesunna tower and practical info.

Museum of Art and Archaeology of the Périgord


Archaeology in the Museum of Art and Archaeology of the Périgord in Périgueux, France, means prehistory. The Périgord is home to many caves with findings of prehistoric painting, like the famous Grottes de Lascaux and Font du Gaume and the prehistoric part of the museum reflects this period with very interesting findings. A dazzling collection of different stone hand axes is just the beginning. All kind of instruments useful in daily prehistoric work are presented in many shapes – and some beautiful pieces show craftmanswork like the pendant with a bison head (Magdalenien era, 15.000 BC, exact function unknown.

 

Other nice presentations are a prehistoric burial ceremony on one side of the wall, while a real skeleton that was buried in that way is found on the other side. (Magdalenien era, 18.000 – 11.000 BC, skeleton of the man of Chancelade, Homo Sapiens). Both are made in a beautiful way.

The rebuilding of a Magdalenien hut, as shown on the picture (left), also adds to the fun of the visitor. At that period mankind had already horses, the head you see on top of the tent is a horse skull. Nice to see, nice to visit.

The central part of the museum is a cloister (see first photo in this blog) where they seem to have stalled all pieces that are not prehistoric and not art. It is a very interesting mixture of mostly mediëval stuff, I highly recommend that you take a quiet walk through the cloister just to enjoy the many details in the pieces you see there. Also the rooms with art are very nice with a great variety of interesting art objects but I am not into art myself so this blog does not describe more than just the encouragement to visit.

At the entrance you can buy a combination ticket for this museum and the Vesunna site at a 10 or 15 minutes walking distance – I did, my next blog will describe the visit to Vesunna. Both museums are in itself worth a visit to Périgueux, if you can visit them both: do so!

 

New Rembrandt in the Hermitage Amsterdam

It was an unexpected extra gift at a breakfast meeting of VNO-NCW entrepreneurs at the Hermitage Amsterdam: to see the new Rembrandt painting Portrait of a Young Gentleman exposed since a day in the museum. We were so happy that we could be part of this new joy! The new Rembrandt was discovered by Dutch art collector Jan Six on an auction in London where he bought it for 137.000 pounds only – as a 17th century specialist he knew rightaway that it was a real Rembrandt and he worked two years with several experts to prove it. He published his findings on May 16 as you can read in this NYT-article. The new Rembrandt is a spectacular finding that you can admire in the Hermitage Amsterdam until June 15.

Our meeting in the Hermitage proved us all about the benefits of the Art for Children program. Thousands of children in Amsterdam learn about art every year and some 140 talented kids follow a special program to develop their skills. All this is completely free of charge thanks to many generous donations. The approach is inclusive, children from all parts of the city participate.
   
I was impressed by the size and the quality of the program. Our meeting took place before the opening times of the museum and this is also the moment when children are free to visit 63 top pieces like the fantastic Dutch Masters, coming from the Hermitage St Petersburg and still to be seen in the Hermitage Amsterdam until May 27 (2018). They were watching, discussing, asking questions, making comments or just lying on the floor among top pieces to make their own drawings. I have not just fallen in love with the new Rembrandt but also with the Hermitage itself 🙂
Some specific paintings I like to mention here (it is impossible to describe 63 top pieces from the Dutch Golden Age):

 

Landscape with the prophet Elia
by Abraham Bloemaert (1583-1633)

 

 

 

Portrait of Cornelia Haringh
by Govert Flinck (1615-1660)

 

 

 

 

 

Birds in a parc 
by Melchior d’Hondecoeter (1636-1695)

 

 

 

 

Portrait of an Old Jew
by Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1666)

Heimatmuseum Borkum: variety, wealth, surprise


The Heimatmuseum in Borkum
is larger and richer than you’d expect on a small island. Borkum is one of the Wadden islands in the north of Germany and houses just some thousands of inhabitants. The Heimatmuseum (Homeland museum) gives a very interesting overview of it’s history and socio-economic life. You learn about the history of whalers, find a full whale skeleton and of course the famous little seals, see a complete room, kitchen and laiterie like they had in the old times; but apart from that, there are many great, even amazing artefacts that tell you maybe even more about life in Borkum. This was a museum that gave me much more than I expected when I entered. It is impossible to resume, so I show you here the artefacts that impressed me most:

Unique sand collection: every little box contains sand from a different part of the world. The cupboard has two sides, filled with all colors and structures of sand. This exhibit changes your idea about sand forever…

 

A garland made out of the hair of the deceased… Elsewhere in the museum, jewelry made out of female hairs can be found. My mouth fell open; I find it a bit spooky but here it seems to be a piece of art. One thing is sure, the results are beautiful!

