The Cypriot-American father of reproductive cloning, Dr. Panayiotis Zavos, visited his occupied hometown Trikomo and speaks exclusively to GreekNews.
Ask any American journalist, “Who is the world’s most famous Cypriot?”, and without a doubt, he will name Dr. Panayiotis Zavos, one of the fathers of reproductive cloning. Besides working long hours and giving lectures and traveling around the world, he makes sure to make time to be informed daily through the internet on all the news concerning his homeland. And he is ready – as he stated in an exclusive interview with GreekNews – to use the huge name recognition he enjoys, to promote the Cyprus issue in the United States and worldwide.
Dr. Zavos left Cyprus and his hometown Trikomo, near Famagusta, in 1966, after having fought the Turkish uprising. He was not in Cyprus during the tragic events of 1974, in which his family lost their homes and property.
He was able to visit his village on May 23, 2003. He invited us to visit his web page and to see the short note he wrote on his visit to his occupied village and the captions from the pictures he has taken. The home he was born in was completely demolished by the invading forces; all that was left was a piece of the floor tile.
“Why can people do this to others in the 20th century and get away with it?”, he asks, adding, “This is a world crime that should be punished by the international community and the courts.”
The second house the family owned, inside the town, was also demolished. And wherever he went, he saw devastation. At the local cemetery, Dr. Zavos was totally amazed and shaken by the devastation and the level of desecration of a burial place. All the crosses dedicated to the dead were knocked down and broken in a vicious and malicious way. “One can ask that one may hate the living, but how and why can one hate the dead?”
He was at the cemetery where his 22-year-old brother Constantine was buried in 1962.
The main village church of “Panayia,” where Dr. Zavos spent most of his childhood years and where he has some valuable memories, still contained some icons, but the looting was obvious.
In his own words
Dr. Zavos and his whole family lost everything that they had at the time of the barbaric invasion of the northern part of the island by Turkish forces in the summer of 1974. It wasn’t that he hadn’t wanted to visit his home and birthplace in all those years. His pilgrimage there became possible only because the so-called “leader” of those forces, Mr. Rauf Denktash, recently decided that he would allow displaced Cypriots like Dr. Zavos to visit their birthplaces for one day, but not to stay.
Dr. Zavos took the trip with his elder brother Demetrakis. He was to be accompanied also that day by a television crew from the Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation; but at the checkpoint to “North Cyprus,” they were denied entry to cover Dr. Zavos’ historic trip.
Dr. Zavos writes in memoirs of his visit: “The occupied villages appeared as human bodies that were allowed to die slowly from starvation and now they looked like ‘skin and bones’ and heavily consumed by vultures.”
He goes further to describe the true picture of the occupied lands by stating “the only difficulty was that this time the vultures were human beings, the Turkish army, the Turkish invaders; that after the villagers left from fear of being raped and killed, the invaders took their homes and villages over; they removed every door, every window, every evidence of life and civilization, and they were left to collapse and die.
“The analogy of bodies eaten by vultures is very appropriate in this case and extremely descriptive,” Professor Zavos continues.
In his memoirs, Professor Zavos further states, “I must tell you that in spite of my great love for people and great respect for humanity, I was saddened, I was emotionally shaken, I was very angry to see this level of barbarism take place in the 20th century.
“The irony about this historic trip was that we had not even entered the borders of the Turkish quarters, the dividing green line that separates the pseudo-nation of the ‘Northern Turkish Republic’ from the legitimate nation of the Republic of Cyprus; and as we established later on and seeing with our very own eyes, ‘we ain’t seen nothing yet’ and there was more yet to come,” he continues.
GreekNews asked Dr. Panayiotis Zavos why for all these years he hadn’t used his American passport to visit his occupied village, as many other Cypriot-Americans have.
“I fought the Turks for three years, between 1963 and 1966, in Nicosia. I am very outspoken when it comes to Cyprus situation, and you never know what they are going to do to me,” he said.
But there are also good memories of peaceful coexistence.
“I lived with Turkish-Cypriots most of my life while I was in Cyprus, and they are peaceful people. Unfortunately, the Turkish-Cypriots also became the victims in this equation, because of the invasion and the settlement with Turks from Anatolia,” he said.
We asked him if he is more hopeful after the opening of crossings and what seems to be the coming of the end of the Denktash era.
“There is no doubt that a solution will be found,” he said. “I’ve been an optimist all my life. The question here is, what kind of a solution can that be? Obviously, the Turks are maneuvering to hold on to Cyprus; and they are trying to push the Greek government by making claims on the Aegean and several Greek islands. They are trying to create trouble with the idea that a Cyprus solution can be less painful for them. Cyprus has become “to milo tis eridos” (the apple of contention) between the Greeks and the Turks.”
Dr. Zavos thinks that Turks are trying to gain something in exchange for giving Cyprus up.
“And they have to, in order to become a member of the EU, Turkey has to sacrifice a lot; otherwise, either Greece or Cyprus may veto any effort by Turkey to participate in the EU. In any case, many Europeans are not considering Turkey as a European nation.”
He characterizes Kofi Annan’s plan as a good basis upon which a solution can be found.
“It has the support of the Security Council and the international community. But don’t forget, no proposal is perfect. Greek-Cypriots and Turkish-Cypriots can sit down and negotiate; but unfortunately Denktash denies it.”
When he talks about Raouf Denktash, Dr. Zavos sounds extremely angry.
“When I go to Cyprus next week, I will call a press conference and, as a Greek-Cypriot and American citizen, I will tell the Cypriot people, and President Bush, that if Mr. Milocevic is a criminal, if Mr. Saddam Hussein is a criminal and a terrorist, then I think Mr. Denktash qualifies more than anybody else because he was simply allowed to get away with murder, and rape, and assassinations and displacement of the Cypriot people for the last 29 years. I think a war crime tribunal must look at his criminal record, and I have no doubt in my mind, they will find he is a war criminal and a terrorist.”
Not forgetting who he is, we tease him, asking whether he is afraid that someone may clone Raouf Denktash.
“I am not afraid about that, because he doesn’t qualify,” he replies.
Because he has great name recognition and is able to call at anytime the big media, we ask him whether he intends to get in touch with the Greek lobby and promote the Cyprus issue in the United States.
“If they ask me, I will help,” he says. “I don’t intend to force myself into an equation where I don’t belong. I am a very patriotic Cypriot, I fought the British between 1955-60, as a young boy, and then I fought the Turks. I know my enemies well, as well as what belongs to me. So, I think I am qualified more than anybody else to speak on the subject. The fact that I am a very well-known scientist doesn’t disqualify me from speaking about politics because today they determine the future of my homeland. And, therefore, I intend to become very active and very outspoken on this.”