As you may have seen from our last post, we’ve been eating our way across Cyprus. Thankfully, we were lucky enough to find an amazing restaurant run by a Turkish Cypriot re-patriot named Mustafa. Çiftlik evi was phenomenal and both humans and puppets were thoroughly sated not to mention besotted. After a congenial chat with the proprietor, we explained our plan to head West. Thanks to Mustafa Bey, we stood up from our most excellent repast armed with the name of a tiny hotel in Yeşilırmak, the
westernmost town in Northern Cyprus.
After scooping up all my
bloated puppets and tossing them into my purse, we rolled out of
Çiftlik Evi (Farm House Restaurant) with heavy stomachs and heavier eyelids.
The road from Gaziveren to Yeşilırmak is as twisty and windy as an ancient
olive tree and often goes by half-developed beach areas that feel a
bit sad and forlorn…but then again it is “winter” in Northern
Cyprus despite the 75 degrees F. Given our food coma state,
we didn’t talk much over the din of food snoring from the backseat
where my puppets had crashed after a belabored crawling out of the
“Aha!” M. cried out, “see that – it’s the Islamists
in disguise!” Too full of food to make too many sounds, I
grunted some sort of “huh?” response. “ASPAVA!” M. exclaimed with
only the glee that an observant, anthropological atheist could.
“ASPAVA Resort and Beach – see it there?” he said, pointing
wildly to both sides of the road.
Yes, I did see the word through the haze of post-food endorphins coursing through my body.
“It is a creative application of Islamic praise and way of life, I suppose,” M.
explained with furvor, “ASPAVA stands for:
“Clearly, the Turkish immigrants from the east are gaining footholds here.” Let me back up and explain a bit: When M. refers to “Turkish immigrants,” he is referring to people from (mostly) Anatolia (a.k.a. the Asian mainland of the Turkish Republic) who received financial incentives from the Turkish government to emigrate to Northern Cyprus after the Greek and Turkish atrocities of 1974. This program was created as a way to stimulate both the economy and population growth after the exodus of many ethnic Turkish Cypriots who had lived there for centuries before 1974. As a result of this program, we met many people – in fact the majority of the people that we met – who were Turkish but had no family history in Cyprus other then the most recent generation. M. was guessing that the ASPAVA folks fit into this category – as nary a “true” Turkish Cypriot we met had anything religious about them (granted, a convenience sample, but anyway…).
So, as we drove along discussing the lovely aspects of the ASPAVA philosophy we passed our turnoff for Yeşilırmak and headed into the area abutting the United Nation‘s buffer zone between Northern and Southern Cyprus. It was a stark contrast to the lovely ASPAVA ideal, if you ask me. With military compounds, barbed wire and menacing signs abounding, we began to consider turning around – we wouldn’t want a third run-in with Turkish military types after all!
And as we were looking for a place to pull off the narrow road to turn, we entered an area of scorched earth – presumed to be scorched so that people attempting to cross the border could be easily spotted. Most sad were the remnants of a village caught in the crossfire as the famous “green line” was implemented to divide the nation. It looked bombed out – but was likely just impacted by the windy sands of time…despite the Turkish sentries who had set up shop nearby.
We were quite saddened by the site of this village…and as we wound our way back to our bed for the night through fields and fields of budding strawberries (Yeşilırmak is famous for its strawberry festival), we reflected on all of the stories we had heard over the past week from Turkish Cypriots still living in the pain of what happened in 1974. And as much as we hope that the new life (strawberries) can win out in a future for both Northern and Southern Cyprus, we fear that the old life (scorched earth) will continue for some time.
And that, my friends, will be what the Karagöz puppets tell me they will rap about in my next post, the events of 1974 in Cyprus and the fallout since…keep it locked for politics, puppet-style!
- Greek Cyprus: No start to negotiations without preconditions (en.trend.az)
- Turkish FM Davutoglu to visit TRNC (worldbulletin.net)
- Love, life, strife: Cyprus’s rich history (edition.cnn.com)
- Turkey says new Cyprus talks ‘imminent’ (dailystar.com.lb)
- Turkey calls on Greek Cypriots to make positive contributions in peace talks (therebel.org)
- New airline for north Cyprus (famagusta-gazette.com)