I have been away this month interviewing people for my film project comparing Bulgarian workers’ experiences in divided communities. I returned from Lefkosia, the capital of Cyprus, this week where there was a palpable sense of optimism that after 41 years of division and foreign occupation, there may finally be a chance of reunification. There has been little reason for such optimism at any point since the 1974 invasion, with the 2004 ‘Annan Plan’ rejected in a referendum.
However the recent election of a new President of the occupied area—known as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, and recognised by only one nation, Turkey—has seen unprecedented progress in a matter of weeks. Mustafa Akıncı is initially from the furthest southern city in Cyprus, Limassol, and was elected on a platform of moving away from Turkish influence towards discussing reunification with his Greek-speaking compatriots. His mantra that ‘we don’t need any more mothers’ refers to the role of Turkey and Greece in interfering in Cypriot affairs, whereas ‘the children’ need to sort their problems amongst themselves.
Following discussions on Wednesday 17 June, the electrified Turkish flag that has been imposingly displayed on a prominent mountainside overlooking the capital since 1987 was not lit in the evening. This is the first time this has not happened and was quietly blamed on an electrical fault. This continued on subsequent nights. It is too early to say whether this will be permanent but it has now been over a week and the lights remain off. There has been no fanfare. No widespread gloating or complaining on either side.
The (very rough!) short video below provides a brief explanation by my friend, Anastasios Kakoullis, whose family home is the other side of the mountain shown. His father was a 16 year-old refugee following the war in 1974 and now lives in the capital in the independent southern part of the city.