Call for solidarity with the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) at the International Seminar on Human Rights Violations Faced by Muslims.
The embattled Turkish Cypriots are suffering the same bigotry as Muslims of Europe and need the support of the global Muslim community in their long-drawn struggle for equality, a top leader of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) has said.
“The story of TRNC is inequality par excellence. Because of their Muslim and Turkish identity, they suffer the same Islamophobia and human right violations the Muslims in Europe face,” Professor Huseyin Isiksal, special adviser to the TRNC president on international relations and diplomacy, said at a conference organised by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation’s (OIC) Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (IPHRC) and the Government of Türkiye in Istanbul this week.
“OIC member states should know that it’s not only our cause and you shouldn’t leave us alone in this holy battle. Our struggle is against those who try to erase ‘Muslimness’ and ‘Turkishness’ from our island. Why not start with full membership of the TRNC in the OIC?” Isiksal said during a panel discussion on ‘The Situation of Muslims in Europe’.
“Unless we are united, back each other, leave aside our own political interests and act as one, this problem of anti-Muslim discrimination will stay with us. We need to produce our own legal arguments,” he added.
The island of Cyprus has been ethnically divided since 1964 when Turkish Cypriots were forced to withdraw into enclaves to escape attacks by suspected Greeks. A Greek Cypriot coup in 1974, aimed at the Greek annexation of the island, led to Turkish military intervention in Cyprus where the troops remain since then. The TRNC was founded in 1983.
A series of diplomatic efforts by the United Nations in the last five decades has failed to break the deadlock in the island. The UN controls a buffer zone that separates the Turkish-speaking north and Greek-speaking south.
Professor Isiksal likened the situation to the 1970s when Muslims migrated to Europe and worked in jobs that no European wanted. He said these poor working-class Muslims did not possess any threat until they asked for human rights, demanded citizenship and sought positions of leadership in European territory.
“European countries have created hierarchies with unspoken standards, selective treatment of human rights and inconsistent treatment of citizenship holders,” Professor Isiksal said.
“Then we witnessed the Muslim worship places, mosques, and even the veil of Muslim women becoming a problem for Europe when Muslims spoke truth to power. Today, we see far-right parties taking advantage of anti-Muslim discourse for their political gains,” he added.
In contrast to the Muslims of Europe, Isiksal said the Turkish Cypriots refuse to be called a minority. “We are equal tenants of the island, yet we are faced with embargos. Till today, there are no direct flights to TRNC. These international embargos must come to an end,” he added.
The rights of the Turkish Cypriots
Earlier this month, the leader of the Turkish Cypriots rejected the Greek Cypriots’ offer to start international air and sea links in exchange for territory.
Isiksal said the community is still paying the price of a war that they did not wage.
“If Turkish Muslims had lost the 70s war which was started by the Greek Cypriots, then we wouldn’t be talking about the Cyprus problem today. Since 1963, we have been continuing our sovereignty, not accepting Greek rule over Turkish Cypriots.”
The Cyprus conflict is “a complex political issue” as approached by the Turkish Republic, yet “it ultimately revolves around one fundamental fact: the existence of two distinct people on the Island, namely the Turkish Cypriots and the Greek Cypriots; and their relationship.”
Professor Isiksal reminded that TRNC fulfills all the requirements of a free state and that they have ambassadors in more than 20 countries sent by “a democratic government that respects human rights”.
However, the issue of international acceptance of the Greek Cypriot regime as the government of all Cyprus, and the refusal to recognise the right of the Turkish Cypriots to establish their own structure still continues.
The Greek Cypriot administration entered the EU in 2004, the same year Greek Cypriots thwarted the UN’s Annan plan to end the longstanding dispute. In contrast, the Turkish side suffers from severe embargoes since promoted by a Greek Cypriot campaign.
Isiksal demanded action from the international community, especially full support from the 57 Muslim nations that are members of the OIC, to put an end to the embargos, isolation and restrictions on international trade with TRNC.
“My question to you is, ‘Would it be better or worse if the island is solely ruled by Orthodox?’ I want you to think about this in your treatment of TRNC,” Isiksal added.
He suggested starting direct trade and flights, besides tourism and student exchanges, between Muslim nations and the TRNC.
[NOTE: The article came from TRT World’s Eyes on Discrimination (EOD) Centre, which monitors and reports on offences, hate crimes and discrimination on the basis of gender, race, ethnicity, national origin and religion, or other related social categories. We promote and encourage respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion.]