 

A 18th century cistern where water was collected both from the rain and from groundwater. It is big and covered with Dutch blue painted tiles who were valuable already in that era so the owner must have been very rich. The cistern kept the water cool and fresh. It is quite unique, no other cistern like this was found in the north of Germany.

 

A 19th century bucket that served to collect the household money. It hang at a beam in the kitchen. That is what attracted my attention; that there were times where people hang their money in a bucket in the kitchen…. I liked the idea that it was safe there, out in the open!

Last but not least, two things that particularly caught my attention: one not positive, one very positive. Let’s start with the difficult one: the museum shows several artefacts from the Nazi period: price winning objects with swastikas; a document about a given price (Kriegsverdienstkreuz), signed by Führer Hitler himself. It was exposed partly hidden behind binoculars (?) but clearly visible.
 

 
There might be reasons to expose this kind of artefacts but at least some explanation is needed. Nothing in this museum suggests that Borkum is not proud of this part of the past….
Now the positive artefact, it goes back to 1579 and was found at the beach of Borkum in 1971: a silver coin that was made in Hedel, the Netherlands which is….  the village where I was born. There is a long story to tell about coins from my native village Hedel … another time… For now: I was – happily – surprised to find this particular coin so far away from home. It proves that you will never know how far the things you make can reach, and that the extent to what it reached can be observed until centuries afterwards… so great!

As said, this is just a small selection of what the Heimatmuseum Borkum has to offer. If you go to that Island, do not leave without paying it a visit.

 

Keukenhof: 7 million spring-flowering bulbs


Millions visit the Keukenhof in the Netherlands; this year, I did what I wanted to do since many years, and visited it too. It is one of those strange things in life, that one travels the world to see amazing beauties in all kind of places and finds no time to visit the amazing beauties at home. Because beauty, that is definitely what the Keukenhof is about. It is a parc full of tulips presented in spectacular ways. And you will find many other flowers, in every imaginable combination. If you love flowers, this is your place. The beauty of nature and the compositions will give you a happy heart and mind. What you find in the Keukenhof is not to be found anywhere else in Europe!
I had some interesting contacts, too. It started at the entrance as for some reason or other I couldn’t succeed in opening my e-ticket on my mobile; they solved it in just a minute, their efficiency is faster than the speed of light. Then they added with a foreseeing knowledge: ‘remember you entered through the main entrance because we have several entrances and at the end of your visit you might worry where your car is’. How did they know I am exactly one of those people who can never find their car back because they do not remember where they came from? We laughed a lot.
I also spoke to visitors from Indonesia. They asked me to take their picture at the mill in the parc. Their camera was smaller than any camera I ever saw: the size of a match-box. I love that with people from South-East Asia; they always come up with fabulous gadgets, and they are cool enough to do as if it is completely normal. While I admired their camera, they admired our flower culture, and the mill of course.
It is a strong point anyway in the Keukenhof, that they created lots of logical, nice places for visitors to take pictures: little seats between flowers, wooden shoes they can stand it, even a wedding gown full of flowers to show yourself as a bride in white and flowers.
Absolutely remarkable in the Keukenhof is the show with the orchids; from white to red, from pink to yellow, from orange to blue (really!): small and big, familiar and unfamiliar. It shows how much the Netherlands progressed in the cultivation of orchids.
What I loved too, is the fields around the Keukenhof, where bulbs are produced – they are in full flowers now! If you go to the Keukenhof, do not forget to wander a bit around in that area: you’ll love it, no doubt about that.

Find all info about the Keukenhof at www.keukenhof.nl
About the history of the Keukenhof: https://keukenhof.nl/en/footer/about-keukenhof/

Apostolos Andreas Monastery


The Apostolos Andreas Monastery lies in the Karpaz, the rather deserted and naturally beautiful northern peninsula of Cyprus. Historic sources tell that the Apostle Andrew landed here for a moment on one of his travelings through the Mediterranean. Since very old times this place was considered as a holy place and visited by many pilgrims. However, christians were not the first people to visit the Karpaz; not only remnants from the Roman period were found, also from the far earlier Iron Age. 
The actual Apostolos Andreas Monastery dates from 1867 and rest partly on walls of a 15th century chapel. The former cells for the monks lie empty around the complex that is guarded by one or two priests only. President Erdogan visited the region in 2011 and promised to cooperate for a UNDP project to renovate the church. Most of the work has already been done by a combination of Greek and Turkish Cypriots (or their companies), with nice results, worth a visit. Some adjacent buildings are still being restored.

Monastery in a divided island
Since Turkey took hold of the northern part of the Island, there has been a lot of hustle and bustle around this holy place. For the restoration, cooperation of both the Greek and Turkish Cypriot community did not come just by itself: UNDP had a strong role in that. Anyway it is the Greek-Cypriot hope to get back not just the monastery but the whole Karpaz peninsula once that peace negotations have finally proven successful. And the Turks do what they always do in areas that might be disputed. They keep investments low > the last part of the road to go to the monastery is the worst road of Northern Cyprus. And they show their power by calling the primary school of Dipkarpaz the ‘Recep Tayyip Erdogan School’ and the large square in front of the Apostolos Andreas Monastery the ‘Bülent Ecevit Square’; Ecevit was the Turkish Prime Minister in 1974 who decided to send the army into Cyprus to help the Turkish Cypriots. It is a strange pattern since over 40 years now of Greek Cypriots Always complaining as if they have no role whatsoever in what is happening, and the Turks showing muscles instead of empathy.

Useful links

Church of Saint Helias, Mutluyaka (Stylloi)

The church of Saint Helias in Mutluyaka (Stylloi) is rather new: it was opened in 1953 by president and head of the church of Cyprus Makarios; the sign to remember that moment is still on the wall inside the church (see the photograph on the right). In 1974 the Island of Cyprus was divided in a Northern and Southern part. The Greek Cypriots inhabitants of the village that then was called Stylloi, went to the South while Turkish Cypriots who lived in Mouttagiaka / Mutluyaka, an old Osman village in the very South of the island, resettled in Stylloi in the North and renamed the village of Stylloi after the village they left.
As the church of Saint Helias is quite new, there is not a lot to tell about it. The amount of concrete used is too big to call it ‘lovely’ like many other Greek churches still are. Inside, it was stripped of almost all objects, as you can see in the photograph I took.
Outside, around the church of Saint Helias, is a graveyard that has been destroyed. The best comment I can make about that is to refer to the blog I wrote before and the publication of M. Thorsten Kruse from the university of Münster in Germany. The strange thing about villages like this is that they changed from completely Greek Cypriot to completely Turkish Cypriot – the actual Turkish Cypriots living there left an all Turkish village behind. The grief and the nostalgia on both sides must be enormous, and maybe also the bad feelings or even hate.
The church of Saint Helias in Mutluyaka is deserted and you can visit it without any problem. I tell that here because people have asked me during the last years what happens when they go visit and look around. I have visited many churches in Northern Cyprus by now, as you can see in the range of blogs on this site and I have never been bothered by locals (or the army); whenever I needed help, I got it. The climate in Northern Cyprus is peaceful and friendly; do not worry and just go for what you want to see or know.

Some useful links about the population issue:
http://www.prio-cyprus-displacement.net/default.asp?id=409
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mouttagiaka

Agios Nikolaos in Limnia (Mormenekşe)


It is absolutely lovely: the church of Limnia (in Turkish Mormenekşe): Agios Nikolaos. Built in 1863, beautiful details can be found at the walls, in the tower, at the main porch.
It has been in use as a mosque and as far as I could see also as some kind of cultural house for the village. Whether that is still the case, was not clear when I visited; in other places churches are no longer used as mosques because new mosques have been built. Everything was closed, I could not enter the church Agios Nikolaos in Limnia and there were no people around to answer questions.
On the front side of the church, both the Turkish and the Turkish Cypriot flag were present which could indicate some kind of actual use. Alternative activities are not necessarily a disadvantage for a building, although I know that it is hard for Greek Cypriots to see their heritage used for other religious or nationalist purposes. When it comes to preservation, in Northern Cyprus churches that have been used or are still used, often show a much better state of affairs than empty churches that fall into the hands (feathers and dirt) of birds, rain and wind. Empty and deserted churches (since 1974 = for decades) have step by step fallen into decay – here are some examples.
There is a house next to the church Agios Nikolaos in Limnia, most probably some kind of dwelling for priests, that looks beautiful but proves the statement: it is empty and in a bad state that will not improve just by itself. The lovely details might disappear if nobody preserves this house or restores it.
Limnia was an all-Greek Cypriot village until 1974; the Greek Cypriot inhabitants fled to the South when the Turkish army entered Cyprus. Turkish Cypriot refugees from Southern Cyprus became the new inhabitants of Limnia and named it Mormenekşe after the village in the South they came from.

