Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Echoes from the Dead Zone - Cyprus

While visiting the island, I have been reading Echoes From the Dead Zone by Yiannis Papadakis, which chronicles his attempts to reach across the Greek/Turkish divide in Cyprus. The "dead zone" refers to the no-man's land that sits between the borders of the UN patrolled DMZ that splits the island in two. Papadakis grew up on the Greek side and wasinculcated with the usual one-sided viewpoint that an aggrieved population often develops. Students here are taught about the many atrocities committed by Turks and Turkish Cypriots over the centuries, with special emphasis on events surrounding the Turkish invasion of 1974, that has divided the island ever since. The Greek students are not taught, however, about any Greek or Greek Cypriot atrocities. Papadakis' journey of discovery reveals two sides who have been deeply wronged, but also have not been completely innocent. For anyone familiar with the island, and the usual biased, predictable drumbeat of offense one hears from its residents (both Greek and Turk), Papadakis' honest portrayal of the view from both sides is refreshing. His attempts to sit astride two cultures and perceive each openly and honestly remind of Richard Rodriquez' Hunger of Memory in that regard.

To quote President Obama in his latest speech at Cairo University, “If we see this conflict only from one side or the other then we will be blind to the truth.” He was speaking of Israel and Palestine, but Cypriots would do well to heed this advice. One side blustering on about the other with no attempts at honest engagement is getting very tiresome. Hopefully Papadakis is in the vanguard of a swelling movement.