Rey Ty. (2007). Twin Solitudes: Separation, Transformative Education, and Reunification of Postcolonial Cyprus.
Separation, Transformative Education, and Reunification of Post-Colonial Cyprus
Post-colonial Cyprus is a divided country with one nation branched out into two major
distinct ethnic groups: the Turkish Cypriots and the Greek Cypriots who share a long common
domestic history, yet they have their different languages, religions, and external relations. Aside
from having a proper noun, Cyprus is neither a de jure nor a de facto unified political entity.
Using critical theory as the research paradigm, this qualitative research contends that
transformational learning, which promotes communication, social justice, and social action, is
pivotal to social change. This research demonstrates that popular community education, which
builds sustainable communities through social capital, advances durable inter-ethnic dialogue
and collaborative action. The outcome is conflict resolution and durable peace—one person and
one activity at a time.
Pre-colonial Cyprus was the mythical birthplace of Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love,
where people of Turkish and Greek heritage lived in harmony. But post-colonial Cyprus is a land
of conflict. Britain colonized Cyprus from 1878 to 1960, after which Cyprus became a
Commonwealth republic. Colonial and early post-colonial Cyprus was composed of people in
two communities who politically cohabited with each other, but not without difficulties.
However, because of political differences, the “Green Line” separates Muslim Turkish Cypriots
from Orthodox Greek Cypriots since 1974. The Turkish Cypriots live in the North for the most
part; and, the Greek Cypriots, in the South. Since May 1, 2004, Cyprus is a member of the
European Union, though the island is still politically split into two legal entities (Ker-Lindsay,
2005). Thus historically, the relationship between the Northern Turkish Cypriot community and
the Southern Greek Cypriot community in post-colonial Cyprus is like a pendulum swing, flip-
flopping between harmony, political struggle, and outright armed hostilities.
This research raises the following questions:
1. How did the current socio-political situation develop in Cyprus?
2. How can popular community education promote the social transformation of Cyprus?
3. To what extent can transformative learning have a sustainable impact on the future
socio-political situation of post-colonial Cyprus?
This paper is a qualitative case study of a training program for promoting bi-communal
dialogue for Cyprus conducted in 2006 at Northern Illinois University. The data were gathered
through participant observation, Freireian critical reflection (1970), historical analysis, email
exchanges, as well as the document analysis of program-related archival materials, such as
anonymous formative and summative mixed-method evaluation results regarding the impact of
the NIU peace education on the participants’ personal and social transformative learning. The
emerging themes provided the inputs for the generation of a grounded model of good practices in
popular education as an agent for social transformation.
Separation: Current Socio-Political Situation in Post-Colonial Cyprus
While Cyprus is the mythical birthplace of Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love, after Cyprus
won its war of resistance against British colonial rule in the early 1960s, post-colonial Cyprus
has become a land where there is hostility and violence between Greek Cypriots and Turkish
Cypriots since December 1963 (Hitchens, 1997). The Greek Archbishop Makarios campaigned
for Cyprus to merge with Greece, which prompted the BOKA guerrilla force to attack the British
and in the process exiled Makarios. While the Cypriot Constitution provided for power-sharing
between the two communities, but it was unworkable and fighting broke out. United Nations
(UN) troops deployed in 1964 did not stop inter-communal violence (Plumer, 2003; Richmond,
1998; Richmond & Ker-Lindsay, 2001). UN troops patrolled the “Green Line” that divides the
island into two. With the downfall of Makarios in 1974, Turkey militarily intervened and
invaded northern Cyprus, after which the Turkish Cypriots controlled about one third of the
island. In 1983, the Turkish Cypriots unilaterally declared their territory as the independent
Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which only Turkey recognized (Brewin, 2000). Turkey
deployed over 30,000 troops there. Today, Turkish Cypriots live in the northern third of the
island and the Greek Cypriots in the southern two-thirds. Due to the prospect of Cyprus
becoming a member of the European Union, negotiations sponsored by the UN were conducted
in 2002 and a peace proposal was discussed (Tocci, 2004). However, hopes were dashed
because the Turkish and Greek Cypriot leaders did not reach an agreement on the U.N. plan by
the March 2003 deadline (Palley, 2005). Thereafter, however, travel restrictions eased. For the
first time in thirty years, people are crossing borders and contacts between the Greek Cypriots
and Turkish Cypriots have been reestablished. Once again, there is hope for improvement of bi-
Given that EU entry was imminent, a revised UN reunification plan was presented in two
referendums in the two communities in April 2004. The plan failed because although the
Turkish Cypriots approved it, the overwhelming majority of the Greek Cypriots rejected it.
