It is difficult to grow up on an island. It is even more difficult if that island is a bi-communal one and you belong to the numerically smaller community. Well, I would not say “minority,” as we Turkish Cypriots hate that word. Nowhere else in the world, perhaps, does a father or mother celebrate when, for the first time, their kid “rebels” and serves a “nice kick” to either of them.
So happened to this writer; I cannot recall when but at a rather small age. Over a small incident, and indeed provoked by my father, I served him a “strong” kick. He burst out laughing and then started calling his friends to explain what happened and invited them over for drinks. He was proud that the small son was standing on his feet, defending his rights and even quarrelling with the father for his demands.
Those were the difficult times with scarce food and even scarcer toys but very strong communal bonds. These were required during the difficult conditions of the time, passing through some sort of civil war, with Greek Cypriots that hijacked the government trying to exterminate the Turkish Cypriot population. Resistance was the spirit and the tradition was to honor and celebrate those resisting anything.
Turkey’s tall, bald, bold and ever-angry president yelling at everyone could not understand the Turkish Cypriot mental setup. Naturally, Turkish Cypriots are grateful to Turkey for saving them from total annihilation by Greek Cypriot hordes. But for Turkish intervention there would not be a Cyprus problem to talk about today, as Greek Cypriots would have butchered us all long ago. Yet, if every other day the prime minister or president of Turkey talks about how Turkey saved them, how deep gratitude they should feel towards the “motherland,” how big Turkish budgetary contributions are or accuse them of becoming parasites of Turkey, is it abnormal for a Turkish Cypriot to say “Hey, stop, I’m fed up with this humiliation?”
There are people in northern Cyprus who gather from time to time at the gates of the Turkish embassy and shout slogans such as, “We don’t want you, your soldiers and your money.” Why do they yell like that? Because the Turkish ambassador, with instructions from his boss in Ankara, treats Turkish Cypriots as if he is a colonial governor. If Turkish Cypriot democratic traditions and political establishments – that are often far more democratic than Turkish ones – are bent with the power of millions of Turkish Liras to create a makeshift party to take down a coalition government and install one Ankara believed would best serve its interests, is it abnormal to see a surge in animosity against the political clan ruling Turkey?
If Turkey has itself become a handicap preventing Turkish Cypriots from international recognition but refusing at the same time to extend a state-to-state relationship and insisting on treating the Turkish Cypriot state as if it is a “kinderland,” is frustration with Ankara abnormal?
It was this atmosphere that helped Mustafa Akıncı make a comeback from “grandfather seat” to active politics after over 12 years and become the Turkish Cypriot president with over 60 percent support. Why? Because Akıncı all through his life was an honest, distinguished and clean politician. That was not enough. Akıncı was the sole Turkish Cypriot politician to publicly demand consolidation of the Turkish Cypriot state by getting rid of constitutional provisional article 10. The article was “provisional” but could not be discarded since 1975, despite all other political transformation. That article affiliates the police as well as fireworks of the Turkish Cypriot state to the command of the Turkish military on Cyprus. When in 1999, as deputy prime minister, Akıncı objected to that crooked situation and the commander of the time ridiculed him in front of a crowd, he did not step back but instead said, “Pasha, mind you, this is my homeland.” The same Akıncı is now saying it is awkward to have someone appointed from Ankara as Central Bank governor or commander of the Turkish Cypriot Security Forces.
The “kinderland” has grown up sufficiently enough and wants to demonstrate to the “motherland” it has the might to stand on its own feet. Can President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, a man of an allegiance culture who demonstrated with the Gezi incidents that he hates resistance culture, understand this? No way. Can he be awoken to the new reality? Perhaps after the June elections, when he might have some bigger, more existential problems…