N. Cyprus Edges Towards Repressive Regime - Opinion
When the Turkish Cypriots declared their own tiny breakaway 'state' in north Cyprus in 1983, one wonders whether they intended it to become what it is in 2011.
Repression is growing weekly and we read more and more stories about extremism every day.
Journalists' lives are threatened on a regular basis, there are bomb attacks on them and their papers; Turkish Cypriots journalists and citizens who do not live in the north are denied permission to return to their own community; Turkish-Cypriot football players are not allowed to play for the team of their choice because it is in the Republic of Cyprus.
The list goes on; hundreds of Turkish-Cypriot voters who vote in the Republic of Cyprus elections are refused permission to travel to the north; their names are made public and they are persecuted for exercising their right to vote. Members of the European Parliament are arrested when they visit Famagusta, and there is an atmosphere of fear that simply did not exist when Mehmet Ali Talat was representing the Turkish-Cypriot community.
Turkish-Cypriot students who study in the Republic of Cyprus are not allowed to use their A-Level qualifications to go to university in Turkey. Only Turkish-Cypriots who are studying in the north have that privilege.
Now, the Turkish-Cypriot trade unions and civil society organisations have made it very clear that they do not accept such repression. Teacher trade unions KTOS and KTOEOS have organised many rallies to protest Turkey's interference with the Turkish-Cypriot education system, including mandatory Koran classes for children. And earlier this year Turkish Cypriots came out in their tens of thousands to protest austerity measures imposed by Ankara amid a growing sense that there are too many Turkish settlers and immigrants from third countries taking their jobs and resources. 'Hands off our country' read some of the placards carried during the demonstrations, and much anger was directed at Turkey for its interference.
But all these protests seem to be falling on deaf ears as Turkey, Turkish-Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu and his nationalist UBP party blithely carry on with their own thing as if no one else exists and they are all on their own. I can only think that it must be frustrating for the Turkish-Cypriot community to be faced with such insensitivity to their demands for more tolerance in society and more say in their own affairs.
Not to mention the unmissable contradiction between Eroglu's claims that he wants reunification and the recent ban on Turkish Cypriots who live in the Republic of Cyprus travelling to north Cyprus. According to my sources, many journalists who live in the north are afraid of expressing their opinion because they know the 'authorities' will not only not keep them safe, but are the most likely culprits behind attacks on their freedom of expression and movement.
That is why the words 'repressive regime' keep coming to mind. And that's not to say that the Republic of Cyprus doesn't have its own extremists and fanatical nationalists - far from it, there are problems aplenty in the government-controlled areas too. But that's really not the point here. The Turkish-Cypriots deserve their human rights, wherever they live, wherever they vote, whatever their job, wherever they were born, or whoever their parents are. They deserve their human rights and they deserve not to be turned on by their own community leaders.