09/03/2021 Cyprus (International Christian Concern) – On the 47-year anniversary of the Turkish invasion of Famagusta in Northern Cyprus, Greek author and activist Tasoula Hadjitofi attempted to visit her childhood city for the first time since she was 15. Her trip coincided with Turkish President Erdogan announcing a partial reopening of Varosha, a quarter of Famagusta, though the trajectory for governance and population is unclear. The town has remained a military zone for the past 47 years with only a small coastal portion recently reopened for public use.
During her first day, after passing through all the necessary checkpoints, Hadjitofi encountered a delegation from Azerbaijan at which point she lamented she was unable to see her home. “It is now all our country. It is my home too, we are part of the big Turkish world. Be grateful that you have been allowed in here,” the Azerbaijani man told her.
Hadjitofi’s four-day efforts led her to encounter several Turkish policemen, all of who turned her away from going just down the street to see her childhood home. At one point she runs down the street and was able to briefly walk through her abandoned home and peek inside her church before a Turkish policeman speeds up in a car to take her back. Luckily no incidents arose from the interaction.
The former Famagusta resident walked the streets, remembering all of the places she once visited as a child, many of which are gone, run-down, or redeveloped under Turkish occupation. On her final day, Hadjitofi sought to meet with Erdogan when he planned to be in Varosha and ask him to pray with her at her church. Though she ultimately was unable to meet with the President, she inscribed a copy of her book “The Icon Hunter” to him saying, “I will pray for you to make the right decision and stop hurting us. Try to save your soul, because the ghosts of Famagusta will follow you. Our tears won’t fit in any mosque. No mosque would be big enough to save your soul. Please give me one hour of your time, anywhere on this planet. Let us speak about truth, peace and reconciliation. Warm regards, Tasoula Hadjitofi, a ghost from Famagusta.”
Hadjitofi is one of the thousands of residents who had to flee their homes suddenly in 1974 and is one of the few to have the opportunity to return. The Turkish occupation of Northern Cyprus has left the Greek Cypriot community hurting and mourning for the land that was once theirs. No government outside of Turkey recognizes the occupied land claimed to be the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.
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