Is Northern Cyprus part of Turkey?
Despite the intimate relations between Turkish Cypriots and mainland Turks, and even though ever since the 1974 Turkish intervention a considerable number of people from Anatolia have settled in Northern Cyprus, the answer to the question in the title is a clear “No.”
What’s more, unlike the Greek Cypriots, whose aspiration to unite the island with Greece (thus achieving “enosis”) led to immense traumas in the past, the Turkish Cypriots have often wanted “division” (which does not necessarily include union with Turkey).
The 1960 “partnership republic” in Cyprus was, in a sense, a deceptive compromise, as the Greeks acted as if they had given up ideas of “enosis” and the Turks acted as if they agreed to a secondary role in a Greek-dominated federation. The Greeks wanted to be the sole owners of the island, with the Turks treated like a privileged minority. The Turkish Cypriots refused to give away their privileges, rights and partnership in governance, which the Greek Cypriots claimed already “exceeded” the Turkish population ratio.
Since the start of the “Cyprus problem” in 1963 with the so-called “bloody Christmas” attacks by Greek Cypriots, which were aimed at exterminating the Turkish Cypriot population, the Turkish presence on the island has only been maintained through the unwavering and determined support of mainland Turkey. If there is still a Turkish Cypriot presence on Cyprus today, that is a result of Turkish support between 1963 and 1974. The 1974 military intervention by Turkey - triggered by an Athens-engineered coup to achieve “enosis” – was then key, followed in subsequent by financial, structural, political and social support from Turkey.
However, Turkish Cypriots are generally different from the Turks of Anatolia. Many do not want union with Turkey, particularly since the Justice and Development Party (AKP) first entered government in Ankara in 2002.
In February 2011, a rally in northern Nicosia’s İnönü Square condemned a remark by then Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that some Turkish Cypriots were acting “ungratefully” and criticizing leaders in Turkey even though they are “fed” by Turkey. This was the first time that a rally of both the left and right was able to unite the Turkish Cypriots, in protest at a perceived insult from a Turkish leader.
While most Turkish Cypriots are grateful to Turkey for saving them from total annihilation, since 1974 they have been able to develop (despite all deficiencies) a functioning state apparatus, rising from a per capita GDP of $140 to well over $18,000 today. Still, there remains a minority of Turkish Cypriots who condemn the 1974 operation, believing (like the Greek Cypriots) that it resulted in an “occupation.” This group tends to have oppose everything related to Turkey.
While such a situation is unimaginable and incomprehensible for Ankara, most Turkish Cypriots still believe those few oppositionists have a right to disagree, in line with freedom of thought.
A community that respects differences - arguing heatedly on a subject but ultimately having a coffee or a shot of brandy with each other rather than clobbering each other – may seem unusual when viewed from the classic Turkish culture of polarization.
Why else would a Turkish leader recently fail to understand a nasty newspaper headline describing Turkey’s 1974 Cyprus operation and present-day Afrin operation as an “invasion”? Why else would he appeal to his “brothers” in Northern Cyprus “to deal with this nonsense”?
Who exactly these “brothers” were became apparent when a mob raided parliament and attacked that small Turkish Cypriot newspaper “Afrika,” cursing the Turkish Cypriot president, who was advising people to calm down. Was it in Turkey’s interests to further exacerbate the polarization between the Turkish Cypriots and those who have settled on Cyprus since 1974?
Worse, why was the Turkish Cypriot police force so passive in intervening against these mob attacks? Was it because it this police force is affiliated, according to a provisional constitutional article, to the Turkish military command? Has the time not come for the Turkish Cypriots to take control of their own police force?
As Turkish Cyprus is not part of Turkey, and as the Turkish Cypriots do not want such an eventuality, has the time not come to establish state-to-state relations between Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus?