Some 41 years after an illegal Turkish invasion of Cyprus, nearly 2,000 people are still unaccounted for and mourned by their families.
A team of Greek and Turkish volunteers has joined forces to find their bodies, trying to bring reconciliation to the split island although Turkey has just moved to bar exhumations in military locations in the northern third of the island it still unlawfully occupies, setting back the program.
In an examination of progress to identify, and, if possible, return remains – including 83 missing Turkish-Cypriots, Russia Today went to the island to talk to families and report on the haunting reminder of the unsettled disappearances.
Cyprus is still divided, with a UN peace keeper operation in a buffer zone between the two sides, and with only two check points allowing entry.
Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and his Turkish-Cypriot counterpart, Mustafa Akinci, are moving to try to reunify the island and have made some concessions and want more crossing points.
But for now, the past dominates the present and the future of Cyprus.
“All the other wounds of war, like women being raped, prisoners being tortured, people losing their limbs, refugees, displaced people – these can heal after conflict, but not when your father does not come home for dinner for ten, twenty, thirty, fifty years,” Paul-Henri Arni, UN member of the Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus, told RT.
The Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus (CMP), began excavations on both sides of the island in 2006, setting up a laboratory in the capital city of Nicosia, where Greek and Turkish specialists conduct DNA analyzes on bones found in the area, and pass them on to desperate relatives.
So far, nearly 1,000 sites have been excavated, and the remains of about 600 victims have been identified and returned to their families.
“Now, after 40 years, we at least feel they are by our side, because we never even knew where they were buried. It was very hard. Now we know they are close. Of course, we won’t see them, but we can pray by their graves, to ease our souls,” a Turkish woman told RT.