Introduction by Chris Elliott….
We receive many news and reviews items and on 15th November I was pleased to have received news that in a few hours time of the planned unveiling of the TRNC Flag and playing of the national anthem at 10.00 am at the Waltham Forest Town Hall, London in the UK which was a town where I spent my childhood.
Naturally, we can only publish news once we have verified the source and it seemed that this news was only made available at the last minute to avoid the possibility of a Greek Cypriot protest and yes it came with an unbelievable capitulation by the Waltham Forest Council authorities and furthermore, adding insult to injury by banning the flag from ever being flown again as explained by Nick Halebi below.
Nick Halebi Facebook page
“I write in relation to the hoisting of the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus (TRNC) flag outside Waltham Forest Town Hall this morning, 15 November 2021, to mark TRNC Independence Day. Today’s events have highlighted the Council at its finest and at its very worst. It is an urgent matter that requires your fullest attention.
As one of the organisers of today’s ceremony, I want to start by thanking all those who played a part in this monumental event, where we were able to celebrate the 38th anniversary of the declaration of the TRNC, a very special event for all Turkish Cypriots.
For a public body to display the national flag of the TRNC is not just a historic first for the London Borough of Waltham Forest, but also the United Kingdom. It reflected the very best of our British values: inclusivity, friendship, tolerance and respect. This morning’s ceremony highlighted that this Council recognises the diversity within the borough and treats all on an equal basis.
TRNC Flag pictures courtesy of Sonya Karafistan
Waltham Forest has a large Turkish Cypriot community and those present outside the town hall today, and the thousands of others who saw the news about the event online, felt an enormous sense of joy at seeing the flag of their ethnic homeland displayed. Whatever our political views and desires for the future of Cyprus, in this one moment we felt united and proud.
I cannot tell you how many people have contacted me – and are still contacting me! – both local residents of Turkish Cypriot origin and Turkish Cypriots from all around the world to express their delight at the raising of the TRNC flag. Waltham Forest has gone global!
On behalf of these thousands of people, I want to thank Waltham Forest Council for its support in helping to make history. Sadly our feelings of euphoria were short-lived.
Instead of the TRNC flag remaining displayed until the end of the day, as required, it was taken down this afternoon following complaints from a small group of anti-Turkish racists. The fact that Waltham Forest caved into such racist pressure was disappointing enough, but the statement from the Labour Council Leader Cllr Grace Williams this evening beggars belief.
Cllr Williams said that she “apologises for the offence caused by the raising of the flag of Northern Cyprus” essentially putting the feelings of Greek Cypriots before those of thousands of Turkish Cypriots in the borough. She has also announced a ban on the TRNC flag ever being flown by the Council, with zero consultation. Do the views of your Turkish Cypriot origin citizens not matter, Cllr WIlliams?
Moreover, the Council has no problem flying the flags of unrecognised nations such as Tibet, but it has a problem with the national flag of the Muslim Cypriot Turkish community. Why?
Turkish Cypriots are already subjected to appalling levels of discrimination because of the unjust embargoes on their North Cyprus homeland. Their fundamental human rights are undermined in every sphere of life. And, at a time when we are living through unprecedented levels of Islamophobia, our own Council Leader seeks to further vilify this Muslim minority community and treat them as second class citizens in their own borough by banning their flag and apologising for the offence their existence and identity causes!
It is racism of the worst order and it must be condemned.
I call on my fellow Waltham Forest councillors to join me in robustly challenging this outrageous state of affairs.
I also urge Cllr Williams to withdraw her appalling racist statement and issue an immediate apology to Turkish Cypriots.
There will rightly be fury in the British Turkish Cypriot community when they learn of what has transpired and they will rightly want answers on how, in the heart of diverse East London, such a wonderful day was marred by such awful decision making.
It is vital to hold a full investigation into the events surrounding and leading up to the removal of the flag, before the agreed time of removal.
From what I have been told by Council staff, it is clear there has also been foreign political interference, as the Greek Cypriot High Commission in London were among those pressuring the Council into removing the TRNC flag. Such interference is contrary to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, as foreign diplomats must “not interfere in the internal affairs of that State.”
I will be contacting the Foreign Secretary Liz Truss to press for urgent action on this. This is the United Kingdom and we will not tolerate such undue influence and interference in our domestic affairs.
Dear colleagues, I look forward to your considered views and support.”
Editors Note: Please share this article wherever you can please.
Please also note a petition has been published on change .org calling for the Resignation of Cllr Grace Williams, Leader of Waltham Forest Council so for those that care for the Turkish Cypriot cause, please sign the petition by clicking here