An estimated number of 7000 Turkish Cypriots
(TC) and Greek
Cypriots (GC) attended the Bi-communal festival for Mutual understanding which
took place on Sunday 10th of September 2000 at the United nations controlled
Ledra Palace Hotel.
The festival, organized by seven political parties, under the
auspices of the Slovak Embassy was marked as a memorable event. Three parties
from TC side-Communal Liberation Party (TKP), Republican Turkish Party,
Patriotic Unity Movement (YBH)- and four from GC side-DISY, AKEL, KISOS, United
Democrats- joined forces to make the festival a successful event.
As I was approaching the Ledra Palace check point I saw a huge
crowd waiting to cross over to go to Ledra palace. I could not help asking
myself the following question: "Why so many people?...Why are they so
interested and eager to gather together with people from the other
After completing the necessary formalities to be able to cross
the check point I was joined with some old friends and walked together to Ledra
Palace Hotel. The back yard was packed with people from both sides of the
divide. Both my friends and I were delighted to see countless number of people
present for this gathering. It was obvious that our political parties as well as
some of our non-governmental organizations did there homework well.
I could hear but unable to see a choir singing beautifully. It
was the bi-communal choir singing. Cypriots singing for peace. This was followed
by a group of children in their traditional costumes performing their folk
dances. I moved to a higher place to be able to see. To my surprise a GC
standing just next to me informed me that the dancers were Turkish children.
When I asked him how he was able to distinguish them from GC children
"well..." he said "I happened to see them coming through the
entrance that all other TC came" I felt a little embarrassed not to be able
to tell whether the dancers were TC or GC. GC providing me with this information
looked in his late 30s. He clapped and sang while TC children danced. "Gyuzel...gyuzel..."
(meaning, nice) he repeated few times, with the good intention to make me aware
that he knew some Turkish words. "nne...nne... bolli gala re gumbare...mu
arese ce mena..." I responded, meaning "yes my friend, very nice...I
liked their dances too..." another GC joined in by making similar comments.
He said he was very pleased and took great satisfaction to observe very close
similarities between the TC folk dances and GC folk dances (Please refer to my
footnote at the end of this article concerning how Cypriot dances were
reintroduced to TCs). Indeed TC group of children performed their dances with
great enthusiasm. Audience cheered and applauded vigorously with appreciation.
It was the turn of a GC folk group to perform their songs. As soon as they
started singing the song "Vasilica" emotions ran very high. Hundreds
of TCs and GCs joined in and sang this very Cypriot song which is popular on
both sides of the divide. "Dillirga" is the TC version of this song. I
too become very emotional and joined in singing and clapping. The performance of
this group was excellent.
Not only we enjoyed listening to Cypriot music and watching
Cypriot folk dances but also enjoyed the opportunity to meet people and have
short conversations together. Naturally our conversations circled around a
possible solution to Cyprus problem. Some expressed their optimism but some were
pessimistic on the possibility of an early solution. The general feeling however
was that all expressed the immediate need for an end to hostilities and a
solution to ages old problem. It was also pointed out that activities such as
this help people to understand each other. Some even suggested that there must
be found more effective and fruitful ways of coming together with the objective
of eliminating the sense of distrust and perhaps convince the majority of our
people and our rulers to work towards a common vision for our beloved island.
I think I can now answer the questions I asked myself at the
beginning of my article. "Why so many people?...Why are they so interested
and eager to gather together?..."
First, no one can dispute the fact that TCs and GCs enjoy each
others company. This is also true for people of Turkey and Greece. Recent
rapprochement between the two close neighbours enabled both peoples to come
together and it was found that they did not have any difficulty at all in
enjoying each others company.
Secondly, We cannot ignore the fact that the two communities
shared the same geography, a small island, for nearly five centuries. So it is
natural that many TCs and GCs want to realize their humanly desire to come
together even though they are compelled to do so in an ‘artificial environment’.
Thirdly, people attending this kind of activities (and it can be
seen that more and more people are taking part in these bi-communal activities)
are trying to convey the important message that they are ready to forgive and
work together towards a peaceful settlement.
It is up to the people of Cyprus to turn
their dreams into a real
situation. The question is: Are we ready and brave enough to rise to this challenge?
My note on our folk dances:
Turkish nationalism among the Turkish Cypriots goes back to early 1920s. In late 1940s and beginning of 1950s
Turkish nationalism began gathering momentum. This was also reflected in
National Day celebrations and in theatrical plays. During these celebrations and
at the "End of year activities" at schools folk dances of Turkey were
performed. These dances were taught by teachers sent by Turkey to Cyprus and
later by TCs trained in Turkey. Also, costumes used were the traditional
costumes of those regions of Turkey that the dances belonged. On the other hand
TC people and especially villagers during the wedding ceremonies
continued to sing and dance
in a very similar manner to GC people. After 1973, a group of people formed a
folk dancing group and managed to organize and perform several Cypriot folk
dances. Unfortunately though, they added, changed or invented steps in order to
prove that TCs came from 'mainland' Turkey. In 1977 a folk society, independent
of the Department of Education and Culture, called Folk Arts Association was formed.
In 1981-1982 a group of very enthusiastic young group was elected on the
executive board. Together with other interested enthusiasts every weekend they
traveled from village to village with their cameras, tape and video recorders
and after about 5 years of research and work collected valuable folkloric
material and information. Their findings were published as a publication of The
Folk Arts Association. Their hard work, findings and activities was a great
contribution to Cyprus folklore. It is due to these contributions by The Folk
Arts Society that today in all celebrations, festivals and the like, Cypriot
folk dances are performed. Cypriot folk dances are also taught in all schools.
In 1950s to 1970s school children knew only the folk dances of Turkey. Now they
only know and dance their own folk dances. A victory for our struggle to retain
our cultural identity. A victory for "Cypriotnes/Turkish Cypriotness.
The foregoing note on Cypriot folk
dances was based on an article written by Engin Anýl, a member
of the executive board of The Folk Arts Society.
Please click here for Engin Anil's article