‘Taxi’ for the Cyprus Problem…

 

 By Fevzi Hussein

I will be the first to admit that I have not been in the lobbying game as long as some of my friends, some of whom have given over 40 years highlighting the injustices, we as a people face. This said though, I have been at the sharp end of lobbing for almost 10 years and in that time I do sometimes ask myself what has changed? I also ask myself regularly “are the lobby groups linked with North Cyprus being appreciated” by the politicians in Lefkosa?

I have been really privileged and lucky to be involved with a wonderful NGO group, namely Embargoed! From my very first meeting with the group, where co-founder Ipek Ozerim instilled into me her amazing enthusiasm, a steady stream of wonderfully talented people has joined the group. They have all contributed to make brilliant inroads into helping to raise awareness amongst opinion formers and influencers, ultimately helping to change the external landscape on the subject of the embargo.

E! activists lobbying the then Foreign Secretary David Miliband
E! activists lobbying the then Foreign Secretary David Miliband

Those of you who know me will be aware that I do not suffer fools gladly. When you have an army of volunteers who give their time, their expertise, in many cases their own money, and in return you see a lack of interest in Lefkosa you often question yourself as to why you bother. But, we bother because we care, because we know that the injustices continue against not just Turkish Cypriots, but anyone with an interest in North Cyprus and this is inherently unfair.

The Cyprus Problem has fascinated me for such a long time; fascinated me for a number of reasons. Questions that play on my mind include:

• How the Greek Cypriot leadership are able to hoodwink the international community to maintain the status quo for so long?
• How is it that a country that contributed massively to the killing of 371 British servicemen in the Cyprus conflict (pre-1960), and 19 British police officers, can run roughshod over consecutive British parliaments?
• How the British Government are scared to send politicians to the unveiling of a new memorial for their own fallen and brave soldiers and police officers?
• How, after the Turkish Cypriots voted to reunify the country in the Annan 2004 referendum, the Greek Cypriots expertly managed, after they rejected the referendum, to manoeuvre international support back into their backyard.
• Why Lefkosa has consistently and spectacularly failed to harness the power of PR?

There are many more questions but you get the gist of what I am trying to say.

I believe firmly that when someone gives their own time and more to help a cause they feel passionately about, that they have the right to ask searching questions. There have been two interesting developments in the last few weeks. Firstly, President Anastadiades simply walked away from the negotiating table leaving the Turkish Cypriot negotiators thinking it was Groundhog Day again. The glaring lack of PR to capitalise on this has been so obvious to see. This is a terrible own goal and I wonder how our leaders strategise around these points. We should be jumping on this, galvanising the troops on the ground with the relevant PR support, but this simply does not happen.

E1 organised an anti-racism event in Tottenham at the Regency Banqueting Suite
E1 organised an anti-racism event in Tottenham at the Regency Banqueting Suite

Around the same time, a historic debate took place in the British Parliament around the recognition of Palestine. If ever there was an opportunity to launch a creative lobbying exercise, which somehow dovetailed with the Palestinian issue and Cyprus, it should have been on the back of the vote – I may be wrong but I would bet on it that this is not even on the radar of our politicians?

Our politicians need to polish up their acts. They need to show they care and they also need to show a little bit of appreciation and respect to the various Turkish Cypriot NGO’s who work tirelessly giving their voluntarily time for the cause. There is a growing view in our community that our voluntary energy is better served helping our people in the UK and forgetting about the Cyprus Problem. I know that probably will not happen as put simply we care too much. But, Lefkosa needs to be mindful of this growing unrest. Ignore us for much longer and our dreams of returning to the homeland in our retirement will also be lost to an alternative scenario.

I have no doubt that with the right kind of leadership and support the Turkish Cypriot NGO’s could make much more headway. Our story of injustice is a very powerful one and people love to cheer on the underdog. Yes we know the economy in North Cyprus is far from healthy. Many people are swimming in debt and job prospects are dire. But, when you consider that the Republic of Cyprus recognise the value of PR and as such pump tens of millions of euros into PR every year it is really no surprise that we are still in the position we are after all these years.

The time could be coming for Turkish Cypriots to shout “Taxi” for the Cyprus Problem.

Fevzi Hussein is a lifelong UK-based Trade Unionist. He is still heavily involved with Embargoed! He can be followed on Twitter @fevzihussein