Freedom Day Northern Cyprus
Today I met with an old Cypriot friend. He sees his identity in the first place as Cypriot, then also as Turkish Cypriot. We saw each other in the center of Girne (Kyrenia) in the very North of Cyprus where the celebrations for the freedom of Northern Cyprus, the Turkish side of Cyprus were fully happening. 20th July 1974 the Turkish army started their action to take over charge of this part of the island, a peace operation in the eyes of some, an illegal invasion in the eyes of others. This date is now called Freedom Day.
Many people came today to the harbour of Girne for Freedom Day to see the military flight show that was indeed impressive. I tried to take some photographs but the jets should have slowed down a bit for more successful pictures – you see some poor results above this blog, couldn’t do any better sorry.
Discussion was heard whether showing freedom by military force was:
1. a male expression of freedom – women would show it otherwise
2. a middle eastern way of expressing – western europe would show it otherwise
3. a way to impress and frigthen the Greeks – in this version, the jets first made a tour around the green line to make the Greeks nervous before arriving in Girne for the show
4. just fun – it was indeed a perfect and exciting show
5. a way to make the Turkish Cypriots feel safe: look how much power we have, and we protect you
My friend as well as many other Cypriots was desillusioned when there was the UN-referendum for the unification of Cyprus in 2004 and the Turkish Cypriots said yes while the Greek Cypriots said no. Strange enough the Greek Cypriots were consequently rewarded by EU membership and the Turkish Cypriots were left out. Time will show whether this was the last (spoiled) opportunity for the Greek Cypriots to restore a common Cypriot identity, above national ‘homeland’ feelings and group identities. The North of Cyprus is now developing as a more independant Turkish identity, mainlanders start to live there and bring an ‘all Turkish’ culture in – the Turkish Cypriot identity is hardly surviving in these circumstances.
When I met my friend earlier today he asked me ‘did you really come over to see this event?’. I said in a joking tune, I wouldn’t miss any opportunity to celebrate Freedom Day on Northern Cyprus. ‘Oh, I feel so free’ he said. He didn’t travel for many years because the Turkish Cypriot passport would not be recognized by any country but Turkey. The Greek Cypriot passport does not apply. And he refuses to ask for a Turkish one that indeed he can obtain and that will be recognized. His identity does not formally exist.
The Turkish army, I do believe that, has guaranteed safety for the Turkish Cypriot community here. But after 37 years they are still on this island because the necessary followup – the political and economical support for Turkish Cypriots – was never realized. So the question is not: why are there military flight shows on a Freedom Day? But the question is: which politicians and entrepreneurs will bring better alternatives for Cyprus – when?!