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History is littered with hoaxes that attempted to make us believe the improbable was in fact possible by allowing our imagination to wander beyond the limited confines of pure reason.

Nevertheless, sometimes the need to believe is far greater than the requirement to pour cold water over a cracking yarn. Arguably, there is a psychological need to be gullible when the mood takes us. There is always room to embrace the unexplainable such as the existence of fairies, as Arthur Conan Doyle once championed.

Some were also foolish enough to trust the existence of the Hitler Diaries - Adolf writing down his thoughts in between conquering Europe and slaughtering millions was a potential money spinner. A fake, nonetheless.

Other great flights of fancy that still linger in the collective conscience include the Loch Ness Monster and the Alien Autopsy from the Roswell UFO incident. Most of these fabricated “discoveries” are usually harmless pie-in-the-sky stuff that either seek to shock or amaze us.

However, hoaxes take on a more sinister nature when they involve real lives and traumatic events in history, where the pain runs deep. And what are we to make of the not so true confessions of Turkish actor Attila Olgac, who initially spilled the beans about killing Greek Cypriots in cold blood during the July 1974 Turkish invasion?

He casually told a Turkish TV channel that he shot a teenage POW soldier right between the eyes and then went on to kill another nine. Apparently, his bloody war crimes put him off meat for good and cost Olgac a fortune in psycho-analysis.

I’m sure hundreds of relatives of those still missing or killed during the invasion will sympathise with the tortured Turk.

Unfortunately, the disturbing revelations did not end there because more salt was rubbed into the wounds of Greek Cypriot grief. In the midst of a backlash from all quarters, Olgac calmly told the world that his confession was a mere figment of his imagination.

He was basically experimenting with people’s feelings to see what kind of reaction he could trigger by outlining the horrors of war. The TV soap star was simply offering his viewers a “scenario” dreamt up in his dense scull. You see, Olgac wouldn’t hurt a flea; he’s a sensitive artistic type who can’t stand the sight of blood. All he did during the war was make the coffee and work on his next script. In fact, the bird-brained actor came up with the idea to shock audiences and incriminate himself to highlight his next big project.

Apparently, it’s a war film along the lines of “Saving Private Ryan”, although what the Second World II has in common with the invasion is up for debate. So, Olgac Spielberg caused a lot of untold heartache because he wanted Tom Hanks to be in his next movie.

This sounds as spurious as fairies living at the bottom of a suburban garden. Why would a famous TV star sully his reputation – on a highly emotive issue – to fabricate a story which portrays the teller as a murderer? Was he not aware that somebody going on the record about what happened in 1974 would create a nuclear shit storm? The fact is he buckled under the pressure, opting for a retraction as spectacular as his revelations.

Whatever the truth – Cyprus troubled past sleeps with the dead – the actor has caused unnecessary suffering to all those who still carry the scars from 1974 - be they Turkish or Greek Cypriot. Moreover, what this sorry episode has underlined is the unwillingness of Turkey to allow any independent investigation into the fate of the missing.

No matter what side of the firing line, people have a right to know about what happened to their loved ones; digging up mass graves is not enough. At the very least, Olgac must be held accountable for his incredibly crass performance as confessor-turned-imposter. Relatives of the missing have been taken for a ride for far too long, they need to know the truth. They deserve more than a scenario from a film script.

By Charlie Charalambous,Cyprus weekly, 30 January 2009|||Crime or fiction
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