‘Cyprus is Turkish and will remain Turkish’, said Meral Akşener, leader of İyi Party (Good Party), a prominent opposition party in Turkey. Akşener ‘has caused alarm by calling for a repeat invasion of Cyprus, using the code phrase Ankara’s army deployed to launch an assault on the island 44 years ago’, Ayşe goes on holiday.
In 1974, the town of Famagusta, home to many in my grandfather’s generation, was invaded by Turkey. Famagusta was one of the most prolific holiday resorts in the world and had one of the best beaches in Europe. Today, it is a derelict, sombre and melancholic ghost town, when it was once a lively bustling home to many Cypriots who looked after it and warmly welcomed tourists. My grandfather will never be able to see his home again because access is denied to Greek Cypriots.
I take issue-and perhaps also a biased view-with many of these claims. Firstly, I do not actively oppose the cohabitation of Turkish Cypriots with Greek Cypriots in one national space, and I believe in a harmonious liaison in some areas of Cyprus. What I do strongly denounce is the attribution of a secondary cultural identity as the defining feature of a group within a country which consists of two national groups, especially the first being primarily Greek. I do not deny that Cyprus is, by definition, at present, a bicommunal state with two equally rich languages and cultures, but it is most certainly impossible to efface the historically primary culture which is still very much present in Cyprus through the power of political discourse. This, I do not accept.
Secondly, if Turkish government officials want to pacifically liaise with Greek Cypriot government officials and to create a positive image of their population, the threats to exploit the resources of the island are not helping this image, it simply reinforces a backward reputation of the Turkish government, a repetition of history. The erroneous claiming of a monolithic identity acting as a political justification for the exploitation of the countries’ resources is not a logical, historically or ethnically supported statement, and should therefore not be rendered into a matrix of power. We are in the 21st century, and we should have moved on from extremist political regimes within Europe. It is time the Turkish government really contemplated on the logic behind their words and the disadvantages they are creating for the reputation of Turkish Cypriots looking to live harmoniously within their country.
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