Cyprus: The Equation of Isolation-Identity

11. February, 2003


Serdar Atai


Unfortunately, it is no longer possible to build a common Cypriot identity. But the “European Identity” as a supranational and complementary identity which takes its stimulus from the expression of “Europe of Values” and has accelerated and become more concrete with the official circulation of the Euro, will be the perfect remedy for all Cypriots’ upper identity concerns.

The European Council’s Copenhagen summit was, undoubtedly, a historic milestone in this new wave of enlargement. This ambitious program of enlargement, intended to overcome the legacy of conflict and division in Europe, has proven successful, albeit with one exception: Cyprus.

Greek Cypriots worked hard to conclude the accession process, completing the race as first runner-up amongst the other candidates and proving more than constructive in negotiating the Annan Plan for a solution to the Cyprus problem. Under these conditions, would it be fair to suspend the full membership of the Republic of Cyprus in the EU as both Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot leadership expect? Absolutely not.

On the contrary, this outcome has largely disappointed Turkish Cypriots who had hoped for a reunification of the island. They waited up until the last minute for the signature of a letter of intent to finalize an accord with the EU so that they might receive the financial aid reserved for their regional development. This failure has dashed the hope for a sustainable peace and deepened the emotional-ideological division between Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot community in which the latter has been treated as a captive and political hostage by the former for its own benefit so that Turkey might get an earlier date for the start of accession negotiations. The manipulated Turkish Cypriot leadership also lost all its credibility and persuasiveness in the eyes of its own citizens. Within the Turkish Cypriot community, the “Hawks,” who are in a minority, raised the tone of their voice while the “Doves,” who are in a majority, shifted to a mood reminiscent of the song “When Doves Cry”.

As everyone knows, Cyprus was a British administered colony beginning in 1878. Inter-communal strife and armed conflict was ignited in 1955 by the paramilitary activities of Greek Cypriots aiming at the unification of Cyprus with Greece (Enosis). The Turkish Cypriots, acting in self-defense, supported another paramilitary organization fighting for the partition of the island between Turkey and Greece (Taksim). In order to overcome this bloodshed and violence, a joint Republic of Cyprus was declared and established in 1960. Under the Constitution of 1960 and the Treaty of Guarantee and Alliance, Britain, Turkey and Greece promised to maintain the Republic’s independence, territorial integrity and the fundamental principles of the Constitution. The Greek Cypriot leadership thought from the beginning that the Turkish Cypriot minority had been granted too many rights and concessions. Three years later, in 1963, Turkish Cypriots were sacked from the Republic. They were forced into an intolerable situation of enclaved life from 1964 to 1974, which caused them to set up their own administration as of December, 1967. In July, 1974, the extension of the military junta in Greece carried out a coup d’etat for a change of regime in the Greek-controlled province. Shortly afterwards, they turned on another target: “Turkish Cypriots”, in an act of ethnic cleansing. Citing the Treaty of Guarantee, Turkey responded unilaterally with a military operation to rescue the Turkish Cypriots and restore order. Following the intervention, she failed to abide by the provisions of the Treaty of Guarantee. For this reason the US, Britain and other Western countries preferred to label Turkey the “Invader” and Turkish Cypriots the “Collaborators,” which lead to the criminalization, execution and systematic torture of Turkish Cypriots by the World Community after 1974. Nevertheless, the military intervention and long-term presence of Turkey on the island was the result of the green light given by the West. It was in conformity with the cold war politics of that period and the geostrategic games the White House played on its “Grand Chess Board”. Practically, this attempt to rid themselves of all their responsibilities was a denial of the truth.

Yet, there’s enough evidence on how nonsensical and wrong it is to force isolation and sanctions on a country as proven by the examples of Cuba, Palestine, Libya, Iran, Iraq and North Korea.

The isolation of a nation from the rest of the world creates adverse effects and the collective punishment of a society causes members of that society to perceive their leaders as the heroes of myth, fighting against the inequities and injustice of the West. Furthermore, desperate people who suffer from such imprisonment necessarily shift to a level of tolerance such that they consent to the many disappointing and discriminative practices of their local authorities. Under these circumstances, citizens of those countries are left at the mercy of dictatorships and are obliged to face a dilemma: “Enjoy yourself or leave!”

When repressive regimes rule these countries, those who have the biggest headache and carry the maximum burden are those who are the most progressive and democratic. In other words, through the implementation of isolation, Westerners propagating and teaching democracy, human rights and the rule of law every day, indirectly cooperate with the non-democratic regimes of underdeveloped countries to suppress those who are actually the individuals struggling for the humanitarian and universal values of the West. Through this joint partnership, the West betrays its own principles and supports the cruel against the innocent.

Thank God that this ruling model of outdated administrations which aim at sentencing their people to socio-economic depression, structural backwardness and deculturalization in an attempt to transform them into puppets addicted to central authority, has a major weakness: It is heavily corrupt, lacks a humanitarian perspective like the fair distribution of income and equal opportunities for every single individual and, as a result of these defects, this model eventually fails and collapses.

All of the above mentioned countries, partially excepting Cuba, have made the same mistake. The people who are squeezed economically or socially, develop a fever of impatience, show symptoms of explosion and begin rising up to push the authorities into alternative changes or breakthroughs.

The situation of Turkish Cypriots must be evaluated in the light of these facts and findings.

The only way out for Turkish Cypriots into the international community was through interdependence to Turkey. The world had not given Turkish Cypriots the right to represent themselves with their own identity and the right to have just and equal treatment.

