Vamık D. Volkan, M.D., DLFAPA, FACPsa.

Cyprus and 'Chosen Trauma'
H.D.S. Greenway  

“Chosen trauma,” were the words the political psychiatrist Vamık Volkan used to described the way nations, as well as individuals, can seize upon a wrong done to them to the exclusion of any wrongs committed by themselves.

I was reminded of that the other day when the International Crisis Group, which monitors impending troubles around the globe, reported that “negotiating Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders must join forces and embrace a collaborative, federal reunification of the island in the next few months, or see their efforts overtaken by the unstoppable dynamic of a hostile partition.”

Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders may be trying, but a glance at the official propaganda of the two sides reveals how immersed they are in their respective chosen traumas.

As Volkan, a Turkish Cypriot himself, wrote, all the Greek majority ever wants to talk about are the sins of the Turkish occupation, while the Turkish minority is obsessed with how their people were rounded up and put to death by the Greeks before Turkey intervened.

Cyprus emerged as an independent nation in 1960, with minority rights to be guaranteed by Britain, Greece and Turkey, to the disappointment of many Greek Cypriots who fought under the banner of “enosis,” or union with Greece.

Communal strife ensued, with the Turkish minority getting the worst of it. A U.N. peacekeeping force was sent to the island in 1964, but Greek Cypriot nationalists launched a coup instigated by army officers from mainland Greece in July 1974. Five days later, Turkey invaded and took over 37 percent of the island in the name of protecting the Turkish minority.

The island has been partitioned ever since. The Turkish minority voted to set up the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which is recognized by no country except Turkey.

Recently, before Cyprus joined the European Union, the Turkish minority voted for reunification under a plan put forth by Kofi Annan, but the Greek majority rejected it.

Even those bare facts are open to interpretation through the lenses of trauma. If you read the literature put forth by the Cypriot Embassy in Washington you will learn all about the “continued illegal military occupation of Cyprus, how Turkey has ignored a series of U.N. resolutions condemning the invasion, and how Turkey has yet to abide by judgments of the European Court of Human Rights for violating the fundamental rights of the Cypriots such as the right to life, liberty, security and the right to the protection of property and the prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment ...”

You will also learn about the 43,000 Turkish occupation troops in northern Cyprus, and how Greeks were pushed out of their homes.

You will learn how Turkey has brought in 160,000 settlers from rural Anatolia, in violation of Geneva Conventions concerning occupied territories.

There is no mention of why Turkey thought it necessary to intervene to protect Turkish Cypriots from being massacred, or of the coup that overthrew the existing order.

Turn to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus Web site, and you will learn how Greek Cypriots were unhappy with the equality given the Turkish minority upon independence, and how Greek Cypriots worked to undermine those rights from the beginning.

You will learn how “the Greeks decided to take matters into their own hands and settle their arguments by force.” You will learn how a “decade of violence” ensued, with “25,000 Turkish Cypriots having to flee their homes.”

You will learn how 20,000 troops from Greece entered Cyprus illegally, and how, with enosis right around the corner, Turkey was forced to intervene. You will learn of the unfairness of the world not accepting Northern Cyprus.

I could find nothing about Turkish settlers being brought in to alter the demographic balance, or anything about U.N. resolutions, or courts of human rights.

Yet there is hope in the lure of the European Union for both Northern Cyprus and Turkey itself. If Armenia, with its own chosen trauma of Armenian massacres, can patch it up with Turkey, can a solution for Cyprus be far behind?

Copyright © Vamık D. Volkan and Özler Aykan 2007.
All rights reserved.
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Editor: Ö–zler AYKAN
Last modified on: Apr 20, 2016