by Sylvain Comeau
Cyprus is an island divided between its Greek and Turkish communities, torn between a Greek majority who have often aspired to join with Greece, and a Turkish minority who occupy a separate Turkish state in the northeast.
To Gary Gumpert and Susan J. Drucker, who spoke at Concordia last term, the island is a contradiction and an anomaly, physically divided by the "Green Line," a barrier of bricks, concrete and barbed wire, yet globally connected.
Gumpert, a professor of communication and arts sciences at Queens College, City University of New York, and Drucker, chair of the Department of Speech Communication and Rhetorical Studies at New York's Hofstra University, are collaborating on a book about Cyprus.
"Cyprus has been divided since 1974," Gumpert said in a talk here in November. "Today, 24 years later, the search for a political solution remains a dream."
The island has so far maintained its stubborn north-south divisions despite demographic population shifts.
"There are six colleges in the north," Gumpert said. "The nature and fabric of the north is changing, with 10,000 students living there. There are also 15,000 migrant workers in the north, so that the whole population is changing very rapidly. Turkish Cypriots are moving out of Northern Cyprus, some of them moving to London and Melbourne, and have been replaced by Turkish settlers."
Gumpert said the original population was far more accustomed to living and communicating with those on the other side of the Green Line. "The original population, which knew and dealt with each other (although sometimes with loathing and hatred) has mostly vanished. So after 24 years, what do people have to say to each other? Why talk?"
Drucker provided an answer to that rhetorical question. "There are individuals on both sides today who maintain that a political solution without some interpersonal relationships would be a hollow victory.
"They believe, and we agree, that the social contexts are a requirement for peace. So a top-down solution won't work after 24 years; you have generations growing up not knowing each other, being weaned on divisions, difference, borders and hate."
Recently, a "bicommunal movement" involving meetings and talks between the two sides has been largely thwarted by government leaders. Gumpert and Drucker are currently trying to raise financing for a bicommunal meeting, "but the logistics are a nightmare."
While the government on both sides attempts to control traditional communications, such as telephones and mail, the Internet holds out the greatest hope for a bicommunal solution, Drucker said.
"There is a symbiotic relationship between interpersonal communication and the development of communications technology; technology alters the way we see the world and how we structure our existence. Nowhere is that more true than in Cyprus.
"It is an unsupported assumption that no government has ever been successful in completely severing communication, and keeping information out. It is bewildering to see that the mail and telephone serve as a form of political blackmail, but that the Internet now functions successfully on both sides of the Green Line."
The lecture was sponsored by the Hellenic Canadian Solidarity Committee for Cyprus and The Hellenic Student Association of Concordia University.