Reposted with permission from The Collegian.

By Abby Kloppenburg
Collegian Reporter

University of Richmond freshman and Fulbright scholar Idil Cazimoglu traveled to Cyprus and England in February to support the screening of a Peace Initiative documentary made for The Elders Foundation.

Cazimoglu, an intended chemistry major and physics minor, is a native of Cyprus, an island in the Eastern Mediterranean that has been divided by a dispute between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots for more than 40 years.

As a result, the United Nations has created a buffer zone that cuts across the country and creates a physical and social barrier between the Greek and Turkish communities.

“Because it’s physically divided and there were no crossings at all until 2003, I didn’t see anyone from the other side for the first 11 years of my life,” Cazimoglu said. “I always imagined them as something other than human.”

Cazimoglu was chosen to take part in the documentary that includes Cypriots from both sides and is based on identifying the bones of the people who went missing during the war.

The film was made on behalf of The Elders Foundation, an organization that aims at supporting peace building, addressing major causes of human suffering, and promoting the shared interests of humanity, according to its website.

Cazimoglu was one of four Cypriot students who were selected to participate in the Elders’ Peace Initiative, which includes traveling to Nicosia, Cyprus and London, England for the screening of the documentary, attending a meeting in London at the House of Parliament, and participating in an education workshop with students from both sides of Cyprus.

Cazimoglu said that the main supporters of the documentary were Elders members Lakhdar Brahimi, a United Nations envoy and Algerian ambassador; Desmond Tutu, a South African activist, Christian cleric and Nobel Peace Prize winner; and Jimmy Carter, Nobel Peace Prize winner and former President of the United States.

She was accompanied on her trip by members Tutu and Gro Brundtland, the first female prime minister of Norway.

The documentary was especially personal for Cazimoglu because: “My dad lost five relatives [in the war] … and actually when this documentary was being filmed, the bones of my dad’s uncle were just found. When I was in that DNA lab I was always thinking that the bones that I was seeing might be those of my dad’s uncle.”

Cazimoglu said she hoped the documentary would help ease the divide.

She said that there were still Cypriots who believed they were the only ones who suffered during the war, and she hoped that the film would show them that people from both sides lost a lot.

Because it’s such a small island, she said, almost everybody lost at least one relative.

“[This situation] is not only the case for Cyprus,” Cazimoglu said. “There are many different cases of conflict in different parts of the world. I’m asking everybody not to make generalizations. If we say, ‘They’re all this or that,’ then we may miss precious friendships and people who would love to be a part of our lives.”

Pictured above, left to right: Jimmy Carter, Idil Cazimoglu, Lakhdar Brahimi, and Desmond Tutu.