Hurriyet Daily News 'Tahrir Square? Don’t overlook İnönü Square in Nicosia' Friday, February 11, 2011 CENGİZ AKTAR
Tahrir Square? Don’t overlook İnönü Square in Nicosia
Friday, February 11, 2011
Cyprus is back on Turkey’s agenda again; this time, however, in a quite different way. The banner of the meeting held on Jan. 28 which tens of thousands of Turco-Cypriots attended was “Societal Existence”… What could that mean? It means “We don’t want to be the 82nd province of Turkey, we want to exist as Cypriots otherwise we won’t exist anymore!” This is the first protest held in Cyprus since 1974 that gathered so many people under such a banner. Starting with the government, everyone should pay attention to this development as the second mass demonstration is announced for Wednesday, March 2.
Turco-Cypriots are complaining about becoming increasingly foreigners in their own land. This is not a kind of feeling that can be simply read as ingratitude toward Turkey, nor can it be answered by arrogance of a colonialist sort. Because if no precautionary measures are taken, the disturbance might turn into hot encounters between islanders and mainlanders.
In Turkey, expertise on Cyprus falls under the Foreign Ministry’s monopoly and therefore it is shaped by the state interest and “vision.” Since the declaration of independence of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in 1983, the expertise is translated into practice. The tutelage of Turkish state institutions over northern Cyprus is perhaps unprecedented even in Turkey.
This state of affairs has dragged the government into a dead end. Years ago, on Jan. 24, 2004, Prime Minister Erdoğan broke up the 30-year-old state practice and took a very courageous step concerning the Cyprus question. This step, however, was too late coming after the rejection of the first Annan Plan by Turkey in 2003, opening the way for the Republic of Cyprus to become an EU member state without being reunited with the north. As a consequence Greco-Cypriots rejected the Annan Plan in the 2004 referendum whereby the Erdoğan initiative became totally idle. As of then, some EU member states that are against Turkey’s membership have become voluntary allies of the Republic of Cyprus. Overall the EU watched helplessly as the Republic of Cyprus exploiting membership rights against Turkey and northern Cyprus in all circumstances. Ankara has chosen to deal with such a dilemma by shying away from the EU accession talks and Cyprus reunification talks. In terms of northern Cyprus, it was just such a policy that laid the groundwork for today’s social explosion.
Adding fuel to the flame
Reactions of the prime minister and top officials of the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, to the Jan. 28 protest were not logical. Firstly, the prime minister refrained from giving the same blessing he gave to Egyptians to Turco-Cypriots. Quite to the contrary, his insulting and threatening style of communication has the potential to make things worse. Today even the most devoted AKP supporters on the island are angry and feel offended.
Secondly, the military, strategic and nationalistic emphasis of the prime minister makes everything more problematic. When he disdains the Cyprus flag shown at the meeting, he forgets that the same flag is engraved in Republic of Cyprus passports that are held by almost every Turco-Cypriot. Besides it was designed by a Turco-Cypriot at the time!
There is not a single expert emphasizing the so-called strategic significance of the island for Turkey.
The Greek dominion over the Republic of Cyprus was probably heard for the first time ever by Greece and the rest of the world.
The martyrdom rhetoric is far from useful for settling the burning issues of northern Cyprus today.
Thirdly is the lack of information and more importantly misinterpretation of the underlying economic problem. For days, data has been published about the amount of credit, subsidies and donations Turkey gives to northern Cyprus, and on defense expenditures. First of all, no matter how high the credit or donations are, Turkey is paying the price for the isolation of northern Cyprus. And as long as the status quo continues, it will continue to do so. In the other hand, money given to northern Cyprus is also being spent for Turks who were moved from Anatolia to northern Cyprus and whose population has now overtaken the Turco-Cypriots. In other words, Turkey is taking care of Turks who were sent by the mainland to Cyprus! In this sense, let me remind you that no census has been carried out in northern Cyprus for decades, for obvious reasons.
It is important to know that Turkey is approaching the end of the road in northern Cyprus. The removal of Turkish Ambassador Kaya Türkmen last Thursday and his replacement by a non-diplomat in charge of the austerity plan marks a turning point and a milestone on the road to de jure annexation. It shows the Turkish intent to not even pretend to consider northern Cyprus as an independent country and calls a spade a spade, or a protectorate a protectorate.