Nicosia -- Petros Souppouris, a Greek Cypriot from the Turkish occupied village of Palaikythro, in the Nicosia District, and Huseyin Akansoy, a Turkish Cypriot from the village of Maratha, in the Famagusta district, were awarded with the European Citizen’s Prize.
The two men are victims of severe atrocities that occurred during the Turkish invasion of 1974, which resulted in the occupation of the island’s northern third. Souppouris and Akansoy lost members of their families.
They were nominated by AKEL MEP Takis Hadjigeorgiou earlier this year and were selected among the 37 winners in June upon the decision of a central jury in Brussels, headed by the EP President, Martin Schulz.
Speaking at a national Award ceremony held today at the European Parliament Office in Cyprus, Hadjigeorgiou noted that they both are striving for a united Cyprus without borders, dividing lines and discrimination.
A united Cyprus, he added, within the framework of a bizonal, bicommunal federation, where human rights and freedoms of all Cypriots will be respected and protected.
“Indeed, their story goes beyond narrow local boundaries. It is a story for all Cypriots, for all Europeans and for humanity”, he said.
He also expressed the belief that as time goes by we need to look at our past with a critical eye look to the future, Hadjigeorgiou stressed, explaining that it is within this context that he nominated Petros Souppouris and Huseyin Akansoy for the European Citizens’ Prize.
Speaking at the ceremony, Cypriot Member of EP, Antigoni Papadopoulou has stressed that the two Cypriot nominees have proven through their day-to-day activities that they can overcome obstacles, personal pain, bitterness and hate and work together promoting a better mutual understanding between Creek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.
Working together for the same values enshrined in the EU’s charter of fundamental rights, namely the right to coexist in a reunited country without dividing lines, is a great lesson to be taught also to the young generations of Europeans, she added.
Tasos Georgiou, Head of the European Parliament Office in Cyprus has stressed that today we honour two extraordinary Cypriots who put aside their personal bitterness in favor of peace and reconciliation, pointing out the coincidence of today’s ceremony with the celebration of the International Peace Day.
Georgiou mentioned that the European Citizen’s Prize can be given for activities that either facilitate cross-border cooperation within the EU or promote better mutual understanding and closer integration between citizens and member states.
It can also be awarded for day-to-day activities reflecting the values enshrined in the EU’s charter of fundamental rights, he added.
Huseyin Akansoy has said that the T/C and G/C relatives of missing persons and murder victims have been waiting for at least 40 years to find out what happened to their beloved ones.
He said that their organization under the name “Together we can”, is helping the relatives to find out about the fate of the missing persons and victims and the horrific facts that took place in Cyprus.
“As someone who has lost almost all close family in one of the most gruesome massacres in 1974”, said Akansoi, "I realize that the only way to get over the loss and move on with my life is to work as hard as I can for peace and reunification of our country, to make sure that no other family will experience this terrible suffering”.
Peter Souppouris thanked the EC for the honor award, but also for its work in promoting human rights and European values, which – as he said - constitute a beacon guiding the citizens of the European Union.
“These values prompt us to continue the struggle for peace and understanding in Cyprus”, he added.
The European Citizen’s Prize was launched by the European Parliament in 2008 to recognize exceptional achievements by Europeans. Nased on nominations by its Members.
Souppouris lost nearly all his relatives in the village massacre of Palekythro in Mesaoria in 1974 when Turkish Cypriot extremists rounded up 22 women and children before a firing squad and shot them. Huseyin Akansoy of Maratha also lost 30 of his close relatives in a mass slaughter of Turkish Cypriot citizens at the same time.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. The latest round of talks between the two communities began in September 2008 with the aim to reunite the island under a federal roof.