Turkish Cypriots need to know themselves!

By Chris Elliott ……

With the collapse of the Crans-Montana peace talks the UN, EU, Greek Cypriots and the world is in a state of shock and not knowing where to go next to resolve the 50 year plus problem of how to unite the island under one governing body with a rotating presidency etc. when it seems the two communities don’t wish to.

The Turkish Cypriots either in  Northern Cyprus or the Diaspora are also stunned but should realise that they are in the strongest position they have ever been to create a future for themselves and their nation, but they can only do that if as individuals and groups, they set aside their differences and start working together for the common good.

President Erdogan of Turkey was quoted as saying in a press conference during the G20 Summit in Hamburg, “We have a Plan B and Plan C” and this must be sending shock waves to all those who were involved in the peace talks and wondering what will happen next.

Now is the time for Turkish Cypriots everywhere to speak out and act as one and we are sharing a readers letter from Serpil Mehmet which  is saying the same thing.

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“Regarding the status quo that is our beloved Cyprus- following the failed negotiations,  it has become clearer now, more than ever, that the possibility of a single country with two federations of people enjoying peace,  security and equal rights, is but a fantasy. 

“Third time lucky” passed decades ago, and half a century, and 16 GC rejected proposals later have passed, yet the GC script remains the same – “Cyprus is Greek, Cyprus is Hellenic, Turks are invaders”.

Faced with the reality that, we can no longer live in hope of living with a community who refuse to acknowledge TC’s as indigenous peoples, deserving of equal rights, the only logical and rational way forward is to push for the international recognition of the TRNC.

One may say that the most important factors of doing so would be; lobby the U.N., the international communities, surface and emphasize documented evidence of Turkish history, ownership, and later persecution and genocide of Turkish Cypriots. To present evidence of the vast ottoman history this is present in every width and breadth of the island.

And sure, all of these things are vital in the political realm. But there is a far more pressing political issue which we need to fix OVERNIGHT if we are to have any chance of establishing an internationally recognized state. And that is the politics we have amongst ourselves and the perception we hold of our own culture, religion, ethnicity and history.

If we look back at the establishment of Turkey, this is a date celebrated by all Turkic people.  The world has never seen, nor will ever see a statesman quite as remarkable as Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. However this ray of light in Turkish history also comes with its own dark cloud. Because with the new founded Turkish state came the abolishment of the kalifet – the head of the then Muslim world, which kept a controlled and maintained moderate Islam – since which has boomed in Islamic extremism since its expulsion. And the tragic part, for Turks everywhere (whether we know it or not) – was the abandonment of our original language and alphabet. 

“Why is this so terrible?” You may ask.

Well, because in doing so, it is about as effective as deleting 1000 years of Turkish history. Most of which was something to be proud of. And because we cannot read our own history, we rely on self professed historians and sources cited from former enemies who highlight the negatives of our history and convince young generations of Turks today that we have a shameful history. Yet those sources would love nothing more than to see Turkey decline into the state of Iraq and Turkish Cypriots to decline into the state of Palestine.

It has come to my attention that we associate Islam and Ottoman history with regressing in modernization.  That notion couldn’t be further from the truth.

Islam is the most scientific and liberal of all Abrahamic religions, which gave equal status to women centuries before western women were fighting for the right to education around 1821 which men freely enjoyed. Yet, under Islamic rule, Fatima Al Fihirrya built the first university in 841ce, a feat unheard of in history. The Ottoman Empire was the only empire in history where Jews, Christians and Muslim lived harmoniously- and in 1492, when Catholic Spain expelled all Jews from their land, the Ottomans sent their entire naval fleet to rescue them.

Of course, as with all historical empires, there were things entailed, which, were primitive by today’s standard. Slavery did exist – but it was not determined by skin colour, and there were just as many black, brown and white slaves as each other and was determined by social status (i.e. very poor/working class).

The first black aviation pilot of the modern world was trained under the Ottoman Empire, and Ahmet Ali Çelikten is still one of the most respected men in Turkish history.

And finally, when the Ottomans landed in Cyprus in 1571, they took the island from Venetian rule. Not from Greece, not from Greek Cypriots – from Venetian rule. Let that sink in for a moment and understand what that means.

From the arrival of Ottomans in Cyprus came hundreds of years of generations which manifested into what we are today – Turkish Cypriots. And we need to begin to understand what it means to be Turkish Cypriots.  It means stunning mixture. It means a bit of African from ancient east African settlers, pre dating the Egyptian civilization by 9500 years- it’s a bit of Middle Eastern, when Persians and Palestinians arrived In Cyprus under the Assyrian Empire in 2500bc- it’s a bit of Mediterranean from Venetian rule, and later, Greek influence. And of course, it’s our Anatolian brothers and sisters who still volunteer their lives today to protect us.

To be Turkish Cypriot is to be laid back In general attitude – we won’t ‘kill ourselves’ over the unnecessary, but we are ferociously protective of our lives, our loved ones, our livelihood, our country.

To be Turkish Cypriot is to be respectful of the chosen religion of others, which is why our Russian, African and European immigrants freely wear a crucifix around their necks without fear of negative reprisals. It is welcoming the hundreds of Jewish businessmen who have invested into projects across the Turkish north.  And while we respect our religion and love God, we are not particularly religious and place more importance on the actions and intentions of a good heart.

We are Turkish Cypriots.  And we have so many things to be proud of. From the mish mash of African, Mediterranean and Anatolian cuisine on our tables, to the laughter we enjoy when sat with friends with a glass of Rakı or Zırvania. The beauty that is our different physical forms where some of us have blonde locks and blue eyes and some of us have afro hair and dark skin. That we have one of the lowest crime rates in the world, because “deli değiliz” (we’re not crazy!)- Violent crime and murder is unheard of in our country.

These are the things which are the best of humanity and life itself, and yet it’s natural to us. And all of this is attributed to our history and how we developed from it.

Our attitudes must change. We need to know ourselves. We need to accept ourselves and emphasize more with our mainland Turkish brothers and sisters. We cannot continue this horrible mindset of “we will take Turkey’s money, food, water, medicine, books, support and protection, BUT we don’t like mainland Turks”. We must erase the horrible name calling from our lips and vocabulary.  And finally, truly embrace what it means- not just to be a Cypriot, which is a nationality, but what it means to be TURKISH CYPRIOT – which is everything I mentioned and everything we are – a unique people, which, although related to Turkey, Azerbaijan and other Turkic states, a nation of our own with our own culture, unlike any other – entirely different in many ways and just as legitimate as any other.

Yours sincerely

Serpil Mehmet”