Donkeys are small horses but they’re not ponies. Brown in colour, they’re a bit bigger with very long ears and they look as if they are just a bit damn bored all the time. They walk extremely slowly and, when they decide they don’t want to go any further, they can stay in the same place for hours. They are adorable!
Donkeys are protected in Cyprus - and when I say Cyprus, I mean both sides of the border that divides the island. Donkeys were even the impetus for a bi-communal initiative created by people from both communities in Cyprus (Greek and Turkish) under the name “Friends of the Cyprus Donkey” to protect them from extinction. The animal welfare charity “Friends of the Cyprus Donkey”, registered in the UK, was founded in 1994 to care for sick and unwanted donkeys of all ages and to provide medical and welfare services for working animals throughout Cyprus.
Donkeys also caused political debate in Cyprus. After mass demonstrations against him, Rauf Denktash, the Turkish Cypriot leader, claimed that there was no such thing as Cypriots in Cyprus, just two peoples with two different nationalities: Greeks and Turks. The Cyprus donkey is the only true Cypriot, he claimed. A couple of months later, to protest about Denktash’s decision to check passports when travelling from one side of the island to the other, some Cypriots took a donkey to the checkpoint with his “passport” hanging round its neck asking to cross over to the other side. The donkey was arrested and released the next day. Nobody knows whether they pressed charges…
So, my dear friends, you have just learnt something new about Cyprus. Since this article was only written two days after Greek Cypriots rejected the UN’s plan to reunite the island, I also offer the following joke which illustrates the logic behind the massive “No” vote to a 'T':
One day Nasreddin Hodja got on his donkey the wrong way, facing backwards.
- Hodja, the people said, you’re sitting on your donkey backwards!
- No, he replied. I’m not sitting on the donkey backwards. It’s the donkey who is facing the wrong way!
Friends, unless we sit on the donkey the right way, I very much fear that donkeys too will soon be crossing the Schengen border to “visit” the ‘other side’.