Saturday, July 16, 2016
In his interesting recently published book “In Praise of Forgetting,” David Rieff questions the utility of remembering or commemorating terrible historical crimes such as genocide, ethnic cleansing or massacres. He wonders whether remembrance ever truly has, or indeed ever could, “inoculate” the present against repeating the crimes of the past. Instead, argues that rubbing raw historical wounds—whether self-inflicted or imposed by outside forces—neither remedies injustice nor confers reconciliation. If he is right, then historical memory is not a moral imperative but rather a moral option—sometimes called for, sometimes not. Collective remembrance can be toxic. Sometimes, Rieff concludes, it may be more moral to forget.
Such a stance is therefore directly relevant to the work of the Justice for Cyprus Co-ordinating Committee (SEKA), which, for the past forty two years, has been campaigning for the liberation of Cyprus from its Turkish occupiers and/ or the granting of Justice to Cyprus, under the slogan “Δεν Ξεχνώ” (‘I don’t forget’). Though David Rieff’s questions are directly mostly towards events that are no longer within living memory, and the invasion of Cyprus was only four decades ago, the fact that embarrassingly few members of Melbourne’s large Cypriot community can now be bothered attending the annual ‘Justice for Cyprus’ rally outside Parliament suggests that either, the vast majority of Melbournian Cypriots have read and agree with Rieff’s argument that it is futile to perpetuate bitterness over a de facto reality that appears unlikely to change, or, having re-made their lives in Australia and being quite comfortably therein, the past no longer has immediacy, and while possibly it is not forgotten in the SEKA sense, it no longer inspires the feelings of outrage that once it did.
This is possibly because, over the course of the four decades since the invasion and occupation of Cyprus by Turkey, the nature of it has gradually been transformed. From an invasion of a sovereign nation and thus a criminal act condemned by United Nations resolutions it has gradually become a ‘dispute’ that requires ‘resolution,’ or a ‘problem’ which requires a ‘solution.’ And of course, when the victims of the erstwhile’ crime do not agree to a ‘solution’ concocted by a United Nations that no longer sees the aggressors as criminals but rather as victims of a face-saving international non-recognition of their pseudo-state and in fact legitimizes the original invasion, then those victims who seek ‘Justice’ become the oppressors and the aggressors themselves.
This was no more evident that in western outrage at Cyprus’ rejection of the infamous Annan plan in 2004, a plan which rewarded, rather than punished, the invaders of the island. Suggestive of the fact that maybe we should forget all about ‘justice’ when it comes to the United Nations and the world powers is this disturbing comment by Baron Hannay of Chiswick, the British architect of the unjust Annan Plan:"If the Greek-Cypriots say 'no' to the Annan plan, we will take them to a new referendum, until they say yes." Indeed, one of Cyprus’ EU partners, the Austrian foreign minister at the time, Benito Ferrero-Waldner, had this to say: “The fact that the referendum resulted in a positive vote on the Turkish side of Cyprus should be appropriately honored by the international community."
In other words, because the Turkish Cypriots, which includes the 25% who are settlers from Turkey, voted in favour of a western imposed plan that legitimises the ethnic cleansing of 450,000 Greek Cypriots from northern Cyprus and prevents them from returning home, they are rewarded by those self same powers by a tacit lifting of sanctions that were imposed to ‘punish’ them.
Seeking ‘Justice’ from a United Nations and an international polity that is fundamentally flawed is a process to which the comment “ξέχασέ το” would be apt. Former United Nations high ranking official and human rights expert Alfred de Zayas, had this to say about the UN and the world’s efforts in attempting to impose an unjust resolution in Cyprus: “It is so incompatible with international law and international human rights norms that it is nothing less than shocking that the organisation would bend to political pressure and political interest on the part of my country of nationality [the USA] and Great Britain, in order to cater for the interests of a NATO partner.... I think it is not salvageable, quite honestly. I think it cannot be saved, and if it were saved I think it would be a major disservice not only to the Cypriot people but a disservice to international law; because everything that we at the UN have tried to build over 60 years, the norms of international law that have emerged in international treaties, in resolutions of the Security Council, would be weakened if not made ridiculous by an arrangement that essentially ignores them, makes them irrelevant or acts completely against the letter and spirit of those treaties and resolutions."
Former Director-General of the Israeli foreign ministry and professor Shlomo Avieri stated: "It appeared that the UN and the EU were bent on legitimising at least some of the consequences of the Turkish invasion of 1974, because the EU wanted to take the Cyprus issue off the table in order to facilitate negotiations on Turkey's accession to the EU... Greek Cypriots would not have freedom of movement in their own country. In a way, the Greek Cypriots would have been ghettoised."
Further showing the perfidy of the powers invested with resolving the tragedy, and the manner in which tragedies can be exploited in order to achieve other geopolitical aims, according to former British MP Christopher Price: “Urged on by the EU and the US, Annan accepted the proposal that Turkish troops remain in the island in perpetuity. This concession was calculated to smooth the path of Turkey towards EU membership and to demonise the Greek Cypriots as scapegoats if a political solution did not materialise.”
Since 2004 which marks the last major effort to ‘resolve’ the Cyprus tragedy, other tragedies have taken place, none of which the World Powers and its institutions have been able to prevent or mitigate and all of which have shown the United Nations for what they really are – a bankrupt, League of Nations doppelganger, a velvet glove encasing the iron manipulative fist of powerful nation-puppeteers, in order to delude the meek of the world that mechanisms to effect justice do exist and that the global system, though capable of flaws, will ultimately correct itself.
The existence of 65 million refugees in the world (based on UN estimates) in which the displaced Cypriots of the criminal invasion must be included, is a savage indictment upon humanity and justifiably should erode our belief in the efficacy of the post-world war institutions that were supposedly created in order to prevent or resolve violent conflict. Cyprus stands no longer upon the proscenium of world concern and a litany of other iniquities, such as those visited upon the hapless people of Syria, Iraq, Libya, and Yemen, take precedence in waiting upon the world to fail them as well, as humanity lurches from one organized mass murder to the other. If we are then to maintain our misplaced belief in humanity and its ability to achieve a paradise of peace upon the earth based on its own endeavours, then perhaps David Rieff is right and by inference, we must forget Cyprus.
Yet when the mothers, sisters and daughters of the slain Cypriots agonise their way to State Parliament on Sunday 17 July 2016, their eyes read and the horror they have witnesses etched indelibly upon their countenances, their cry for Justice will not be directed towards the hypocrites masquerading as saviours, nor against the criminals who have managed, through their adept manipulation of their geopolitical position, to rebrand themselves as ‘partners’ in any ‘solution.’ Nor will it be directed towards the Greek neophytes who would castigate them for their recalcitrance in refusing to forget. Instead, that almost silent, lonely (for want of any significant participation from the Greek community) yet immensely dignified cry, is the most poignant cry of all – a cry of desperation towards a world that has failed them and all of us, a cry that compels all of us never to forget the enormity of the crimes visited upon humanity by the powerful, nor the sickening manner in which the sycophants seek to cover them up.
And it is because unlike David Rieff, I believe that the moral imperative is never to forget the tragedy of Cyprus or the perfidy of its minders; that to forget that the ineptitude, collusion and/or willful blindness of the world powers and its collective institutions permitted them to abandon the people of Cyprus to their pain, is to allow them to evade responsibility for all the misery of the conflicts that have since followed, that I will be there, at the silent grey steps of Parliament on Sunday 17 July 2016, to shout, with the few Cypriots and their Greek compatriots who refuse to forget: “Δεν ξεχνώ.”
First published in NKEE on Saturday, 16 July 2016