Response to Akıncı must be given at ballot box
Over the past 41 years in journalism, I had the opportunity to follow closely not only founding President Rauf Denktaş of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), but the entire top cadre of the Turkish Cypriot resistance movement, as well as the almost all senior contributors to the evolution of the Turkish Cypriot society from a community into a nation with a state.
Excluding a short period in the late fifties, during the time when in major squares of Turkey people were in the streets, chanting slogans in favor of partition or “Taksim,” Turkish Cypriots never officially or publicly wanted union with Turkey. That should not be taken, of course, as flatly denying the existence of people dreaming of annexation of the island, or part of it, with Turkey. On the other hand, annexation of the island with Greece, that is “enosis” was the Church-supported national goal of not only Greek Cypriots but mainland Greek politics as well for a long period, particularly after 1931 uprising against the British rule. What percentage of Greek Cypriots today support enosis is a question difficult to answer.
I believe it was not as high as the July 15, 1974 morning when Athens instigated a coup by Greek Cypriots against the Archbishop Makarios government, declared the creation of a “Hellenic Republic of Cyprus” and installed a journalist-turned-mass murderer Nikos Sampson as president of that new state. The trauma created by the coup and the subsequent Turkish intervention probably helped Greek Cypriots to wake up from the annexation to Greece’s utopia. But it also converted them into an “Cyprus Republic is all mine, only mine” obsession that led to the rejection of any notion of sharing sovereignty, governance or territory of the island with Turkish Cypriots, described by the 1960 founding documents as “equal partners.”
Being left out of their state and condemned to live in Greek-sieged hamlets from the start of Greek Cypriot genocidal attacks in December 1963 to the 1974 Turkish operation, Turkish Cypriots had no other way out other than uniting around the resistance movement and hoping to be rescued one day by “motherland Turkey.” 1974 changed everything. The 1975 population exchange agreement cemented bi-zonality. The 1977 and 1979 high level agreements between the two sides consolidated bi-zonality and bi-communality. They have also set the creation of a federal settlement as the goal of talks, that indeed had started back in 1968 in Lebanon. The 2004 admission of the Greek Cypriot government as a member of the European Union in violation of the 1960 founding agreements and despite the fact that they voted 75 percent against a U.N.-sponsored peace agreement several days before the accession further exacerbated the “all mine, only mine” obsession of the Greek Cypriot side and further made prospects of a federal resolution on the island difficult.
After the TRNC was proclaimed in 1983, the Greek Cypriot leadership, with the help of a decision of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), imposed an economic and political isolation of Turkish Cypriots (which later expanded to cover sports, education and all cultural fields). The more Turkish Cypriots were isolated from the international community the more they moved to integrate with Turkey, as required for their survival. Thus, contrary to expectations that frustrated with their isolation, Turkish Cypriots would move to patch up with the all Greek Cypriot state as a minority with some peculiar rights, the notion of a two-state resolution – hated by both Turkish and Greek Cypriot socialists – started to gain ground among Turkish Cypriots.
While the socialists, and the Cyprus Church, are obsessed with the idea that if ethnical links were to be cut off and a Cyprus nation identity could be nourished, in that predominantly Greek and orthodox Christian nation, Muslim Turkish Cypriots may become a color hard to differentiate.
Now, Turkish Cypriot President Mustafa Akıncı, who was elected five years ago on a pledge to swiftly establish a federation with Greek Cypriots or step down if he could not achieve it, is seeking re-election. Though he flatly failed. He knows that he will be compelled to answer the questions of the Turkish Cypriot people regarding why he still insists on a federal settlement or seeks re-election. Though just last year it was he who declared, “My generation failed to reach a settlement, the duty is with the new generation.”
His statement to The Guardian that if he does not get elected there would be the possibility of North Cyprus being annexed to Turkey is an effort to distract attention from his failed presidency. Thus, Akıncı, who has attached all his re-election hope on the “annexation” allergy and Turkish far-right attacks against himself, must be given an answer at the ballot box.