Yeraltı Notları, 22 Nisan 2004

Sevgül Uludağ

 

`Dynamic` or `Frozen`? (*)

Sevgul ULUDAG

Journalist/Activist

When Madonna made the song `Frozen`, under the influence of `Asian underground` music of Anokha Soundz or Talvin Singh, I’m sure she did not have in mind `the Cyprus conflict`!

But nowadays, I find this song, reflecting what’s happening in the divided island... She says, as though meaning the `good parts` of the `Annan Plan` which is almost invisible to Greek Cypriots:

`you only see what your eyes want to see/how can life be what you want it to be/you're frozen/when your heart's not open`

FORMING A `COMPANY` OR BUILDING PEACE?

She goes further in my imagination to sing about the vast economic difference between the northern and southern parts of the island. The Greek Cypriot community has relatively a more comfortable life with a per capita income of 15,000 dollars while Turkish Cypriots with only 3,000 struggle in isolation from the rest of the world. The Greek Cypriot community has turned into a modern, consumer society and when discussing the future of the island, it’s as though the whole discussion is about forming a `company`... `What is in it for us? What will we get?` most of them say, not `ideolizing` peace but rather thinking in `practical terms` of what they will `get`... They also complain that Turkish Cypriots will `get` their rights immediately while what Greek Cypriots will `get` will take years to implement. This is the set-up of the Annan Plan... Madonna sings:

`you're so consumed with how much you get/you waste your time with hate and regret/you're broken/when your heart's not open`

Many Greek Cypriots beleive that Turkish Cypriots want to join EU `in order to get rich`... They fail to see that Turkish Cypriots had been struggling for peace, democracy and human rights and that their hope is to ensure these through the membership of the EU.

FROM SILENCE AND FEAR TO MASS DEMONSTRATIONS

For Turkish Cypriots, the Annan Plan and prospect of joining EU with Greek Cypriots brought about a dramatic evolution: the hope of a solution and entry into EU as a reunified island turned them into a dynamic society, full of hope and struggle for a better future...

When the Annan Plan was put on the table, there had been constant tension among the regime in the north and the people due to a `deficit` of democracy and human rights. The economy was in dire straits, banks had collapsed leaving thousands angry, unemployment and emigration of youth were very high. Turkey kept on sending `economic packages` not suitable for the north and these also created negative reactions in the community. There was a constant inflow of population from Turkey and the change of the demographic structure by what is known as `setttlers` had created more and more discomfort since the `settlers` were also a hostage of the Cyprus conflict, being used against the expression of the free will of Turkish Cypriots, for instance during elections. And of course, one of the biggest problems was that the Turkish Cypriot community was not `allowed` by the regime to express its free will.

IF YOU SPEAK YOU MIGHT GET A BOMB!

Turkish Cypriots had been living in total isolation from the rest of the world in the last 50 years. There was an atmosphere of `fear` and `silence` prior to the Annan Plan. There had been more than 31 bombings, 10 arsons, 4 gun firings and 1 murder with political motivations since 1974. Avrupa/Afrika newspaper’s printing house was bombed twice and the owner and editor of Afrika, ªener Levent was arrested and put in prison for allegedly `spying for Greek Cypriots` in July 2000. Alpay Durduran, leader of YBH (Patriotic Unity Movement)and his former party YKP (New Cyprus Party) had been the target of bombings, shootings and death threats. Among those targeted were opposition parties of that time like CTP (Republican Turkish Party), TKP (Communal Liberation Party), journalists, trade unionists, businessmen and peace activists… A well known journalist of YENIDUZEN newspaper, Kutlu Adali was killed in front of his house in 1996. Journalists of AFRICA newspaper were imprisoned in 2002 and 2003. Many cases were brought against journalists who were being tried in civilian and military courts. Life was not easy and freedom of expression was something hard to get...

PSYCHOLOGICAL WAR PLANS FROM ANKARA

RADIKAL newspaper in Turkey published in August 2003 a detailed report about the `Psychological War Plans` and `Psychological Operations` organized by The National Security Council of Turkey… According to the media reports NSC and Psychological Operations Department under the Chief of Staff of Turkey have been and are carrying out the `psychological war plans`…

According to columnist Ali Bayramoglu from YENI SAFAK Newspaper, `Operation Falcon` psychological war plan carried out in the northern part of Cyprus aimed to stop the idea of `Cypriotness` from taking root among people and its targets were both the media and the people…

CREATION OF A FASCIST MOVEMENT

As discomfort grew more and more in the northern part of the island, the `state` together with the military set out to form an ultra-nationalist `organisation` called `UHH` (Ulusal Halk Hareketi – Nationalist People’s Movement). Gray Wolves, another fascist organisation was also active in north Cyprus. They were mainly from Turkey and threatened to `shed blood` if there was a peace agreement on the island.

