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Cyprus: ‘We live by the flag, we die for the flag’

FOR 18 years a giant Turkish Cypriot flag has taunted Greek Cypriots from the southern face of Pentadactylos.
The red and white flag of the self-declared ‘Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’ depicts the star and crescent of the Turkish flag. For Turks, it instils a sense national pride. For Greeks it is a constant grim reminder of the Turkish invasion of 1974.

This week the flag was again in the spotlight as hundreds of powerful lights lit up its outline on the side of the mountain, making it clearly visible to Greek Cypriots at night.

On Wednesday, Government Spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides described the illumination as “a brutal provocation which does not contribute at all in creating a climate of co-operation”.

Yesterday, the President of the Pendactylos ‘Flag Lighting Project Association’, Tanju Muezzinoglu, told the Cyprus Mail: “I am the one who came up with the project to illuminate the flag, and it is a matter of the heart.”
“I am an Ottoman child, my forefathers came here from Konya (Turkey), we are born for the flag, we live by the flag, and we die for the flag,” he added.

The flag was illuminated this week to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the founding of the Turkish Republic on Wednesday. The illumination is described by those heading the project as temporary.

Muzzinoglu explained the lighting was currently powered by generators, but insisted the flag would within the next six months be further illuminated with spotlights, powered by 10 windmill electricity generators.

The surplus energy from the wind-energy generators will be fed into the main Turkish Cypriot power grid.
The giant flag, located over the occupied village of Vouno, is reputed to be the largest in the world. It covers 120,000 square metres, roughly the space of 20 football pitches.

In the summer, 25 labourers spent two months painting the mountain with water-based latex paint to give the flag a lasting coat over the original design first painted in 1985.

The project was funded by the Turkish mobile telephone network provider Turkcell for a cost of approximately $50,000, according to sources at Turkcell.

“We are here on this land for the flag, and the only way dim the lights of the flag or to wipe the flag off the face of the island is to remove us from the island,” said Tanjuoglu.

“As long as we have our flag, we are on this island, and we will remain on this island,” he added.

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