In 1974, Turkey invaded the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, occupying approximately 37% of the island. The southern half of the island remains as The Republic of Cyprus, while the occupied north is considered an illegal state. One third of the Cypriot population remains displaced.
The United Nations holds a small percentage of land between the two buffer zones and remains active on the island to this day.
The UN soldiers like to call it “no man’s land.” You know what we call it? The dead zone. It’s dead because there is no hope on that sliver of land. The outlines of my cousin’s body still lie there, so do mine. We are the only living memories in that dead zone of ours.
- It was August 14th, 1996. Three days after the murder of my second cousin, Tassos. August 14th was the day of his funeral, and the day of my final death. I am a refugee in my own country. It was only twenty-two years ago when my family was violently forced out of our home. Ammochostos was home, a northern beauty on this island. Nothing like it. The last twenty-two years I’d been residing in Paralimni. I wasn’t from Paralimni, nor am I sure I ever liked Paralimni. But it was my home away from home. Approximately 21.6KM away to be exact. Now they’ve re-named my home, “Gazimağusa.” Whatever the fuck that means.
Being internally displaced will really get you fired up. Hell, you may just participate in a demonstration. That demonstration just may be on stolen land. You may be clubbed to death by a mob of Turkish Grey Wolves and Turkish police. The UN soldiers may watch as your brunette curls lock with the barbed wire. As your bushy brows turn the color of the sand which plagues no man’s land. All we ever wanted was to get the troops out of our country, or whatever was left of it.
You may seek vengeance for the tragic loss of your cousin. You may climb a flag pole to remove the Turkish pride and be shot three times. You may die on the very soil you know damn well you could never be buried in.
I told myself, I will climb every, goddamn pole, on this island with that red tongue flickering in the wind. I refuse to look your flag in the eye; the red looks far too much like the blood of my cousin, my brothers, my mothers and fathers. That white crescent mocks me. I don’t like the way it half smiles at the loss of my loved ones. That star. Know that I am in that star. Looking right over you and every brother of mine you’ve slaughtered. I’d climb every – every goddamned flag pole on this island of mine if I could.
- A game of capture the flag. I attended that demonstration on the 14th out of hopes it’ll transmit my deep desire for your troops to leave my country alone. I attended that demonstration for Tassos. For all the Tassos Isaac’s to come. The fallen Tassos Isaac’s of our island. Your flickering tongue burned under the sun. A temptress. You dare to plant the symbol of violence you brought to this island of ours, on our land, our stolen land. I would never stand for it. I would only ever fall for it. And as I dropped to my knees that afternoon, know I kneeled before God and told him this would not be the end of my battle. I will dance on the grave of your flag, for the day will come.
It was 2:20 PM when I was shot that fateful afternoon. The warnings of the Turks buzzing in my ears. That incessant buzzing. Goddamn wasps. Waiting with your stingers. Predatory. And you, you goddamn journalists. Just like bees, the sound of your wings fluttering at the scent of a flower bursting with pollen. Ready to produce your honey, cameras rolling. You thought I couldn’t see you? I know you replay that video every miserable morning of your life. Not on tape but, in your mind. I hope you never forget that buzzing, the buzzing you all heard after the third gunshot. Buzz, buzz, buzz. I hope your eyes burn every time they shut, the way mine did as I faced the Mediterranean sky on the highest tip of that flag pole and let the rays burn me until blindness – until the first gunshot.
The buzzing of the bullet inside my head.
I bleed freedom. How lucky am I to bleed on the land I could once call my own. How lucky am I to take my last breath on the land our ancestors shared.
- Çiller, that must kill you. The land will never fully be yours as long as my blood nourishes the land it dripped upon. Çiller, you can continue to belt from the mountain tops of my stolen home, “break the hands of anyone who insults our flag.” But breaking our hands will do no good as long as we have our nails and our teeth. My brothers will claw and bite at any red flickering tongue they set their eyes on. We wreak of freedom. We stink of it.
I hope as I rot in my grave you awake each morning to the stench of my hate. I hope as you brush your short blonde bob and can’t comb through the knots you left for this island. And Akin, I know you’d shoot me again. I’ve seen the headlines. You’d love that wouldn’t you? It doesn’t matter whether you got that order to shoot me. Just know it wasn’t the first time you killed me, I died long ago, when my home was stripped before me. I died when you paraded through my streets, planting flickering tongues on every sidewalk. I died when you plastered your 50-acre flag across the mountains facing what you’ve left for us. The scraps of the south. No, you didn’t kill me on August 14th 1992, you killed me on July 20th, 1974. I was only four years old. You killed all of us.
Now we haunt the dead zone, and yes, it is still no man’s land, for only us ghosts’ pitter patter through the borders of our lost hopes.
*In memory of Solomos Solomou.