2006-10-10 00:37:35 UTC
By Steven Katsineris
Al-Jazeerah, October 9, 2006
"We live and breathe with one hope and one dream: to return to Morphou. Even
the young people who never saw Morphou live with this dream. The town of
Morphou exists for our children because we have told them about it. My
daughter knows everything about it through the pictures, videos and stories
of her grandparents. She knows all about the orchards we had in Morphou."
Charalambos Pittas Mayor of the Turkish-occupied town of Morphou, Cyprus.
Morphou is located in the northwestern part of Cyprus, 30 miles from the
capital Nicosia. The Plain of Morphou is one of the richest and most fertile
areas of Cyprus and Morphou soon grew into a significant market town. Due to
the abundance of underground water and irrigation agriculture developed
quickly in the area, with a variety of crops grown including apples,
vegetables, legumes, grains, taro, sesame, melons and citrus. Over time
there was a large increase in the cultivation of citrus. Morphou became the
main center of citrus growing in Cyprus and famous for its orange, lemon and
grapefruit orchards. In 1974 Morphou and the surrounding villages produced
51% of the citrus fruit grown in Cyprus. The inhabitants of Morphou founded
the Cooperative Organization Disposal Citrus Morphou (SODEM) to promote
Cypriot citrus abroad. The cooperative also built a plant that canned
The name Morphou (meaning beautiful place) dates back to ancient times and
is associated with the Goddess Aphrodite (the goddess of love and beauty).
The Lacones or Spartans originally settled Morphou and they brought with
them the worship of Aphrodite and named the town after her beauty. Near
Morphou lie the ruins of the ancient city of Soloi, one of the ten ancient
kingdoms of Cyprus. Numerous archaeological discoveries have been made
around Morphou reinforcing the connection to the cult of Aphrodite,
including the statue named the Aphrodite of Soloi.
Under British rule, in 1896, Morphou was established as a municipality.
Before the Turkish invasion, Morphou had a mainly Greek Cypriot population
of about 9,000 people. On August 16, 1974 Morphou and the adjacent area were
occupied by Turkish troops and its people were forcibly expelled or fled
from the town. Since then the displaced Greek Cypriot residents have been
forbidden to return to their homes and orchards. The Morphou Town Council
has since been based in Limmasol on the south coast. The Turkish invasion of
northern Cyprus in the summer of 1974 left 200,000 refugees, thousands dead
and hundreds missing. Of the 1,618 missing persons 140 of them came from the
"My country, the small island of Cyprus has been under occupation since
August 1974, when Turkey invaded and forcefully occupied 38% of our land.
Part of this occupied land is my town, the town of Morphou, of which I am
currently the mayor in exile." Charalambos Pittas, Mayor of Morphou.
Due to the Turkish army's military onslaught the Greek Cypriots inhabitants
of Morphou were forced to abandon their homes and properties. After the
Turkish forces captured Morphou the empty houses were allocated to Turkish
Cypriot refugees and later arriving settlers from Turkey. Morphou's name was
changed to Guzelyurt (in Turkish meaning beautiful country). At present the
population of Morphou is about 12,000 of which about 500 are its original
Turkish Cypriot inhabitants, some Turkish Cypriots from the government
controlled south of Cyprus and thousands of Turkish settlers.
The once lovely town is now fairly bleak and dilapidated, with most houses
in poor condition or rundown decaying ruins. Since 1974 the majority of
Morphou's inhabitants have not bothered to paint or repair the houses
because the Turkish authorities have not encouraged the town as a feasible
long-term settlement. Morphou has always been viewed as a region to be
traded or conceded in the event of a partial settlement or some sort of
resolution to the Cyprus problem. While the people now living in Morphou
have felt transitory they have been afraid to construct new dwellings or
properly maintain the homes they live in. Many of the older houses are built
of mud brick, which is suited to the hot Cypriot climate, but over time
without good maintenance water seeps in and the bricks turn to sludge and
the houses begin to fall apart. Many of the people are also unemployed, poor
and unable to afford repairs. The families of the region even bury their
dead in cemeteries in Nicosia rather than in the Morphou area. There is an
atmosphere of doubt, depression and hopelessness among the residents.
Most of Morphou's Turkish Cypriots Want a Settlement.
"We need to get a solution. We need to do something about this.we just want
peace. We are literally prisoners-our only crime is to be Turkish Cypriots.
Our occupiers are turning against us. Now they want to occupy us forever."
