Forty-eight years are not enough for a young girl to forget the systematic rape at the hands of Turkish soldiers, during the 1974 Turkish invasion. Now, the girl, who is 62 and was introduced to CNA as M, says that summer of 1974 wounded her soul and overshadowed her life.
As a young girl in her village in Cyprus, M made plans for her life. However, these were crushed and every day that goes by since she relives the assault she went through for months.
They pulled me outside and dragged me far from the house. They were raping me, one by one, and I was bleeding, I was begging God to help me, I was screaming, I was only a 14-year-old child.
“I know the years have gone by, but what I went through in the hands of Turks, is something I relive every moment of my life, awake or asleep. It is a real nightmare that haunts me and there is no relief”, she told CNA.
She speaks in a low voice and tears in her eyes, because she does not want anyone to hear her. No one from her family, except her mother who passed, knows about the rapes. “I have hidden the secret very well and will take it to my grave. It fills me with shame”, she says.
M is often filled with regret that she did not get an education to have a better life. In any case, this was not possible after the assault, becoming refugees and the financial problems her family went through. Only in the last three years has she received a benefit that the government has granted to women – victims of rape during the 1974 Turkish invasion.
Every summer, when the tragic anniversary of the invasion approaches, everything she went through comes back to life. “I cry, I relive those awful moments. It is a never-ending nightmare”, she recalls as tears are now overflowing.
My father was a farmer and he did not want to give up his animals when the invasion started so the whole family became enclaved, M recalls.
Families were hiding outside the village at night, on nearby farms. Around 100 people were hiding for four days and the Turks were throwing flames intentionally to find them. “They knew we were hiding. We could hear the tanks on the roads that kept going up and down, they were dropping leaflets from helicopters showing one part of Cyprus painted white and the other red and urging us to come out otherwise they would kill us.”
Eventually, the families went to the village with raised hands in the air. “We could see dead people on the streets. They rounded us up at the schoolyard, pulling us from one side to the other. They separated the men, women, children, and those over 60 and put them in school classrooms. They loaded two trucks with prisoners of war. My father was captured”, M says.
Together with her mother, young sister and other women and children, they were taken to one of the last houses in the village. The first night, the soldiers came to count the women. “They took me and some other young girls and pulled us outside in the dark, took us to some fields. My mother was trying to stop them but they hit her with the gun stock. They pulled me outside and dragged me far from the house. They were raping me, one by one, and I was bleeding, I was begging God to help me, I was screaming, I was only a 14-year-old child. But they cheered on and only when they were done, they would take us back. Some women were thinking of ending the torture by turning on the kitchen gas to escape the torment.”
Every night the same routine says M. Even if they were hiding in the house storage, the soldiers managed to find them and pulled them outside by the hair. The horror continued for two to three months. “How can you act in such a barbaric way to a young girl, take her to the fields and each one to rape her, to hear them laugh and you are screaming at them and they would burn you with cigarettes…my hands are full of lesions from when they put their cigarettes out on me”, M recalls.
Arriving in the free areas at 16, she became engaged and married two years later. Two sons and a daughter were the reason for her to keep going. “I needed a lot of love and understanding from my husband which, unfortunately, I didn’t receive”, she told CNA.
She took on many jobs to raise her children, and educate them. “My children were the only blessing in my life”, she says.
Today, they have all settled and she enjoys her two grandchildren. Now that she is alone, her joy is for her family to visit, and for her grandchildren to shower her with love. “I feel that I have managed to achieve something. I have raised them and they have happy families. I don’t want anything bad to happen to them”, she adds.
M managed to put aside the psychological repercussions of her ordeal and offer her children and family the love necessary to blossom and, at the same time, to somehow lift the heavy burden she has been carrying for nearly half a century. She turned to her faith to find relief.
“The burden was unbearable, but I have managed to get through, with the help of God. I needed to hold on to something. No one knew what I went through. I turned to God and the Virgin Mary who helped me stand on my own two feet and continue to support me. They have helped me raise my children, to get through life”.
After all these years, M no longer works because of health problems. “I have my children next to me and this gives me strength. With them, everything is possible”, she adds.