By Laura Brody

IMG_7557There is a noticeable absence in the narrative of Nicosia’s Museum of National Struggle regarding Turkish Cypriots and the role of inter-communal tension in the Greek Cypriot struggle for enosis, the Greek word for ‘union’ referring to the unification of Cyprus with Greece. Through creating the impression that they never existed, this near invisibility serves as a silent confirmation for the widespread Greek Cypriot belief that the Turkish Cypriots are quite insignificant to Cyprus’ history and culture. In some places, they are referred to simply as Turks, further promoting this notion with the idea that Turkish Cypriots should return to their homeland Turkey. This in itself is particularly interesting in that it also ignores existing tensions between Turkish Cypriots and Turkish settlers in the north of Cyprus.

Despite this marginalization, Turkish Cypriots do make an appearance in the museum’s narrative of EOKA’s (a Greek Nationalist paramilitary organization) struggle for enosis in the 1950s. Their representation, however, occurs only in a negative manner, representing remaining tensions between the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots today. An example of this can be found in the language used to describe Turkish Cypriots and their actions: the words ‘slaughter’, ‘massacre’ and ‘barbaric’ are quite often put to use.

IMG_7558On the contrary, the words ‘killed’ or ‘died’ are used to reference EOKA members who died at the hands of the British. It is interesting to note this difference, because although the Turkish Cypriots are represented as less civilized than the British, the two are also grouped together in some places as one conglomerate enemy of the Greek Cypriot community. For example, one label in the museum describes an incident that occurred in Kioneli as follows:

“At the height of the inter-communal clashes, which were being secretly encouraged by the British, a group of thirty Greek Cypriots were led by British soldiers to a spot outside the Turkish village of Kioneli, where they were forced to get out of the bus. Turks from Kioneli who had been appropriately informed beforehand by the British were waiting in ambush and massacred eight of the Greek Cypriots. During the so-called trial that followed, none of the Turks were convicted since it was not possible to prove who had killed whom.”

In this explanation, the assumption is created that the British were conspiring with the Turkish Cypriots to attack this group of Greek Cypriots, and that it was simply the Turkish Cypriots who did the dirty work. The final sentence of this label is also interesting because it is another way of saying ‘Greek Cypriots were massacred and nobody cared about us’, thus evoking sympathy for the Greek Cypriot community as a whole through the vilification of the Turkish Cypriots and the British.

IMG_7559In some places, the Turkish Cypriots are also employed as a tool in legitimizing Greek Cypriot desires. The following label serves as an example:

“Pages from the Referendum held on 15 January 1950 for the Union of Cyprus with Greece, in which signatures of Turkish Cypriots can also be seen.”

As the referendum’s purpose of promoting and demonstrating the desire for union with Greece does not change according to the identity of the individuals who signed the document, it is unnecessary to point out that Turkish Cypriot signatures are included. However, these signatures are assigned importance as another means of declaring that ‘Even the Turkish Cypriots know that Cyprus is Greek, so why are we still arguing about it?’

Interestingly, the point in the museum at which the Turkish Cypriots are most present is not a part of the museum’s narrative, and was added after Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974, resulting in the division of the island between the Greek Cypriot south and Turkish Cypriot north. This exhibit lies in a room that is separated from the architectural promenade of the building, and includes a collection of photos representing Turkish Cypriot celebrations regarding the island’s division.

IMG_7561Although nothing explicitly negative is stated here about the Turkish Cypriots, the negative attitude elsewhere in the museum towards the island’s division castes a negative light on the Turkish Cypriot community for celebrating it. At the same time, whilst the museum’s narrative details EOKA’s failed struggle for enosis, it does not explain the inter-communal clashes that have occurred between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots since the 1950s. Not once is it mentioned that the TMT (Turkish Resistance Movement) simultaneously struggled for taksim, the partition of the island.

For someone who knows nothing about the history of Cyprus, it would thus be difficult to understand these missing pieces. Furthermore, the museum’s provides not necessarily an untruthful narrative, but one that is careful in selecting which bits of history to reveal and which bits to keep deeply buried. The choices made in the representation of the ‘Other’ are in this way equally as important as the way in which any evidence of internal division in the Greek Cypriot community is suppressed. The end result, the evocation of sympathy for Greek Cypriots, aids Greek Cypriot desires in Cyprus’ still politically tense atmosphere today.