On ‘a road’ – written by Okan Dağlı [translated by Fatma Tuna]
We have a saying in Turkish: “They say where you feel hurt is where your heart is. After half a century, with the removal of the barricades on a road, we have witnessed that this saying is in fact true. People of this island have been in pain for over 50 years. Missing persons, deaths, rapes, forced migration, oppression and many others. We have no option but to face the past to be able to ease the pain. We must face the premises and the space where it all happened as well as the perpetrators. This perhaps is what has been missing in this country.
Let’s go back to the road known as Deryneia road or Famagusta Avenue. Who would have thought that this road and the surrounding area on the southern side of the Famagusta district, which was once known for its historic and touristic sites, red soil and small industry where people lived happily, would become a source of never-ending pain. By keeping this 3km-road, where people went missing, died, were raped, forced to move and traumatized in 1974 and 1996, closed for 44 years we did nothing but magnified their pain. No negotiation process or summit agreement or UN resolution has managed to ease people’s suffering.
No election campaign of a leader or statements made by political parties or hawkish nationalist groups which used people’s pain like a flag have managed to touch people’s hearts. Some of those who have endured pain were afraid of facing it and stayed away from it while others waited for that day to come. Some have held on to their anger growing it and others have just continued their journey carrying it with them until that day.
Just like they say “one should start somewhere”. This is exactly where we must start! People have been asking for Deryneia to be re-opened since the day it was shut down and particularly for the past fifteen years. Facing the past could perhaps start on this very road with all Famagustians, people who once used this road with pleasant as well as painful memories, those who discuss the past and the future, TCs, GCs, and with all those who live on this island and try to put people in the epicenter of the debate.
The most important benefit of facing the past is that it will help prevent similar incidents from happening again. We should have been able to take a step forward. Maybe it was the opening of this particular road that we needed to take a new step by drawing lessons from the past without forgetting it and in an effort to prevent it from repeating itself. This road represents our story, Cypriots’ story. All incidents and the likes that this island has seen in the last 100 years were experienced along and around this road too. Missing persons, rapes, forced relocations and lost homes have also taken place there and hidden away behind those barbed wires.
A poet has once said “there are things we must change and we ought to start with suffering”. The very first step has been taken at Deryneia recently. Those who held on to each other, who shed tears and tried to touch their homes through the barbed wires have the resolve to walk this road together.