Prospects of Reconciliation, Co-Existence and Foregiveness in Cyprus in the Post-referendum Period

PRIO Report

Sitas, Ari; Dilek Latif & Natasa Loizou (2007) Prospects of Reconciliation, Co-Existence and Foregiveness in Cyprus in the Post-referendum Period. PRIO Cyprus Centre Report: 4. Nicosia: PRIO Cyprus Centre.

The study explored the dispositions of Cypriots on the prospects of reconciliation (symphiliosis/uzlaşmak), co-existence (syniparxis/beraber varolmak), and forgiveness (synghoresis/bağışlamak). It draws on 170 qualitative interviews, focusing on two generation of Cypriots: those now in their 50s who experienced the conflict first hand, and the generation of their children, now 25 years old, born on a divided island.

The study identified three profound points. First, the Cyprus “case” did not end up in murderous ethnic cleansing because of self-restraint: this speaks to a humanism that precedes the conflict. It did end up in territorial ethnic cleansing after the coup and the invasion, but, despite the existence of core constituencies and militants who were ready to push the society beyond the brink, commit atrocities and inaugurate a zero-sum game of eliminations, “something” prevailed.

Second, the study confirms that there is a need to distinguish between powerful social constructions of collective traumata and actual grief-work, i.e. the emotional work that allows people to get on with their lives after they experience intense moments of violence as victims or perpetrators, and sometimes as both. An important finding is that those who experienced the violence personally, intensely and devastatingly are more open towards reconciliation than those who were at a distance from it. This comes with a proviso: unless you had lost an immediate loved-one.

Third, the study found that there is a range of social variables that correlate well with swings in dispositions towards or against reconciliation. There are hard variables of class, age, gender, religion, refugeedom/non-refugeedom and there are also the soft variables of exposure and experience: involvement in bicommunal NGOs and activities, involvement in civic and associational life, strong or weak exposure to the “other side” forms of consumption of cultural goods and ideas and most importantly, traumatic experiences.

Put differently--the more intense the experience of traumas through the violence was, the more open people are towards reconciliation. The more distant in experience and age, the more closed to reconciliation.

The study concludes that there is much more space for social initiative and “rapprochement” than sceptics would indicate. However, what is also significant is that there are not two homogeneous groups of people facing each other: the variations within the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities are in many instances more pronounced than their uniformities.

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