Cyprus remained split, as it joined the EU on May 1, 2004 (Hannay, 2005). In December 2004,
Turkey agreed to recognize Cyprus as an EU member before the accession talks for Turkey was
scheduled for October 2005. In May 2005, U.N. and Greek Cypriot officials started exploratory
talks on prospects for new diplomatic peace efforts (Ker-Lindsay, 2005). By June 2005,
Parliament ratified the proposed EU Constitution.
Because of political conflicts for the past four decades, Turkish Cypriots and Greek
Cypriots do not talk to each other. They live literally along ethnic lines, with the Green Line
demarcating the borders between the two communities. At times, they end up in diplomatic
impasse or armed hostilities. Greek Cypriots turn to Greece for all types of support; and, Turkish
Cypriots, to Turkey. Verily, Cyprus is composed of twin solitudes. Conflict has not completely
ended (Papadakis, 2005), as a result of which, the search for peace continues (Anastasiou, 2006).
Popular Community Education and Social Transformation
Prospects for transformative learning are plentiful. The International Training Office of
Northern Illinois University (NIU) acts as a catalyst for social change. The objectives of the bi-
communal peace education program are to offer a workshop that will provide Cypriots with the
opportunity to meet and interact with their respective peers from each side of the island and to
provide a multi-cultural and intercultural perspective to the students and an understanding and
appreciation of the diversity of American cultures. By serving culturally diverse populations
(Ross-Gordon, Martin & Briscoe, 1990 and by making space (Sheared & Sissel, 2001) to both
communities, NIU provided a culturally relevant popular community education (Talmadge, 1999)
to the Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots. During the conduct of the program, students were
introduced to the fundamentals of conflict management and learned leadership skills through in-
door and out-door challenges, bi-communal dialogue and community work. In terms of
substance, the training program used a comprehensive framework that wove together and unified
the training content. It exposed the participants to both pro-active and reactive methods of bi-
communal dialogue and conflict resolution. See the concept map below.
Figure 1: Grounded Framework for Inter-Cultural Dialogue & Conflict Resolution
The pro-active method is associated with involvement in different levels of working together in
order to build a truly bi-communal community and to develop skills in conflict management. The
reactive method linked with how to manage existing conflicts. As far as pro-active methods of
bi-communal dialogue and conflict resolution were concerned, the participants were exposed to
(1) the anti-reactionary model, (2) traditional or minimalist model, (3) coalition model, and (4)
social transformation model. The aims of the anti-reactionary model were: not to condescend or
disrespect other people’s differences, cultures or religions; not to self-righteously criticize other
people’s religion and/or convert them to one’s faith; and, be blind to discrimination of any kind
and not do anything about it. The aim of the traditional or minimalist model was to encourage
people of one community to learn about people of other communities by “talking” about the
issues, reading books or listening to audio books; inviting speakers; giving lectures; attending
lectures; and, watching a documentary film or a movie. The aim of the coalition model was not
just “talking” but “doing” things to encourage people of one community to learn about people of
other communities, by working side by side with people of different cultures and faith traditions
to promote positive social change through voluntary community service efforts. By working
together, people of different communities learn more about each other’s cultures by which they
build a truly intercultural or interfaith community. Participants in the community model formed
friendship and trust which enabled them to understand more deeply each other’s differences,
similarities, cultures, and faiths. The aims of the social transformation model was to encourage
people of different communities to come together as one group; empathize with and work to help
downtrodden social classes or marginalized groups for social transformation through various
direct and indirect services. Hence, they cross the imaginary line and interact with one another.
Moreover, the participants were exposed to different modes of reactive methods of
interpersonal and social conflict resolution, both formal and informal. Informal modes of
personal and interpersonal conflict resolution include dialogue, forgiveness, meditation for
peace, and community mediation. The participants conducted dialogues and meetings using
parliamentary procedures, building consensus, and writing declarations and resolutions.
Community learners were exposed to these pro-active and reactive conflict resolution strategies
through meaningful, fun, and sometimes formal indoor and outdoor activities.
