The Cyprus Weekly and Havadis interviewed Limassol mayor Andreas Christou after his initiative to restore a Turkish Cypriot cemetery where 23 graves – of those fallen in 1974 – were restored in the garden of Arnavut Mosque in the town
By Esra Aygin Can you tell us why you took this step to restore the cemetery? Andreas Christou: First of all, I believe that there should be respect towards the monuments – all monuments of any community of Cyprus. We must respect the monuments even when they do not agree with our ideology or our political approach. A monument is a monument and must be respected. And so I am against any demolition or any vandalism against any monument in any place of the world. So this is for me a question of principle.
Did you receive any criticism or nationalist attacks? AC: No not so far. These are tombs of people who died during very difficult and dark days of our history. Always we have to respect people who died. We have to respect the dead. It’s a lesson from ancient Greek history. They stopped the fighting to bury their dead. It’s something that cannot be ignored by anybody. So there were no nationalist attacks, no negative reaction. We did this with the initiative of the Limassol Cultural Foundation and we informed the Ministry of Interior. The tomb stones were delivered by the foundation because we cannot produce such things in Limassol. All were delivered from the Turkish Cypriot side with the plaques of them and photos. And builders came. We provided them with two of our builders and all necessary equipment so that they could level the surface and place the tomb stones and improve the situation in this place. And this is not the first time we have repaired or taken measures to protect the cemeteries of Turkish Cypriots in Limassol. We have done it three times.
Until you became mayor no care was shown to these places? AC: No. There was no initiative.
Was it difficult to get the permission of the Interior Ministry for any of these? AC: No. We also rebuilt the Pir Ali Dede Tekkesi. This was done when I was interior minister. This is a very important religious monument for Turkish Cypriots.
Do you think such steps have a positive impact on negotiations? AC: Not negotiations necessarily. Such steps improve the way people look to the other side. They give people the hope that there might be a peaceful future. The older generation can remember the time when the two communities were living side by side, altogether in the same villages, in the same cities. So it is important for us to continue.