Doganci village farmer (Morphou region) Etem Tabak, from the Doganci Peace
Many of the Turkish Cypriot residents of Morphou and nearby Zodia village
have been actively involved in demonstrations in support of a Cyprus
settlement. While some Turkish Cypriots and Turkish settlers are concerned
about the impact of any territorial adjustments or of living in mixed
communities again, others are eager about the prospects of a unified Cyprus
and of welcoming back Greek Cypriots to the Morphou district. For instance,
the 1,500 Turkish Cypriot residents of Doganci village have been very
active, organizing many peace rallies, street marches and other protests.
Despite police arrests of organizers and speakers the villagers have
continued to remain defiant. The village coffee shop is the vocal point for
political debate and planning demonstrations. The villagers also gather to
hear local bands playing. The most popular song in the village is, "Cyprus
is our prison and we are the prisoners. The Line is the prison bar and
Denktash is the guard."
In the last Turkish Cypriot elections in December 2003, over 54% of the
population of the area voted for pro-settlement parties, like the Peace and
Democracy Movement, the Republican Turkish Party and the Settlement and EU
Party, knowing that they would be the most affected by any settlement, since
the region would be given back to the Cyprus government if the Annan Plan
was accepted. Mustafa Akinci, leader of the Peace and Democracy Movement
said, "I believe the first input the Cypriot Turk would receive from a
settlement would to eliminate uncertainty.We just mentioned Guzelyurt.They
were neglecting the maintenance of their houses because there was
uncertainty. On every map, discussion of their area was included in the
territory to be handed over to the Cypriot Greeks."
While territorial adjustments would allow most of Morphou's Greek Cypriot
residents to return, the vast majority of Cypriots, Greek and Turkish alike
want a viable, comprehensible and lasting settlement to the division of
Cyprus that will let them live together in a united Cyprus. Territorial
changes in the Turkish-occupied north that hand over the Morphou region to
the free areas of the Republic of Cyprus are not a real and durable solution
to the Cyprus problem.
The Steadfast Refugees of Morphou Fight to Return and Reunite Cyprus.
"We want to make it clear to all directions that the people of Morphou and
residents of the wider Morphou area will not, under no circumstances, accept
the fait accompli of the invasion.their vision is to be able to live in a
free island without any dividing lines or occupation troops and enjoy the
advantages of the EU together with our Turkish Cypriot compatriots."
Resolution by the Morphou Municipality on the anniversary of the occupation
of the town, August 2003.
Since the occupation of Morphou, its people have become an active part of
the Cypriot opposition to Turkish occupation and a vital focus of
international attention to the Cyprus struggle for justice through their
organizing of various actions including, protest marches, press statements,
resolutions, Friends of Morphou groups and the Annual Morphou Rally in
October each year. These efforts stress their continued determination to
seek peace, a just and viable settlement and the reunification of Cyprus.
On the 29th anniversary of the occupation of the town Morphou refugees in a
resolution reiterated their call for a united Cyprus and a solution that
safeguards the three fundamental freedoms of movement, property and
settlement, establish the fate of all the missing persons and implements the
3rd Vienna agreement concerning the rights of the enclaved Greek Cypriots
living in occupied Cyprus.
Morphou Mayor Charalambos Pittas who was accompanied by the town's
municipality and three M.P.'s handed the resolution to Cyprus President
Tassos Papadopoulos and the embassies of the five permanent members of the
UN security Council. Pittas told the Cyprus News Agency that in the
resolution "we express our position that 29 years of Turkish invasion and
occupation are unacceptable, just as the current situation in Cyprus is
The resolution asked the governments of the five permanent members of the
Security Council "to exert pressure on Turkey and to work towards a just and
viable solution to the Cyprus problem which should guarantee a single
sovereignty, territorial unity and the integrity of the Republic of Cyprus,
the withdrawal of all Turkish troops and settlers and the return of all
refugees to their homes and properties."
The Morphou Rally.
"I found one thing particularly touching. After the Morphou rally I went to
the UN open day at the Ledra Palace Hotel and while I was there I met two
people from Morphou who I had seen at the rally. They were friends. At this
bi-communal event I also met two Turkish Cypriots who were living in their
houses in Morphou. The process is obviously painful, but they were able to
discuss the matter in a sensible way and to recognize the realities of both
sides. One of the Turkish Cypriots was herself a refugee from Limassol. She
would like to return to her home, should a settlement permit that." Andrew
Dismore, Labour MP.
Each year hundreds of Morphou refugees, joined by Cypriot, Greek, British,
Euro MP's, leaders of The Friends of Morphou and Friends of Cyprus and other
political and religious delegates from around the world hold an annual rally
at the Green Line in early October to show solidarity with the people of
Morphou, to protest the continuing Turkish occupation of northern Cyprus and
demand a solution to the division of Cyprus. Many politicians attend the
rally to express their support for Morphou, including Andrew Dismore, Labour
MP, Theresa Villiers, Conservative MEP, Eric Clarke, Labour MP, the Mayor of
Barnet, Cllr Joan, and Barnet Cllr Victor Lyon among others. The Barnett
Council of London became a twin town to Morphou in 1995 to further goodwill
between the communities and show support for those Greek Cypriots who have
been forced to live in exile.