Reunification: Sustainable Impact of Popular Community Education on the Future of Cyprus
There is a wide range of peace education programs: psychologically-based conflict
resolution, social conflict resolution, interpersonal mediation, interfaith dialogue, inter-ethnic
dialogue, diversity and multiculturalism workshops, human rights training, social justice work,
and social-change-oriented community development. NIU’s peace program for Cyprus is a
combination of the above approaches, leaning towards action for social justice and durable peace.
By attending the NIU peace program, they were able to accumulate social capital
(Coleman, 1990). Specifically, they gained new warm-body friends from the other community;
share common knowledge, understanding and values; joined an informal group, including an
online social networking group—Yahoo group; regularly interact with one another physically
and electronically through all types of communication networking; engage in civic work; and
help each other. They continue to communicate regularly through the electronic social
networking group as well as to organize meetings in both the North and in the South. Indeed,
with the social capital they have accumulated, they have consolidated building a community of
communities. Abstract political enemies become concrete close friends. See illustration below.
Figure 2: Social Capital
The participants were satisfied with the way by which the peace program was creatively
implemented, especially as it involved the active participation of the co-learners. Before coming
to NIU, people in each of the two communities brought with them all the built-in negative
stereotypes about the others, hence, the twin solitudes. At the same time, they brought with them
their prior knowledge and experience as well. Through active learning strategies, they learned
new knowledge, new skills, and new attitudes that tore down the walls of discrimination and
prejudice. They engaged in multiple voluntary community work. Through their activity-based
learning, the participants had experienced personal transformation, which supports building
bridges of peace with people from the other community, which heretofore was not the case.
The following summarizes the results of the research. One, Turkish Cypriots and Greek
Cypriots lived harmoniously side by side each other, until they won their war of independence
from Britain. Two, from the 1960s to the early 2000s, the two communities segregated
themselves from one another and hostilities ensued. Three, the UN called for the two
communities to start engaging in dialogues as a way to promote peace. Four, thereafter,
grassroots-level as well as top-level diplomacy is taking place. Five, the implementation at NIU
of a Cyprus program for bi-communal dialogue provides data regarding best practices that
generates a grounded theory of how a popular education program can promote social change and
peaceful coexistence among people of diverse backgrounds. Collaboratively, they construct new
knowledge. From the foregoing discussion, a grounded model is developed. See below.
Skills & Values
2 New Social
as Agents of
Social Capital Formation
Rey Ty, 2007
Individuals, Groups& Leaders
National, Int’l, & Global
Figure 3: Interactive Transformative Model: Dialectical Unity of the Personal and the Social
Using Freire’s framework, this paper reveals that historical, social, economic, political
and cultural contexts affect the separation and reunification of people of different cultural
backgrounds. This research confirms that transformative education for peace plays a crucial role
in facilitating intercultural dialogue, which is a starting point for the creation of conditions for
the development of just peace. This transformative learning is an imperative primary stage that
provides the venue for people of different backgrounds to listen to one another, to engage in
meaningful dialogue, to live together, to break stereotypes, to debate, and to work in a
multicultural coalition, and to engage in social work leading to profound social transformation.
Importance of the Research to the Practice of Popular Community Education
This research is important to the practice of community education, as it presents a case
study of how academic institutions and popular community educators can play a concrete role as
catalysts of change in the transformation of actually existing societies. With the grounded model
developed as a result of this result, this research contributes to existing knowledge: it shares the
findings regarding the best practices in the education program that can be applied in bringing
about social change in societies where conflict necessitates a community education intervention.
In addition, this research work presented a grounded theory based on the results of the analysis.
This paper confirms that sustainability and social capital are tools to put together lasting
communities. Indeed, popular community educators are agents of change who build social
capital among the co-learning participants that links them to a social network to start, continue,
and sustain their inter-communal dialogue as a step in healing historical wounds and building a
community of communities that leads to a durable peace—one activity and one person at a time.
From social disequilibrium, a new social dynamic is constructed.
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Rey Ty, International Training Office, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL 60115,
firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks to Dr. Richard Orem, Dr. Wei Zheng, & Dr. Jorge Jeria for your kind help.
Presented at the Midwest Research-to-Practice Conference in Adult, Continuing, and
Community Education, Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana, September 25-27, 2007.