Was it so impossible for the West to respect the rights and freedoms of Turkish Cypriots without the recognition of their state? Wasn’t it the West which rose its voice at every opportunity, saying that the rights of individuals should be put before the rights of states?

In postal deliveries and shipments of goods: the marker “Mersin 10 Turkey”, in international calls: Turkey’s country code 90, in e-mail addresses: the abbreviation .tr, in overseas travel: a Turkish passport and the obligatory visa, in export: a certificate of approval from the Turkish Standards Institute and the note “Turkish origin”, difficulties in direct air or sea transportation and the need to be a Turkish flag carrier, the necessity of contracting with a bank based in Turkey to carry out international financial transactions, the precondition that local universities be included in the Higher Education Authority of Turkey in order to communicate and accredit with the universities of the West.

This whole list of isolationary measures was enforced by the Greek Cypriot-Greek couple and other Western countries.

When you add Turkey’s impositions like the replacement and circulation of Turkish Lira as the national currency of the North, the random transfer of population from Turkey, the free pass agreement between Turkey and Northern Cyprus that enables entry without passports and with identity cards, the need to get the confirmation of Turkey for appointing executives to strategic institutions and corporations and for allocating funds to emergency investments, the restrictions on the freedom of opinion and expression of citizens and media in Turkey regarding the Cyprus issue until the year 2001; the Turkish Cypriots had nothing left to say on behalf of them under cross fire. There were two options for a Turkish Cypriot: Either to resist and live in exile at home or to emigrate abroad and face being stuck in an unknown environment in a foreign country thousands of miles away.

In spite of all these negative effects, threats keep equivalent opportunities inside. The key point in shaping an identity is the threats by internal or external factors. Moreover, the cause and effect relationship and dialectic should never be underestimated. It is the working principle in nature: The more dimensional and complex the relations among species, the healthier and stronger the chain reactions called “natural balance” become. If one species reproduces at such a level so as to distort the natural balance, one or a few members of the system immediately take action to bring down that reproduction to average limits and to adjust the imbalance between “the eater and the eaten”. This is the balance mechanism that has functioned properly in nature since the existence of living creatures on the earth.

Similarly, the spirit of Turkish Cypriots, having been put into the oven with joined hands, succeeded in being born from its ashes like a Phoenix, even as everyone said that it had been exhausted and died.

It exhibited its Turkish character in the face of the exclusion and abuse of the Greek Cypriot-Greek pair, its Turkish Cypriot character against the partiality and under valuation of the West and its Cypriot character against the leading elite in Turkey and Northern Cyprus which despised it and attempted to liquidate it.

The Turkish Cypriot identity, even if it was a sub-national identity (lower identity), managed to structure itself at the core by setting out its main elements and by stepping on to the international platform.

As a matter of fact, there has never been a single Cypriot identity in terms of national identity (upper identity) although some insisted there was.

Greek Cypriots always attempted to hold their dominant culture and superior identity over Turkish Cypriots. They were considering how they could annex Turkish Cypriots to Hellenic culture. Turk-Greek or Muslim-Christian origins played the leading role in clashes between the two communities and in riots against the British Colonial regime. It could be the end of British Colonial Power and its hegemony if Greek and Turkish Cypriots met on the same ideals and common denominators paving the way towards Cypriotness. That’s why conscience and the willingness to form a common Cypriot identity were blocked by the British. Despite the remarkable presentation of Cypriotness in British verbal and non-verbal communication and in the years of partnership during the Republic of Cyprus, the British polity was actually trying to keep Cypriotness at such a low momentum so that it would never surpass the definition of “a group of inhabitants living on the island of Cyprus”. On the other hand, Greece and Turkey predicted that this kind of union around a national identity would eliminate them and weaken their position and therefore they were very reluctant to contribute to Cypriotness.

In today’s Europe, the representation and protection of regional cultures and identities and their direct participation in decision making processes is possible through the Committee of the Regions. This unique institution is only consulted by other EU institutions on a limited number of subjects and its decisions are non-binding. But it empowers subsidiary elements and helps to develop a multicultural and multilingual structure within the Union.

Unfortunately, it is no longer possible to build a common Cypriot identity. But the “European Identity” as a supranational and complementary identity which takes its stimulus from the expression of “Europe of Values” and has accelerated and become more concrete with the official circulation of the Euro, will be the perfect remedy for all Cypriots’ upper identity concerns.

I do believe that the Turkish Cypriot community deserves a European Identity as much as other Europeans and will adopt it joyfully, safeguarding “Democracy” and “Open Society” in Cyprus nationwide.

Coming back to the Copenhagen summit, the Council has invited the Commission, in consultation with the government of Cyprus, to consider strategies for the economic development of the Northern part of the island, bringing it closer to the Union. In light of this recommendation, Greek Cypriots should immediately take the necessary steps to remotivate the Turkish Cypriot community in their efforts for peace to maintain the integrity of the island, at the latest by the 28th of February, 2003. In the absence of peace and regional stability, the Greek Cypriot community will never be totally safe even if European Security and Defense provides a shield for its protection and will never be able to enjoy its rights and freedoms, including their right of return as well as control of lost properties and territories.

Briefly, there are enough incentives for all concerned parties to commit to a comprehensive peace settlement in Cyprus and it should be dealt now as seriously as was done prior to the Copenhagen summit. raksts

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