Turkish Cypriot unionists call for support

Authorities in occupied northern Cyprus assaulted July 19th Turkish Cypriots as they peacefully protested a visit by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan. The people were not simply protesting the visit but also its purpose, which was to commemorate Turkey’s 1974 invasion and partial occupation of the island. The protestors were also expressing their anger over certain ongoing negative consequences of the invasion and occupation, which include not only the expulsion of Greek Cypriots residing in northern Cyprus but also the marginalization of native Turkish Cypriots, who have been displaced by settlers imported from the Turkish mainland.

Since the attacks, new details have been provided by leading Turkish Cypriot trade unionists and members of the New Cyprus Party, a political party in north Cyprus that has fraternal relations with AKEL, the governing party of the republic.

Sources report that the series of incidents began with an attack on the headquarters of the Cyprus Turkish Civil Servants Union. Banners and placards deemed by the occupation authorities to be offensive to Erdogan were seized or torn down. In this initial attack Devrim Barcin, the organization secretary of KTAMS and Ayca Soygur Cirali, the general secretary of the Municipality Workers Union, were arrested.

After attacking the union headquarters, the armed men forcibly prevented peaceful protestors from approaching the road where Erdogan was scheduled to pass. Several protestors suffered minor injuries and one, who was carrying a sign saying, “I fought in 1974, America won,” was arrested. This particular sign referred to the belief, held by most Cypriots, that the 1974 Turkish invasion and occupation, and the right-wing coup attempt that precipitated it, were really directed from Washington. Meanwhile, those holding pro-Erdogan and pro-Turkey signs were not harassed or kept from the road.

Later that same evening, a protest tent set up by the Cyprus Turkish Airways Workers union was attacked. Six protestors, including a member of the executive committee of the New Cyprus Party and the coordinator of its weekly newspaper, were arrested. Other protestors were badly beaten, including the heads of KTAMS and the Cyprus Turkish High School Teachers Union and a leader of the Telecommunication Workers Union.

In official statements, Gurven Varoglu of the Turkish Cypriot Teachers Union called for international support and solidarity and Murat Kanatli, secretary of the New Cyprus Party, referred to Erdogan’s visit and the events surrounding it as “tyranny in every way.”

Photo: Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan. World Economic Forum // CC 2.0