H.E. Elpidoforos Economou, Ambassador of Cyprus.
By Roy Lie A Tjam.
The Embassy of the Republic of Cyprus in The Hague organized a reception to mark the inauguration of the art exhibition “Home& Identity” by Toula Liasi.
A diverse group of people, such Ambassadors from Cuba, Greece, chargé d’affaires from Lebanon, and Uruguay; also, representatives from the Embassy of Panama, the Russian Federation and the diaspora, responded favorably to the cordial invitation to attend the inauguration of the exposition.
The art exhibition is unique as it contains works by students of two high schools in Cyprus and an expose by Toula Liasi (research). Toula Liasi started her expose with the screening of a video, featuring her trip from the airport in Nicosia to her village of Agia Triada.
One point that stood out in Toula’s expose was the phenomena “Home” Where is home ? is it simply geographical, is it a sentiment within us, or is home where we are now?
Toula Liasi referred to Dr. Dennis Atkinson’s vision on identity. Atkonson is Professor Emeritus at the Goldsmiths University of London. Tula further expressed her gratitude vis-a-vis H.E. Elpidoforos Economou, Ambassador of Cyprus, Mr. Argyrides Nicos and Humanity House.
A resume of H.E.Mr Elpidoforos Economou introduction and speech follows: ‘I express my appreciation to the Humanity House for hosting the exhibition. This is the second exhibition we host here after the “Famagusta: A European Ghost City” exhibition last June. I am confident that the cooperation with the Humanity House will continue since the Republic of Cyprus shares the values of this Museum and educational platform.’
Economou continued, ‘I cordially express my appreciation to the curator of this exhibition, Mrs Toula Liasi, one of the most prominent members of the small community of Cypriots in The Netherlands. Toula has a first-hand knowledge of the consequences of the military occupation of more than one third of the territory of the Republic of Cyprus, including her village, Agia Triada in the Karpasia peninsula, one of the most beautiful areas of Cyprus. Her only brother, 21-year old Giannis, was a missing person since the Turkish invasion of 1974. Only in 2014 the family had the opportunity to offer him a decent burial after the identification of his remains by the Committee of Missing Persons in Cyprus.’
‘He was the first and only -so far- Greek Cypriot missing person who after his identification was buried in the occupied part of Cyprus, due to the fact that his parents remained enclaved in their village. Toula herself lived under the occupation regime for one year before leaving Cyprus to study art first in Athens and then in the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in The Hague. For decades, the occupation regime refused her to visit her village and she could only meet her parents in the government-controlled areas with the help of the Red Cross.
Famagusta clearly depict how living closed to a “ghost city” directly affects their sentimental world of the students. Toula will explain to us more about her research project at the school, but from a political point of view allow me to reiterate that the situation of Famagusta, the once most prosperous city of Cyprus that is today fenced-off under the control of a garrison of the Turkish army with its buildings and structures abandoned to the elements of nature and the ravages of time, is absolutely unacceptable.’
Ambassador Economou further indicated that one of the positive steps that followed the 2001 Judgement of the European Court of Human Rights was the reopening of the Rizokarpaso High School in 2004. ‘For about 30 years there was no secondary education for the Greek Cypriot enclaved, a fact which forced either the separation of members of the enclaved families or the transfer of all their members to the government-controlled areas with no possibility of return.
The fact that Toula Liasi was not allowed to contact her project at the Rizokarpaso High School herself but had to rely on the cooperation of a teacher at the School is another proof of the serious and unreasonable restrictions that the occupation regime imposes to the schools. However, I am sure that you will agree with me that at least the drawings of the Rizokarpaso students presented in this exhibition can offer us a glimmer of hope.’ End quote.
It might be added that, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres says a deal on reunifying Cyprus is “very close”, but cautioned against hopes of a “quick fix”. Speaking after the first round of peace talks in Geneva, he said a settlement was within reach if the “instruments” were there to implement it.