Useful links:
http://www.cyprustemples.com/templedetails.asp?id=535
http://www.prio-cyprus-displacement.net/default_print.asp?id=592

Alaniçi: moving memories of 1955 – 1974 (5)


In the Şehitler Müzesi that I found by accident (see blog 4 in this series) I bought a book that was published in 2015 under the title: 1955 – 1974 Step by Step Genocide – Murataga – Atlilar – Sandallar. It is a rather simple, straight forward book and therefor impressive. It contains the stories of survivors of the massacre in 1974 along with pictures of the victims. The stories are quite different, there is no sign of an editor or anything. They are not always logical or consistent and that gives it a pure and attractive style. It flows the way locals tell a story and you follow their story line without even breathing.
There is only one lesser thing to tell about the book, and that is the English translation. I am sorry that I did not buy the Turkish version because on several occasions the English translation is so bad that it is difficult to find out what was meant originally. I could have bought even both versions, for 10 TL per book it is very affordable. But I didn’t, alas. Now, I give you my analysis of some aspects of this book.

Remembering
It matters to remember and to personalize the victims. A news item like “89 women, children and elderly were killed in Murataga – Sandallar” is terrible and then quickly disappears. This book shows the list of individual names and photographs of these 89 persons and those killed in Atlilar. It gives names and faces to the people we remember; it makes the crimes committed come much closer to our hearts and minds.
Most people on the pictures do not smile. Apparently being photographed was serious business at the time. This somehow increases the impression that is made on the observer. Some photographs are vague, it seems that that was the best they could find for the book. At least some memory is given to us, even though it is imperfect.
Remembering in this book is a mixture of photographs of those who were killed with the stories of the few who survived. This is an influential way of remembering. As a book, there are quite some technical failures – but that is maybe why this book is so interesting. It is pure and it is a direct message both from the deceased and from the survivors. There was clearly nobody ‘in between’ to interprete, to correct or to think about how to get the message across. The message is just the message. Remembering in this book is about hearing and listening to authentic stories.

Different memories
Authenticity also means that memories differ. My impression is that some memories were influenced by actual events in the Middle East. For example two survivors say that they saw decapitated corpses when the victims were excavated. As said in an earlier blog, the corpses were bulldozered when they were buried. Other survivors say they saw loose body parts at the excavation, which is, combined with atrocities elsewhere in the Middle East, probably the explanation for the idea that there was decapitation. There are some claims that the attackers threw locals from the mosque, raped the women, dragged them on a rope behind a bus or burned the bodies. There are also claims that victims were buried while still alive.
Some survivors state that UN officials knew what was happening or even witnessed some facts; that they helped the locals afterwards but did nothing to prevent or intervene. Others do not speak about the UN at all.
This book is not a scientific study. The truth for all this is that we do not know exactly what happened. This book should be considered as a good start to deal with this past.

Peace, justice, nationalist and islamic influences
No one was punished for the massacres at Murataga, Sandallar and Atlilar. In 1974 Cyprus was simply split in a Northern and a Southern part and initially it seems that people just wanted to forget about the past. Several victims that tell their story in the book call for justice. Others just rely on Turkey for protection. They feel that nobody except the Turks helped and will help them and this is more or less true with the exception of Kofi Annan who organized the 2003 referendum (where the Turkish Cypriots said yes to reunification but the Greek Cypriots said no).
All seem to agree that remembering the massacres is the only way to prevent that such cruelties happen again. The calls to remember go hand in hand with calls to be human:
“The struggle of Turkish Cypriot in order to exist in Cyprus has not finished yet. The form has only changed. Maybe, it is going to continue a few generations more. The thing to do is to reach the honoured peace and carry on this struggle, knowing the past by not forgetting it and, without being slave under the emotions of anger and hatred. Remembering the past is not for bearing a grudge to somebody, it is important to know who and how much we will trust in”. (p.122)
I am giving this message to the youth. Do not forget your past and think your each step learning from the past. Do not be deceived. We are not trying to affect you to hate. Be kind and humanistic, and do not do anything Greeks did. Do not concede from your freedom and land. Live with your honour. This is the gift for you from our martyrs” (p. 193)
And there it is, the word ‘martyr’, in Turkish (and other languages in the Middle East): şehit. Talking ‘martyr’ instead of ‘victim’ has a meaning. Martyr is related to islam: he who sacrifices himself in the nationalist and islamist Turkish fight will go directly to heaven, a Grey Wolf adept explained me with enthusiasm: ‘me myself I have made many mistakes but if I fight in a war for Turkey and die there, they will all be wiped out’. In the 21st century narrative, the locals that died in this massacre, in my eyes as innocent victims – from a 16 days old baby to 95 year old elderly – become strong people who stood up for the Turkish flag and the Turkish identity and thus deserve martyrdom. The word ‘şehit’ is on the museum, on the graveyards, on the roadsigns and in the book. I like to refer here to the exposition I saw in the Stockholm National Historic Museum that questions who is telling your history. In Cyprus there is now a nationalist and islamist narrative in place that was not there 20 years ago. It is clear that the making of this book derives from that narrative, even though not every local in the book shares it. The question is why people interested in this narrative have taken on the making of a book about the Murataga – Sandallar – Atlilar massacre; it is worrying and likely to effect the peace process as well as the islamisation of Turkish Cypriot identity. However, the question is also why nobody in the 3 decades before was interested in the making of a book about the Murataga – Sandallar – Atlilar massacre and in justice for the victims….

