The identity and future of the Turkish Cypriots appear to be in serious jeopardy as a result of Turkey’s assimilation policies, said a letter sent to the UN by the South Cyprus government.
“In this connection, we have witnessed, lately, an intensification of Turkish attempts to change the demographics of the occupied areas of Cyprus through colonisation and a ‘citizenship’-granting process for Turkish citizens,” said the letter dated October 3 and published on Thursday on the South government’s public information office’s website.
“Illegal Turkish settlers, brought to Cyprus from Anatolia, consciously or unconsciously assume the role of a catalyst for the advancement and implementation of (Turkey’s ruling party) AKP’s policies intended to further integrate the Turkish Cypriot community into Turkey and to “Turkify” the occupied areas of Cyprus, with far-reaching repercussions in the government-controlled areas of the Republic.”
South Cyprus’ permanent representative to the UN, Kornilios Korniliou, asked the UN that the letter be circulated as an official document of the general assembly.
In the letter, the government details the situation in Turkey and the direct impact on the northern part of the island and the Turkish Cypriots.
“Their identity and future seem to be in serious jeopardy as a result of Turkey’s assimilation policies, especially in view of their extremely limited ability, under the present conditions, to react, disagree, or criticise.”
Turkey’s purges of people allegedly linked to the Fethullah Gulen movement, which it considers a terrorist organisation, have extended to Cyprus.
Since the ruling party AKP’s rise to power, the Turkish government has also been advancing in the north though a systematic policy of empowering religiousness in the daily life of Turkish Cypriots, “a practice, which obtrudes on their distinct cultural and secular identity,” the letter said.
The policy was largely being pursued through education, as various religious educational institutions and religious schools have begun operating in the occupied part of Cyprus with the economic support of Turkey.
Additionally, the Turkish Ministry of Youth and Sports has established an overseas coordination office in north Cyprus, aimed at enforcing, organising and managing all sports and youth events and programmes.
The impact of Turkey’s policies in the Turkish Cypriot community is direct, visible and felt by everybody.
The most striking and symbolic example is the enforced application, in the occupied area, of the Turkish time zone, which results in the “absurdity of two time zones” on the same small island.
“It is the expectation of the government of Cyprus that the international community will demonstrate the same concern for the human rights situation and the security of Cypriot citizens in the occupied part of Cyprus as it has for the Turkish citizens in Turkey,” the letter said.