A decision by authorities to allow a Greek Cypriot to reclaim the land he and his family fled 44 years ago is stirring unease among Turkish Cypriots on the future of peace on the island, writes Menelaos Hadjicostis in an article he penned for Greek newspaper Kathimerini.
‘’Many worry about what this could mean to Greek Cypriot-owned property they’ve been living in for decades,’’ Hadjicostis says, noting that Nicholas Skourides’ family was among some 160,000 Greek Cypriots who left homes and property behind in the summer of 1974 when Turkey invaded and split the island in two, and an agreement between the two sides which later saw that 40,000 Turkish Cypriots relocated to the Turkish-controlled north.
Pointing out that Turkish properties in the south are managed by a Cypriot government agency, the article notes that some homes are lived in by Greek Cypriot displaced, although there have been instances where they were forced to leave once Turkish Cypriots asked for their land back.
“I was yearning to go to my village to build a home that I can live in,” the article quotes Skourides as saying. Skourides explains that he wouldn’t have pursued the matter had Turkish Cypriots been living on his property.
However, things turned sour when his neighbours in the adjacent plot complained that Skourides built a larger house than originally planned, breaking a promise that it wouldn’t block access to their own home.
“He did this on purpose so there can be trouble and so he can come and say that the Turks don’t want us,” one neighbor is quoted as saying.
The current feud has touched a raw nerve with angry villagers now say Skourides is no longer welcome to build in the north.
“Our children who want to build their own home aren’t given land to build on and they’re leaving the village,” one northern Cypriot woman says. “But they (Greek Cypriots) have land.”
Northern Cyprus’ Immoveable Property Commission Commission president Ayfer Said Erkmen does not believe this case will form a precedence and estimates that only 1 percent of Greek Cypriots applying to the Commission will be given their land back.
Meanwhile, Skourides for his part believes that the matter will blow over after the rhetoric being utilized ahead of the elections dies down.