The Third Face of Cyprus: Maronites

Photos & Text: Tuncay Dersinlioğlu

In Cyprus, there is a community that lives far away from its mother land and existence of which is not recognized by many people; Maronites. This community, known to came to the island in 7th century from Lebanon, who is of Arab origin Catholic Christian, got stuck between Greeks and Turks. The last remaining Maronite town is Kormacit. Kormacit, used by Maronites only for religious rituals, means “I came from Koura but my soil did not.” in Armaic language.
Maronites are the followers of Saint Maron who lived in Syrian region in 4th and 5th centuries. Some of the Maronites, settled in highlands of Lebanon during  Islamic conquests in 8th century, are told to migrated to Cyprus meanwhile. This community, stuck in each battle during Lusignan period, Venice for a short time, in 12th -15th centuries and Ottoman and British between 16th – 19th centuries, has been able to preserve its existence up until present in decreasing numbers. After 1974 campaign, Maronites, settled in Turkish side, were asked a “democratic” question about which side they want to live. They were obliged to migrate to south, where they adopted the language of Greeks to whom they are closely related due to religious issues, for the working conditions provided by Greeks, and the education of their children who were able to speak only Greek. Two of the four towns that they lived before 1974 are still used as military bases of Turkish army. In Karpasa, one of the remaining two towns,  only 15 Maronites live. Kormacit is the only town which consists mostly of Maronites. Approximately 100 Maronites constantly live in Kormacit today. This figure reaches up to 2500 on weekends and days which are important in terms of religion. Maronites want to carry out works, they were obliged to move to the south due to education of their children and embargo implemented on the North, on their own soil once again. The third community, the population of which was over 80.000 during Venice period that decreased down to 6000, want the solution in Cyprus more than anybody on the eve of the presidential elections and try to be heard by the world.