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Erdoğan the loser

HDN | 2/7/2011 12:00:00 AM | YUSUF KANLI

Turkish Cypriots just could not understand why Erdoğan reacted so angrily and in such a detestable manner to some placards criticizing Turkey at a recent rally.

Turkish Cypriots are shocked hearing and reading what Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said about them.

For a society subscribing strongly to freedom of expression as best summarized by the saying "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” attributed to Voltaire, Turkish Cypriots just could not understand why Erdoğan reacted so angrily and in such a detestable manner to some placards criticizing Turkey at a recent rally.

Seeing the deep affection toward “Motherland Turkey,” high appreciation for their “savior” and a nationalism based on the “Even if it might not be in our interest, if something is in the interest of Turkey it eventually will be in our interest as well” conviction, Turkish governments must have developed a rather wrong perception regarding the behavioral patterns of the Turkish Cypriot people.

True, some out-of-line people like this writer have been writing and talking for years that compared to Greek Cypriots, Turkey posed a more serious existential threat to the Turkish Cypriot people (as integration would mean Turkish Cypriots becoming a mere lentil in the gigantic Turkish soup), but, for the overwhelming majority of Turkish Cypriots, Ankara has always been a Mecca of hope, identity and indeed life.

The culture of allegiance, however, was something totally alien to the Turkish Cypriot mentality. Restraining speech, surrendering and accepting the absolute rule of the local executives or the “supreme rulers” back in “Motherland Turkey” was not in the culture of Turkish Cypriots. Having a double tongue was not advisable at all. Yet, all through the past decades since the start of the Cyprus problem in December 1963, excluding a small and negligible far-left group defying all ethnic backgrounds and identifying themselves only as Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots allowed Ankara to even have a say in their political preferences.

Of course the rising number of mainland settlers – who have long accommodated themselves to the Turkish Cypriot culture and indeed have become Turkish Cypriots as well – and the political affiliations of those people gave Turkish parties some sort of a leverage in the domestic politics of northern Cyprus; this was seen in the 2004 vote on the Annan Plan as the wishes of Ankara outweighed a campaign against the plan by veteran Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktaş.

The 2004 vote on the Annan Plan was indeed a turning point. Turkish Cypriots were made to believe by the government in Ankara, the European Union, the United States and other key international game-makers that if they voted in favor of the Annan Plan, thus aiding in the resolution of the Cyprus problem, Turkish Cypriots would not be left out in the cold and that their international isolation would be lifted – regardless of what the Greek Cypriots did.

With the hopes that with or without the Annan Plan, they would finally acquire the capability of building a future on their land and prevent their sons and daughters from migrating abroad, Turkish Cypriots not only voted overwhelmingly in support of the U.N. plan but also brought change after change. The center-right government fell to a socialist-led coalition, a first, in 2003. In 2005, veteran leader Denktaş – because of his advanced age but perhaps also in awareness that he might lose the elections – did not become a candidate and socialist Mehmet Ali Talat succeeded him to the presidency.

The end result? Turkish Cypriots learned that all the pledges, including those of Turkey that even if the Greek Cypriots voted against the U.N. plan, Ankara would tour the world and demand recognition for the Turkish Cypriot state, were all written on scraps of paper that were just thrown away.

In the meantime, after the 2003 opening of the crossing points on the island, Turkish Cypriots obtained the probability of seeing with their own bare eyes the “affection” of the Greek Cypriot side toward them.

Thus, seeing on one hand that Greek Cypriots did not love them, didn’t want to have a partnership state that would be the common home of the two peoples as equal co-founders and frustrated with the empty pledges of Turkey and the rest, Turkish Cypriots first dumped the socialist-led coalition that Ankara very much supported, then voted out the AKP’s best friend Talat from the presidency and brought in Derviş Eroğlu, the leader of the center-right National Unity Party, or UBP, a party established by Denktaş.

All efforts by Erdoğan and his AKP, including dispatching experts from the company that organizes the AKP’s election campaigns, as well as the party’s Mediterranean deputies failed.

The Turkish Cypriot government also rejected pressure from Ankara to build a gigantic mosque in the heart of the Turkish quarter of Nicosia even though existing mosques are more than enough.

Despite all that has happened, Erdoğan remained as adamant as ever, meeting with Talat on Monday.

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