Speaking at the rally, Theresa Villiers- Conservative MEP for London said,
"It is always a great pleasure to visit Cyprus and meet the Cypriot people,
I am always especially pleased to be invited to go to the Morphou Rally.It
is an honor to have been asked by the displaced residents of Morphou.It is
unacceptable that these people were driven from their homes and still cannot
return after thirty years. Morphou's twinning with Barnett- part of my own
European constituency-gives me special concern on this issue. I will
continue to campaign for a just solution to the Cyprus problem, creating a
free and united Cyprus. I will also campaign for the residents of Morphou to
be able to return to their homes."
Addressing politicians and hundreds of Morphou refugees at the Green Line,
Councillor Lyon said, "It is a moving experience to be so close to the
border and see the line dividing a nation. We must hope that the way is now
clear for an end to the problem for the benefit of all the people of
The Search for a Brighter Future in a Reunified Cyprus.
"The Cypriot struggle, the struggle conducted by the people of Morphou, is a
struggle for the rights of all nations around the world for safeguarding the
principles of international law and human rights which are so severely
violated in my country by the Turkish army and Turkish leadership.Through
all I have said I wish to underline my love for the land I was born in, our
love for our occupied town of Morphou and our determination to continue our
fight." Charalambos Pittas, Mayor of Morphou, speech at the Mayors for Peace
Forum, January 16, 2003.
Despite the obstacles, strenuous efforts are continuing to find a solution
to the division of Cyprus and progress is being made. The 2003 opening of
barriers on the Green Line has led to increased cracks in the wall of
division and greater trust between the two communities and raised hopes of a
settlement of the conflict. Morphou refugees felt excited and overjoyed
about the prospect of going home after 30 years of exile if the
Turkish-occupied town was returned to the Republic of Cyprus' administration
as proposed in the various UN peace plans, including the Annan Plan. But
they also expressed their disapproval of any plan that ignored the right of
all the refugees to return to their homes and reunification of the island.
Expressing the popular sentiment of most Cypriots Morphou Mayor Charalambos
Pittas said he firmly believed that all the refugees must be allowed to
return to their homes, regardless of which side ultimately controlled each
town. Like most of Morphou's refugees Pittas is enthusiastic to return to
the families' house they left in 1974, but he doesn't want to visit his
birthplace as a tourist. He wants to return to his home for good and is
prepared to wait a little longer to achieve that aim. While the talks go on
among the leaders, the bi-communal contacts between the two communities
continue to develop.
When relatives of Charalambos Pittas visited his home for him, they were
given an old photo album and other personal items that the Turkish Cypriot
occupants of his property had saved for his family. There have been many
similar examples of acts of genuine goodwill and friendliness between the
ordinary people from both communities. While Mayor Pittas has never met or
spoken to retired Turkish Cypriot geography teacher Aktan Imamzade, he says
that he feels no anger towards him. "I'm sure the same as when I was moved
from my house.He has told my relatives that he is looking after the house.
He does not regard himself as the owner. I have a good feeling about him.
And he has given my relatives the opportunity to go inside the house and
"We have to put behind us the past that separates us and look into the
future that unites us. The people of Cyprus, Greek-Cypriots and
Turkish-Cypriots, must live together in a state that respects and secures
all human rights and basic freedoms. Freedom of movement, freedom of
residence and property need to occur.Our children have the right and we have
the obligation to offer our children a reunited and prosperous Cyprus. Our
strong belief is that the communities in Cyprus, Greek Cypriots.Turkish
Cypriots, Maronites, Armenians and Latins should live in condition of
security, prosperity, respect and mutual understanding in a reunited
Cyprus.We seek a state of law for all Cypriot people irrespective of
language, religion, colour or nationality." Charalambos Pittas, Mayor of
One day the displaced people of Morphou will return home permanently, to
live once again in the midst of the fragrant orange blossom atmosphere of
Morphou. Things will never be the same, but in time a new generation will
rebuild the broken lives, communities and buildings that conflict and
division shattered. And may we always remember the dead-end disaster that
extremist nationalism and partition brought to the people and island, as we
continue to strive for a common future in a renewed, reunified and free
Cyprus. So that the Cypriot people can live together in peace and create a
place of harmony and trust between the communities, in the idyllic paradise
that Cyprus ought to be. In time, this dream will become an inevitable
* I dedicate this article to the refugees of Morphou, living and departed,
who have hoped, struggled and dreamt of the day of return.