“I was teacher in the semester of 1973-1974. I had twenty five students in the class. They were all murdered and martyred. I cried for them (…). There were two deaf students among the students in the class, one of them was a girl, and the other was a boy. I can’t forget them. (…)
I remember how Uncle Rüstem come back from captivity. He lost his wife and four children. Who would console? Everybody was wounded, and was so sad. We cried all together.
Then, all of us were unhappy in the village. We wanted to run away and be freed from all pains. Elder people in the village offered to go to Dörtyol, and we went together. It wasn’t like we thought, because our pains were with us, as well. There is still fire burning inside of us. It is something that will never end inside.
I hope that the ones, who hurt our hearts, are going to be punished. I really desire this.” (p. 162-166)

* 1955 – 1974 Step by Step Genocide Murataga – Atlilar – Sandallar, published by MASDER, the association to keep alive the memories/martyrs. Published Cyprus 2015 (no ISBN)

 

 

 

Alaniçi: a school as Şehitler Müzesi / Martyr’s Museum (4)

A school serves as Şehitler Müzesi, the Martyr’s Museum for Murataga, Sandallar and Atlilar where massacres took place in 1974. I passed this museum by surprise, on my way from the monument and mass grave of Murataga and Sandallar to the one in Atlilar. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a museum, maybe it is of rather recent date. It is quite small and somehow one of the saddest places I have ever been to.
The school lies in a kind of courtyard where there is enough place to put your car. I was the only visitor that day and the day before me there was also only 1 visitor. As you can see in the picture, there are information boards on the left (in Turkish) and the right (in English) along the path to the Şehitler Müzesi and they are really good. Of course the perspective of the information is the Turkish Cypriot perspective; this is not the place for an interesting two-sided history. If you go to the Şehitler Müzesi, you look through the eyes of the locals of Murataga, Sandallar and Atlilar. As their perceptions are rarely found in the news or other sources of information, I found it very enrichening for a better understanding of why things are felt the way they are in Northern Cyprus.
The school of Murataga-Sandallar was not very old. Until 1958, children used to go to the mixed school of Alaniçi (in Greek: Pigi Peristerona). There had always been some pressure on the Turkish Cypriot children but the heavy troubles of 1958 chased all Turkish Cypriot children away and forced the last Turkish Cypriot inhabitants of Pigi Peristerona to leave and move to the smaller village of Murataga (in Greek: Maratha). Murataga welcomed the ‘refugees’ and built houses for them. At that time also a school and a mosque were made. Who could imagine that on August 14, 1974, 29 children (their names are in the picture) of that school would be killed, bulldozered and buried in mass graves?
However, what affected me most, was the guide of the museum himself… At the time of the massacre, most Turkish Cypriot men were in camps where the Greek Cypriots kept them as prisoner; some young men like himself had already gone to places where the fights took place, in his case Famagusta (in Turkish: Gazimagusa). While they were absent, the women, the children and the elderly were murdered. The men who survived and returned to Murataga, Sandallar and Atlilar, found out that they lost almost everybody. For the museum guide this meant: his mother, his five sisters and his brother – you can see them in the lower row on the picture to the right – and his aunt and her seven children. Only his father who was a prisoner at the time of the massacre, survived.
Now, this man is every day in a museum that – compared to museums in Amsterdam where I live – has hardly any visitors and he stays in that school alone facing the pictures of his murdered family members and all the other victims every day…
The museum has a video (Turkish only) about the event but I didn’t watch it.

If you are interested in the history of Cyprus, I do recommend the Şehitler Müzesi even though it might cover you with a blanket of sadness; it will highly contribute to your understanding of the Turkish Cypriot soul, and why they put safety first in all the negotiations with the Greek Cypriots.

The Şehitler Müzesi has published a book under the title: 1955 – 1974 Step by Step Genocide – Murataga – Atlilar – Sandallar. I bought the book and will tell you more about it in my next blog.