A lesson from Cyprus for the Lebanese people

Hazem Saghieh
Hazem Saghieh
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The 200 km between the Lebanese and Cypriot coastal lines are more than a geographical distance, as they rather represent a huge gap between each country’s methods in handling its own national affairs and determining its destiny.

Let us suppose that a group of Greek Cypriot young men decided to act according to how another particular group of Lebanese young men does, or claims to do, and let us imagine that those young Cypriots decided to liberate their island and reunify it, which by default entails expelling Turkish regular troops in the northeast of the island and defeating the 9,000-strong militia of Turkish volunteers.

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Many would regard such an action as entirely legal, as well as achievable, recalling that the island is the country of the Greek Cypriots who witnessed its partition as a direct result of the Turkish invasion in the mid-seventies. Hence, again relying on the Lebanese example, it will be imperative and valid for those Greek Cypriot young men to form a national resistance front that launches military operations until the full liberation of the Cypriot motherland.

Several political factors are in favor of such an action. Internally, the Turkish Cypriots who support a reunification of the island are not a minority, although the opponents of the reunification are numerous. Turkey is the one and only world country that recognizes the North Cyprus Republic which unilaterally declared its independence in 1983, while the rest of the world considers it an illegal republic, and many of its countries boycott it and run no trade with its air- or seaports, which led to the latter’s closure. Additionally, the deteriorating economic situation of Turkey and its lira diminish Ankara’s capabilities to rescue the northeast of Cyprus, which is in need of assistance.

However, and in spite of all the previous factors, there are no such young men in the Greek Cyprus, as there is no national front that pledges to liberate the rest of the homeland, proclaiming that the road to that liberation will be forged through martyrs and blood.

It is worth mentioning that, coming back to the Cypriot-Lebanese comparison, the occupied Lebanese Shebaa Farms are a tiny proportion compared to Cyprus’s northeast - which comprises almost a third of the island’s area and hosts a third of its population. In the same vein, northeast Cyprus is not to be equated with Palestine’s connection with Lebanon, since the two sides of Cyprus are parts of the one and same country that has been always so until the 1974 partition took place.

Most probably, there are several reasons that prevent the emergence of such a Greek Cypriot liberation front or the rise of Cypriots who are willing to follow the steps of the Lebanese model, and these reasons can be also considered counterarguments to the old-fashion traditional concepts of nationalist struggle.

To start with, Greek Cypriots hate war, and hence they neither compose songs and poems that glorify it nor raise their children to become the martyrs of tomorrow. As a matter of fact, their hatred of war might be the shield that protects them from their own inner impulses that could bring calamities. The hatred of war is preventing the destruction of both Greek and Turkish Cyprus with one blow. Most probably, the Greek Cypriots prefer to see their country prospering and its democracy developing while reaping the fruits of its membership in the EU. They prioritize these elements over the concerns of resistance, liberation and unification of their island.

Besides, they accept the reality of peaceful partition of their country since war has become something of the past. They prefer a partition accompanied by peace and stability than a struggle for liberation that might turn to an open-ended civil strife. Meanwhile, they never relinquished the unity principle of their island, but probably they decided to let shifts in public opinion and power balance achieve that unification, which if happened would be great, and if not, they would just proceed with enhancing the political and economic stability and growth of the Greek part of the island, meanwhile avoiding all kinds of violence and fight.

This tendency is clear in the rhetoric of their political parties, as none among the strong ones bases its legitimacy on military struggle and resistance. The strongest of the Greek Cypriot parties is the Democratic Rally which in 2004 was in favor of the UN’s so-called Kofi Annan’s Plan for the unification of the island, and the party’s leadership is working on grabbing the enthusiasm of its fanatic members. The second most influential party is the formerly communist Progressive Party of Working People (AKEL) that supports a federal solution for the island’s partition and prioritizes improving the relations with the Turkish Cypriots. The third one is the Democratic Party whose enthusiasm for its Europeanism and Cyprus’s membership in the EU is keeping its political strictness under control. The Democratic Front is the fourth party in significance, which split from the Democratic Party for being less fanatic than the latter. Finally, there is the National Popular Front, which is a far-right ultra-nationalist party that publicly declares its fascist enmity towards the Turks in general, and the Cypriot Turks in particular – but with no armed struggle on its agenda. The latter has only four among a total of 56 MPs in the Cypriot Parliament.

In the same vein, there is no external side that incites the Greek Cypriots to fight and liberate their county, as neither Greece itself is doing so, nor the EU. They do not wish death to the Cypriots or devastation to Cyprus. Instead, they rely on the rationale that change can be achieved solely through political and economic pressure, boycott, and measures, and that war only leads to destruction.

The Greek Cypriot position is not to be regarded as a sign of weakness. One should recall that despite all its mighty capabilities and gargantuan population, China has been abstaining since 1949 from the ‘liberation’ of Taiwan, just as it abstained from a forceful annexation of Hong Kong, which was ultimately achieved via peaceful means through an agreement with the UK which had already committed itself to a hand-over of the Hong Kong region to the Chinese mainland.

Opposite to the Chinese model, there you have the Lebanese one which probably enhances the Greek Cypriot’s abhorrence of all kinds of resistance and liberation movements. Since “the end of the era of defeats” according to a particular divine party leader has actually brought an end to everything else, why should we not try an era of defeats, and who knows what fruits it might bring forth.

On the opposite side of Cyprus and China, we have the armed Lebanon of the resistance, a country which is impoverished and doomed with a majority of its young men looking forward to an example in far countries that are richer and more progressive, and it is a semi-impossible dream to see Lebanon getting close to the model of these countries. Those young men aspire to follow the example provided by the neighborly island of Cyprus, and some of them are thinking of moving there in some sort of escapism. Cyprus might be partitioned, unarmed, and “submissive,” but at least it is prospering and developing.

This article was originally published in, and translated from, the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat.

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Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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