NEWS

Greek-, Turkish-Cypriot musicians play for peace

Pyla – As Cypriots waited to see if they will have a chance to vote on a UN peace plan for their divided island, musicians from the Greek and Turkish communities met in one of the only towns they still share to sing for peace and tie the knot of friendship across the line created by the 1974 war. The 15 or so members of the YEP 14 group gathered at the weekend in an old house in Pyla, one of the rare places on the island accessible to people on both sides with the tacit consent of authorities. Organizers said the group, part of the local EU-funded Youth Encounters for Peace (YEP) program, was «unique» in its desire to deliver a political message of coexistence through their common language, music. «Musicians should not be separate from the world. Here, we just try and say what we feel,» said 15-year-old Mine Kanol, a Turkish-Cypriot violin player. Kanol, like the others at the third YEP 14 meeting, said she was looking forward to when the group can perform to audiences on both sides of the dividing line. «We can go to the south and north and show people that we can share things, mainly that we can be friends» and change the «wrong ideas» Greek and Turkish Cypriots have about each other, she said. They particularly enjoy discovering that certain traditional songs are common to both sides, sung in their respective languages, and pointing to forgotten years of harmony between the communities. Andreas Kokkinos and Chris Kyriakou, Greek Cypriots from the southern coastal city of Larnaca, each have a parent who was forced to flee the Turkish invasion and occupation of the north in 1974, and both support efforts to reunify the island. «My grandmother always tells me about how it was in her village, the people living together and getting along. I wanted to come and see for myself,» said Andreas, a 17-year-old guitarist. «The purpose of our meetings is to show unity,» he added, saying he believed the main message was «for the politicians.» Erkal Hafiz, at 13, was the youngest there, leading friends gathered around him in a Turkish song with a catchy Eastern tune on his guitar. All members of the group are concerned about the March 10 deadline given to their leaders by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to agree to put a revised UN reunification plan to a referendum by both communities. Annan, who was in Cyprus last week, decided to «let the people decide» after months of negotiations by the respective leaders failed to overcome differences. Annan warned that a no from either side could mean the «end of the road,» as the internationally recognized part of Cyprus nears an April deadline to sign an accession agreement with the European Union. But for these young musicians, the plan has already happened «on the personal level,» said one of the organizers, Yiota Kamaratos, who works for YEP. While effort is needed in other groups to bring down barriers of «bitterness, mistrust and mystery of the other,» for YEP 14 «there is no past, it is just the now,» Kamaratos said. More politically focused meetings do take place, Kamaratos said, singling out the YEP 12 group that first met in November specifically to share views on the Annan plan and its provisions on territory and displaced people. «One girl was very suspicious, but afterward she was glad she came,» said Kamaratos, who described the exchange as «civilized» and explained that the barriers to coexistence come from what children hear from their parents as well as the way they are taught history. In the yard opposite the place where the musicians were meeting, 50 Greek and Turkish Cypriots were gathered for a Sunday afternoon barbecue. «These people are all from one village. They were separated during the war, but they come here to meet as they would have before. And like this, they are continuing to live together,» Kamaratos said.