Formed in 2001, UHH started visibly threatening journalists, teachers, trade unionists, political figures, peace activists and businessmen who were working for a solution. The media close to Denktash and the military based in the northern part started making professional manipulation campaigns and targeting those who were speaking for peace. Outspoken figures were blamed for being a `traitor, spy, paid agent of EU, US, UK, Greeks` etc. Now there were open death threats to journalists, trade unionists, teachers and politicians…Erhan Arikli, one of the leaders of the Gray Wolves based in the northern part threatened to torture and kill around 100 journalists and activist, the day the agreement would be signed. In November 2001, he wrote in KIBRISLI newspaper:

`100 of you will not see the day the peace agreement is signed on the island… We will make you eat each and every article you’ve written… We will torture you, estinguish our cigarettes on you, take out your nails, hit you and then give you to the Turkish soldiers to do what they like with you…`

This was a man for whom INTERPOL was looking for – he had been one of those whose name was given to INTERPOL for the Derinia events on the border in 1996. A Greek Cypriot, Tassos Isaac, was killed by Gray Wolves by beating him up and Arikli was one of those being accused for this murder but he was being well-received in the `establishement` and such forms of political terror did not move the Attorney General. When Gray Wolves beat up Murat Kanatli, editor of YENICAG, the police did not flinch again... Instead, the editor was sued by the police even though he was following a press conference and demonstration of the Gray Wolves, Even when there were open death threats to journalists, activists and trade unionists, neither the Attorney General, nor the police did not do anything to investigate in order to bring to court those responsible for the threats – the police was under the direct command of the Chief of Staff of Turkey, not under civilian control.

`THIS COUNTRY IS OURS`

In 2000 41 NGOs formed `This Country is Ours Platfom`. Among them were two opposition parties (CTP and YBH), trade unions and women and youth organisations. The Platform said `This country is ours, we shall rule it ourselves` and set about organising demonstrations against the interventions of Ankara in the daily lives of Turkish Cypriots, rejecting the economic packages sent by Ankara to be implemnted and asking for reunification of the island. This Country is Ours Platform became the dynamic force of the Turkish Cypriot community calling for peace, democracy, self-rule and joining of EU together with Greek Cypriots. From 18 July 2000 onwards, demonstrations and strikes became a daily part of life. 2002 and 2003 were turning points for street demonstrations. More and more thousands of people, young and old, men and women took to the streets with the main slogan: `Peace cannot be prevented in Cyprus`. They called on Denktash to either sign the Annan plan or to resign and shouted slogans such as `Denktash does not represent us`... On 27 February 2003 the demonstration attracted a record 80 thousand – this was almost a world record, compared with the population living in the northern part of Cyprus. This demonstration sent shock waves to the regime – what if these thousands walked to the `border` and brought down the `border` between the north and the south? On 23 April 2003, the regime decided to partially open the `border`, to ease the heat of the crowds... Meanwhile on radio and TV programmes people started speaking, discussing, breaking the `silence` of the last 40 years... All aspects of the Annan Plan was being discussed and people learnt more and more about it, as well as EU membership. In December 2003 they set about changing the government through general elections where the opposition parties got 50% of the vote... Now CTP who had been leading the street demonstrations was in the government and the aim was not to miss the train to Europe on the 1st of May 2004 and to jump on the train together with Greek Cypriots, reunifying the divided island, bringing peace, democracy and more options for prosperity.

A `EUROPEAN CYPRIOT CONFLICT`?

As 24th of April, the date of the referenda for the reuinification of the island approaches, there is an atmosphere of `OXI` (NO) in the southern and and atmosphere of `EVET` (YES) in the northern part of the island. Tassos Papadopoulos started the `OXI` campaign in the south and AKEL, the communist party joined in. DISI, one of the biggest parties of the right, decided to say `NAI` (YES). The Greek Cypriot Orthodox Church is also running a NO campaign. AKEL’s refusal to join in the `YES` campaign disappointed many Turkish Cypriots and some Greek Cypriots. As things stand, the majority of the Turkish Cypriots will say `YES` and the majority of Greek Cypriots will say `NO` to reunification of the island, before the membership of EU. Having not lived through a process such as the Turkish Cypriots, the Greek Cypriots are `Frozen` as in the song of Madonna, lacking a dynamic mobilization for peace on the island. They are skeptical about many aspects of the Annan Plan. One of my Greek Cypriot friends told me `They will say NO because they do not trust Turkey to keep its word of implementing the Annan Plan`...

As in the Madonna song, if Turkish Cypriots could `melt the heart` of Greek Cypriots for a YES so that they would not be `apart`... But there is no time left for that... What will come out of the referanda will be critical in the development of relations among the two communities in the near future...Because a strong NO from the south will definitely destroy the good atmosphere developed after the partial opening of the borders among the Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots... A strong NO will destroy the prospects of working together for a common country...

And what will happen if there is a YES from the north and a NO from the south? Europe will be importing a 50 year old conflict inside its borders and it will no longer be a `Cyprus conflict` but a `European Cypriot conflict`. Europe will have to face the problems of human rights, freedom of expression, of traveling abroad of Turkish Cypriots, as the new European citizens. Since without a solution, the Acquis will only be implemented in the southern part of the island, Europe will have to face various complexities like how to ensure that the human rights of Turkish Cypriots are implemented as the new European citizens, since they will be holding European passports as citizens of the Republic of Cyprus. Europe will have to face a `cease-fire` line in Cyprus, a `border` where its new citizens, Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots face each other with guns... Europe will have to be very creative in easing the way of reunification, in creating equal opportunities to both and finding solutions to ensure the respect of human rights and democracy for all...

(*) Published in the German daily newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung on the 21st of April 2004

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