Migration is a killer of Turkish Cyprus
What is the number of settlers from mainland Turkey in the population of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC)? Is the Turkish Cypriot community still the majority in their homeland, or has Northern Cyprus become flooded by settlers, making it a minority?
Many people in Northern Cyprus and in Turkey might not be happy with anyone writing on such potentially politically incorrect subjects. What do I mean? The late Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktaş always said:
“Those who go, and those who come, are all Turks” when encountered with such questions on whether he was not concerned about the changing demographics of his state, which is recognized only by Turkey. Was it indeed that irrelevant to ask such questions? Are those leaving and coming all Turks? What about Cypriotness? Are Turkish Cypriots not gradually losing their distinct, peculiar islander identity blended with their tribal shamanic past, Ottoman life, British taste, and of course cohabitation with Greek Cypriots, their resistance culture and of course self-reliance enforced by a very long period of isolation, solitude and obligatory solidarity?
Those leaving the island are Turkish Cypriots, the sons and daughters of the land, perhaps more so, the soul of the land. Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Tuğrul Türkeş, a second generation Turkish Cypriot living in Turkey, was criticizing Turkish Cypriot President Mustafa Akıncı a while ago for wrongly putting the Turkish Cypriot population, who are now at the now-deadlocked Cyprus talks, at 220,000. According to Türkeş, in Britain alone the Turkish Cypriot population exceeded that figure. Was he right? No statistics are available for now, but Türkeş said efforts were underway to determine the Turkish Cypriot population living overseas.
Interesting. Perhaps Türkeş should first try to discover the people with Turkish Cypriot backgrounds living in Turkey. There are many figures. Some say it is around 300,000, some claim it is well over 650,000. Which is correct? Furthermore, is there any meaning in establishing the size of the community with Turkish Cypriot background in Turkey, Britain, Australia, Canada or elsewhere? If these people are not citizens of Northern Cyprus and if the current legislature makes it extremely difficult for them to reclaim their rights in TRNC, is there a meaning in establishing a high but just romanticized number regarding the size of the Turkish Cypriot people of Cyprus? Perhaps, it is all a by-product of the minority obsession. Size does matter.
Cenk Uzunoğlu, a colleague writing for Haber Kıbrıs news portal in northern Cyprus, brought the emigration issue back to the forefront. Indeed, in the hardships of everyday life, buried in either the “No settlement is a settlement as well” antagonism or “A settlement now at any cost” submission, Turkish and Greek Cypriots as well as those interested in the Cyprus problem might be escaping a fundamental aspect threatening the very existence of the Turkish Cypriot people.
Coming from a family of three brothers and two sisters, this writer is a living example of the emigration problem of the Turkish Cypriot people. Two out of the five siblings have left the island; established lives abroad even though they’ve never cut ties with the island. But, from my family, there is a huge group living in Tarsus in Turkey’s southern province of Mersin, and another group in the Aegean province of İzmir. Both groups migrated to Turkey after the 1932 uprising of Greeks against the British colonial rule. They have mostly lost connection with the island.
How many people have not returned to Cyprus after the 1974 intervention? Particularly, how many of young Turkish Cypriots who left the island after 1974 for university education abroad returned so far? What is the percentage? Unfortunately, the state establishment in Northern Cyprus – southern Greek side is no better – is so deficient that no one has a figure on these issues.
While all attention is often focused on the number of mainland Turks who have settled in Cyprus since the 1974 Turkish intervention, what is the number of Turkish Cypriots who could not build a living in their homeland because of isolation imposed on them by their Greek Cypriot brethren living in next door to them?
The continuing Cyprus problem, hesitation of Turkish entrepreneurs in investing in Northern Cyprus, international investors fend off because of international isolation of the north, rampant favoritism, nepotism, mismanagement, corruption and all other typical ailments of closed, small town politics made it a must for young Turkish Cypriots to seek a future outside the island.
Uzunoğlu asked in his article whether it was so difficult during censuses to ask people and record where the sons and daughters, brothers, sisters were now living. Indeed, that must have been done. But, mind you in the 2011 census, despite my insistence, the pollsters refused to record me on grounds I was at the house of my mother and that house was not my “first house.” I asked if they would register me if I was in my small hut a few miles away, they said: “That’s as well your vacation home, not first residence.” Why such an attitude?
Turkish Cypriots living outside the island cannot vote as they have lost their nationalities. Even if they maintain their nationality and can vote, cannot run for any public office because they would have to fulfill eligibility to become a candidate, which the constitution says they should be a “permanent resident” of that electoral region for at least 3 years prior to the election date.
Perhaps it is now time for Turkish Cypriots to stop crying for lost sons and daughters and work on what measures they might undertake to build bonds with those lost sons and daughters even if they might not be brought back now.
Is there any need to rediscover the Americas? Shall we reinvent the wheel? Just taking a look at Israel and copying some laws and constitutional articles that Israelis have written to make Israel a homeland for the Jewish people will be enough.