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21 July, 2024
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The shocking face of violence

From jaw-dropping videos to meaningful dialogue: Confronting violence, racism, and gender-based hostility in Cyprus

Yiannis Ioannou

Yiannis Ioannou

In Cyprus, we have witnessed the rapid dissemination, facilitated by the prevalence of audiovisual content on social media platforms, of two videos that expose the brutal and shocking nature of violence. Several months ago, one video captured the disturbing incident of a man in Larnaca assaulting an African immigrant woman, a distressing act driven solely by racism and gender-based hostility, as the woman held an infant in her arms. More recently, another video emerged, depicting a young Turkish-Cypriot woman being attacked by a young Greek-Cypriot man, in an act driven by gender-based violence. However, this incident quickly escalated into an online confrontation, with each side politicizing the issue within the familiar framework of the Cyprus issue and the historical context of the ethnic conflict that led to the Turkish invasion in 1974.

Prior to delving into the specific issues surrounding racism, the Cyprus issue, gender-based violence, and various other topics that arise in public discourse be it in academic or casual settings - including the vast realm of online platforms - it is essential to pause and direct our attention towards the essence of violence itself. Violence is profoundly disturbing and shocking, and for the victim, it becomes a traumatizing experience with enduring psychological repercussions that extend far beyond physical injuries. The ease with which violent incidents can now be captured on smartphone cameras and swiftly shared across social media platforms offers a tremendous and crucial opportunity for transparency and the investigation of grave offenses, such as criminal acts. However, it also creates a fertile ground for emotional identification based on predetermined criteria, often resulting from instinctual reactions ("these are the motives"), biases ("they deserved it"), or involvement in petty political factions, as exemplified in the case of the assault on the Turkish-Cypriot woman in the Cypriot public sphere, or almost invariably in the context of hooliganism in Cyprus.

When we witness raw violence in a video, our first step should be to condemn its practice. Then, we need to categorize its qualitative characteristics, such as gender-based, homophobic, racial or religious racism, historical intercommunal racism in Cyprus, school bullying, verbal abuse, violent behavior on the streets, psychopathological tendencies (as exemplified by a serial killer in Cyprus), fanaticism (which we often witness), workplace-related issues, and political motivations, among others. Once we have established these categories, we can delve into a genuine discussion that allows for a sober assessment, ultimately leading us to demand the condemnation of the perpetrators. It is crucial to understand that effective prevention of future racist attacks on foreigners and a decrease in incidents of violence against women can only be achieved through exemplary punishment of the offenders, especially in cases with solid legal precedents. When the state operates effectively, fairly, and with institutional memory, it not only generates jurisprudence but also has a positive impact on society by defining social contracts within a specific context and timeframe. Consequently, racism, intolerance, and the resulting violent radicalization can be diminished, but this requires a complex political and social process that demands more from all of us.

We should refrain from hastily rejecting or embracing a narrative that conveniently supports our own opinions or the echo chamber of our personal or online circles. Instead, let's all actively participate in fostering meaningful dialogue about violence, its underlying causes, and the alarming rise of violent radicalization. When faced with the stark visual representation of violence, let's approach it with empathy and avoid resorting to 'whataboutism'. Similar to the young Turkish-Cypriot woman, who bravely shared her experience as a victim of violence, let's acknowledge her plea for the incident not to be exploited as a catalyst for further conflicts within the national context.

Τwitter: @JohnPikpas

[This article was translated from its Greek original]

Cyprus  |  violence  |  society

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