This article has appeared in Toplum Postasi
and makes interesting reading, that is, provides some food for thought.
I hope the writer
does not mind my copying of the original article here.
Why Cyprus cannot afford to exclude Turkish settlers
By Alkan CHAGLAR
The new-“demonised other,” Turkish settlers in Northern Cyprus represent to some past crimes against Cyprus, but over 33 years can they still be called settlers? While Greek and Turkish Cypriots join hands in bi-communal activities that will facilitate a future reunification, the settlers and their offspring remain excluded. But how can a sustainable peace be grasped and how can Cyprus really be free of outside meddling if one excludes undoubtedly a major political and economic force on the island?
STEREOTYPES and REGIONALISM
Long the butt of jokes, many ordinary Turkish settlers and their children are held responsible by native Turkish Cypriots for increasing levels of crime, moral corruption and pollution in Northern Cyprus. Treated with scorn by some Turkish Cypriots for whom they are a reminder of the chauvinism of Ankara, settlers are blamed for every ill in Northern Cyprus’ society, from forest fires, petty crime, to drug-related shootings. A Turkish Cypriot Famagustian suffering from a superiority complex once admitted to me over dinner that he avoided certain areas of his town that was “Karasakal” territory as he didn’t trust those mainlanders.
A highly derogatory and insulting term, “Karasakal” or even the newer term “Ficca” meaning sea weed are no different to terms like “Paki” or “Negro,” used by British racists, yet they are far too commonly utilized by Turkish Cypriots. In the absence of Greek Cypriots in the North, it appears that it is the settlers who have become the new demonized other.
COMMON DISDAIN FOR NON-CYPRIOTS
In the Republic of Cyprus similar insults and stereotypes are made about the 30,000 Pontian Greeks living there. Occasionally united in their disdain for non-Cypriots, Greek and Turkish Cypriots see it as acceptable to hate their immigrants or settlers; some have forgotten that a similar hostility towards each other is the raison d'être, why they remain divided today. As a Londrali Kibrisli or Charlie, I cannot help but draw parallels with such views with those of British racists who hold asylum seeker, refugees and other immigrant communities responsible for all that may be wrong with modern-day Britain.
For a troubled island country for which the Americans and international community are spending millions on a "peace process" very little is being done to reverse deep sentiments of xenophobia prevalent in both main communities. The failed Annan Plan did not even mention it or have a strategy for dealing with it even though it is at the root of the current division of the island.
POLITICS OF REPATRIATION
But do politicians really want to tackle xenophobia? For those who genuinely believe the day will come for them to deport a family of four back to Anatolia, unrelenting Turcophobia acts as fuel to maintain their pursuit of idealistic goals. After all, Greek Cypriot politicians keen to hold on to their votes need to keep dreams alive. Forced to deceive their own voters by promising to repatriate settlers from Turkey even after 33 years of living there, they recognize only too well how swiftly they would lose votes if they said otherwise. But with the rhetoric of a smaller number of politicians it is apparent to me that they are not interested in restoring the human rights of their own community, but more in a form of revenge or punishment of their invaders. In their eyes it is as if human rights violated, can be suddenly cured if one violates the rights of others?
Nobody can deny that the arrival of settlers was marked by the illegal looting and theft of Greek Cypriot owned properties. It transpired after a harrowing civil war, the memories of which are still fresh and the consequences devastating. I do not propose that true property owners remain dispossessed, in fact every effort should be made to restore their rights where possible, but feeding the masses improbable notions of restoring a past pre-1974 Cyprus and offering false hopes of repatriating 30 year settlers is deceptive and without purpose.
Whether some Cypriots can stomach it or not, Turkish settlers are at this moment an important ingredient in this character of the island and very few if any will be repatriated even if it is agreed on paper. A Republic of Cyprus diplomat once told me “they (the settlers) are Turkey's responsibility as citizens of that country, they are illegal.”
Without justifying Turkey’s action, I ask how can a human being be illegal? Perhaps the settlers may still be citizens of Turkey, but is it accurate to assume Ankara represents their voice? Surely, the settler community has over 33 years of living in Cyprus developed its own list of issues. Furthermore, if the issue of contention is the interference of Ankara then surely, the exclusion of this community is giving impetus to Ankara to defend ‘its citizens’ in Cyprus? Is this also not contrary to forming a Cyprus that is no longer a playing field for Ankara and Athens?
TIME TO SMELL THE CYPRIOT COFFEE
Sooner or later Greek and Turkish Cypriots have to realise that the island in the 21st century is now home to many other communities. Before even considering the settlers, tens of thousands of Thai, Sri Lankans, Filipinos, and Indians workers, and Iranians and Lebanese refugees have made the island their new home. In the North, stowaway Syrians, ex-student Pakistanis and Bulgarians Turks are all adding to this mixture. Yet still the official face of Cyprus depicted by the policy and attitudes of the Government of the Republic of Cyprus and the northern authorities still paint the picture of a Greco-Turkish Cypriot island.
Is it not time the government and Northern authorities recognized the true face of Cyprus as it is? When are official policies and attitudes going to reflect a more accurate multi-cultural Cyprus? When are non-Greek and Turkish Cypriots going to be invited to play a part in the future of the island? If Cypriots are genuine about reaching a solution, they cannot afford to leave out in the cold a large proportion of their population who do not happen to be Greek or Turkish Cypriots.
Marginalisation of settlers is not an option, as the group is an important political and economic force, and one of the fastest growing communities on the island. The reasons for their arrival may be painful and marred by injustice, but they are now after nearly half a century an ingredient in the mixture that is Cyprus. Their exclusion from North-South dialogue is both dangerous for long-term inter-community relations and an invitation or door wide open for Turkey to interfere in the internal affairs of Cyprus.