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Beneath the Carob Trees

Beneath the Carob Trees – The Lost Lives of Cyprus


Beneath the Carob Trees chronicles the efforts and pays tribute to all those who labour to end the suffering of the bereaved and to support reconciliation between the communities in Cyprus.

Photographer: Nick Danziger more info

Author: Rory MacLean more info

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[…] ‘In the early days it was dangerous for people to talk to us. Informants and witnesses were bullied into silence. Our investigators were threatened. The perpetrators feared being exposed, of course. But today they understand that our work is humanitarian, that the information is not used against them.’

Every investigation begins with a whisper. The CMP’s seven Turkish Cypriot investigators – alongside Murat – follow leads, linger over coffees and listen for the truth. Their work is mirrored by Greek Cypriot investigators active in the south of the island. Sometimes the investigators coax witnesses into confession. Sometimes they rely on hearsay. Sometimes a murderer will reveal himself by blurting out on his deathbed, ‘I killed him and buried him under a carob tree.’ […] | Murat Soysal – Assistant to the Turkish Cypriot Member of the CMP  


 […] ‘I communicate with the killers by finding common ground,’ Xenophon said. ‘We have a drink together. We shoot the breeze. Alcohol helps to break the chains. I try to establish a relationship based on trust, which I will never betray even though I disagree with almost everything the killer says. I try to break his loyalties to brother, to army, to country, to nationality. I offer to relieve him of the burden of guilt. As a result, in time, most killers will reveal things that they have never said to anyone.’

Xenophon – like Murat – is blessed with a prodigious memory. He can recall the details of almost every missing person, every killing field, every weeping widow on the island. As the CMP’s  leading Greek Cypriot investigator, he feels ‘a moral responsibility to suffer with the sufferers’. […] | Xenophon Kallis – Assistant to the Greek Cypriot Member of the CMP

Since 1981 the Committee on Missing Persons has worked to tackle an enduring humanitarian tragedy in Cyprus.

Over the last decade, it has undertaken more than a thousand excavations and exhumations across the island, recovering and identifying the men, women, and children who went missing forty or fifty years ago, and returning their remains to their families.

This extraordinary bi-communal work has been carried out by a new generation of Cypriots determined to heal the wounds left open by their fathers and grandfathers.

Beneath the Carob Trees chronicles their efforts and pays tribute to all those who labour to end the suffering of the bereaved and to support reconciliation between the communities.

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The United Nations has been proud to facilitate the Committee on Missing Persons’ work with the support of the international community. The Committee is helping to build a sustainable and joint future in Cyprus. I hope this effort will also provide lessons for other post-conflict situations and anywhere families yearn to learn the fate of their loved ones.


Ban Ki-moon – Secretary-General of the United Nations


We honour the Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus and we take pride in being the largest donor supporting its work. The Committee has recovered and identified the remains of many and helped hundreds of Cypriot families to close a long period of anguish and uncertainty. We hope that closure will bring healing and that healing will foster reconciliation.


Jean-Claude Juncker – President of the European Commission



The primary objective of the CMP is to return the remains of missing persons to their families in order to arrange for a proper burial and close a long period of anguish and uncertainty. Most Cypriot families have been directly or indirectly affected and it is hoped that the healing of old wounds will in turn favour the overall process of reconciliation between both communities. To this end, the project is of a bi-communal nature with teams of Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot scientists involved at every stage of the exhumation and identification processes.

The project includes an Archaeological Phase (Phase I), related to the exhumation of the remains of missing persons, an Anthropological Phase (Phase II), related to the analysis of the recovered remains at the CMP Anthropological Laboratory, and a Genetic Phase (Phase III), related to the DNA identification process. In the final phase, Identification and Return of Remains (Phase IV), the information obtained in all previous phases is reconciled and a formal identification is made. This is followed by the return of the identified remains to their families, usually accompanied by efforts to help the families cope with the difficult task of coming to terms with their loss.