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Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Hatred Is Easy

The title is plain enough. We find it more difficult to challenge our own prejudices and open ourselves up to diversity. If only we could realise that however much we may be different, we will always share the same fundamental essence of being human.

I was never brought up on hatred. My parents never gave me a good dosage of tolerance along with my milk feed. And so it saddens me when I see so much around me, when really all we need to do is take the time to think before we speak, and to take care in our choice of words.

Mankind is a communicative animal. It needs to communicate. But the skill of communication is most successful when it is done two-way - it must only commnicate as much data as the other side can process. Otherwise communication becomes pointless and information is lost (translate this as "speaking to a brick wall").

And yet it never ceases to amaze me when people who on the outside seem well-educated and coherent can dramatically change into fascist Nazi's at the mere mention of a differing opinion.

At this conjunction it would be easy to retaliate like with like, but that like hatred is tool easy. If one were to do that then there would be more than one loser.

Moving from the general to the specific, my point is that as a Turkish Cypriot it is very disturbing to realise that people of my generation and younger in the Cyprus Republic have been vastly brought up on a diet of contorted history and racial animosity.

When recently a Greek Cypriot film-maker tried to document the real history of Cyprus and dared to show the attempted ethnic cleansing that went on by the Greek Cypriots against their Turkish Cypriot neighbours, the man was ostracised from his community. On the 4th November the Cyprus Mail presented news regarding Greek Cypriot filmmaker and writer Antonis Angastiniotis stating that the media has effectively banned a film he made portraying the mass killing of Turkish Cypriots in the villages of Aloa, Maratha and Sandalari in 1974.

Greek Cypriot filmmaker and writer Antonis Angastiniotis says the media has effectively banned a film he made portraying the mass killing of Turkish Cypriots in the villages of Aloa, Maratha and Sandalari in 1974.

"We claim European stan­dards, European principles, European laws, but the TV channels didn't even ask to look at the film," Angastiniotis told the Cy­prus Mail.

"Not even the Cyprus News Agency, which moni­tors all the news coming out of Turkey and the north, mentioned that all the me­dia, the Turkish-language organs were reporting on my film," he added.

So far, Angastiniotis' film has only been shown in the Turkish Cypriot north. But he says his target audience is not Turkish Cypriots but Greek Cypriots.

"All Turkish Cypriots know what happened in these villages. It's the Greek Cypriots who don't."

Angastiniotis' 30-minute film, titled The Voice of Blood, gives a detailed ac­count of how dozens of Turk­ish Cypriot women and children of the three villages were killed and thrown into mass graves by Greek Cypri­ots from neighbouring vil­lages in the period between the two Turkish invasions in 1974. It includes extensive footage and interviews with survivors of the attacks.

The filmmaker believes that despite Cyprus' European and democratic cre­dentials, it still has problems coming to terms with its past.

"Let's face it: truth is truth. As a state you have to be able to face your faults, your mis­takes, your history," Angastiniotis says.

Worse still, he believes there is an unhealthy atti­tude in the country that pre­vents people from airing their views if they are out of line with government policy.

"There is terror. Some peo­ple even believe there is a list of who said 'yes' and who said 'no' in the referendum."

Angastiniotis is frustrated at the problems he has had getting his film aired.

"The media is being con­trolled. There is no other way of putting it" he said, adding Sigma had strong connec­tions with the Presidential Palace, CyBC was a state channel, the Church influ­enced Mega and Antenna had likewise backed the 'no' campaign.

Angastiniotis describes his project as "something I had to do".

"If I didn't do this I couldn't sleep at night, and if they want to stop me making films on this subject, they will have to shoot me".

He adds, however, that he is not trying to paint the Turkish Cypriots as victim and the Greek Cypriots as perpetrators.

"I never said the Turks did not commit war crimes. They did. But I am responsi­ble for the Greek side. I hope a Turkish Cypriot has the guts to do what I have done and make a film about Turk­ish atrocities," he explains.

The film is the culmination of several years of collecting data from archives and from chatting with locals in coffeeshops. It was com­pleted in August this year.

He says he was inspired to make it when he realised there was a gap in the knowl­edge of his generation about the recent history of the is­land - especially regarding the events of 1963 and 64, which he believes are brushed over by Greek Cyp­riot interpretations of his­tory.

But the film focuses on three villages on the plain between Nicosia and Famagusta and what hap­pened there when the men of the village were being held in prisoner-of-war camps in Limassol and the Turkish in­vasion was underway.

"The Greek Cypriots of the neighbouring villages, along with army personnel attacked the village. They shot the children, the mothers and the old people left in vil­lages."

"For me it became a night­mare because all these years I had been convinced that everything we had done was right."

Speaking on behalf of CyBC television, Andros Pavlides told the Cyprus Mail he would like to see the film to assess whether it was suitable for broadcast, but that he had had "too little time" to do so. A spokesman for Sigma also said he had not seen the film because of time constraints.

All other channels denied knowledge of the film or the filmmaker, despite Angastiniotis' insistence that he written to them all telling them of it.

Nevertheless, this has to be portrayed in a positive light, translate such events as the birth pangs of the coming of something better. For ten years ago, a Greek Cypirot wouldn't have even thought to attempt something like this.

But the sentiment must also be a lesson. In the same vein Turkish Cypriots must also reasses their own history. Only then will reconciliation truly begin.

And yet how ironic...Who could have thought that the island where the goddess of love was born could itself give birth to so much hate?

[excerpts taken from Cyprus Mail, 'Frozen Out': Greek Cypriot Battles To Have Documentary On '74 Killings Aired, By Simon Bahceli]

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