Freedom for All of Cyprus

The Union of Cypriots is one of the prominent organizations that is fighting against the Turkish occupation of Cyprus and struggles for a united Cyprus. It also took the world’s attention with its strong image and messages lately. Today, you can hear its name when the Cyprus subject opens, anywhere, despite the fact that the solution it supports for the reunification is not the one supported by the foreign powers included in the “Cyprus game” such as Greece, Turkey or United Kingdom. It believes in a unitary Cyprus with one nation, it believes that achieving such aim and a united Cyprus goes through turning back to the 1960 constitution and the Republic of Cyprus.

We meet Union of Cypriot’s president and former Member of the European Parliament candidate, Oz Karahan, in a bi-communal political event close to the buffer zone in Nicosia. He is also a columnist for the famous Afrika newspaper of Turkish-speaking Cypriots that often becomes the target of the Turkish President Erdogan and the illegal Turkish settlers in Cyprus, who arrived at the island after the Turkish occupation to change the demographics of the island.

Fighting Against Turkish Occupation

Klaudia Kerekes: Could you please introduce yourself to the ones who don’t know you?

Oz Karahan: I am just another ordinary (Turkish-speaking) Cypriot who is fighting against the Turkish occupation and oppression that my country and community suffers.

Klaudia Kerekes: But you are also the president of the Union of Cypriots and were an MEP candidate for the most recent European Parliament elections.

Oz Karahan: Yes, that’s true.

Klaudia Kerekes: What is happening currently in Cyprus that the world public should be interested in?

Oz Karahan: As you know, half of our island is occupied by Turkey since 1974, after the coup that was orchestrated by Greece in Cyprus in order to overthrow the legitimate government and make Cyprus part of Greece. This idea is called Enosis, which was a popular idea back in the days at the Greek-speaking Cypriot community, including leftists. This amateur failed coup attempt gave Cyprus to Turkey on a golden plate. And since then, the Turkish existence on the island continues. This event was not just concluded with occupation of our country. In 1974, around 215 thousand Cypriots were displaced after the occupation. A third of the Greek Cypriot and half of the Turkish Cypriot populations.

Survival Against “Bloodless Genocide”

Klaudia Kerekes: What do you mean about “Turkish existence”?

Oz Karahan: There are more than a million illegal Turkish settlers who flooded the island from Anatolia after 1974. There are also more than 40 thousands Turkish soldiers who reside in Cyprus illegally.

Klaudia Kerekes: How about the Turkish-speaking Cypriots?

Oz Karahan: Since 1974, Turkey implements an oppression policy towards Turkish-speaking Cypriots who are trapped in the occupied areas. We are talking about social, cultural and economic oppression by using the illegal Turkish-settlers and the Turkish military. As a result, today there are only around 100 thousand Turkish-speaking Cypriots left on the island. So we are talking about a bloodless genocide on European soils towards a European community in the 21st century.

Klaudia Kerekes: And displaced people. You are telling me that half of the community was displaced. This is a very tragic situation. So 1974 was not just the year of the occupation, it also triggered a big humanitarian crisis…

Oz Karahan: Exacly. We are talking about half of the whole population of Turkish-speaking Cypriots and one third of the whole Greek-speaking Cypriot population on the island. These people had to leave their homes, roots, cities, towns, villages and pasts. It is very heavy.

Klaudia Kerekes: I guess this number makes it likely that your family was one of the displaced ones. Is this the case?

Oz Karahan: Part of my family is from Vuda (Kalo Chorio in Greek) and Larnaca. They had to move mainly to Famagusta area before and after the occupation as well. But today, I moved back and I am continuing my life in Larnaca.

Recent Occupation of Syria and Cyprus’s Exclusive Economic Zone

Klaudia Kerekes: And Europe is pretty silent about it… Like they are silent towards Turkey’s illegal drilling activities in the Eastern Mediterranean. What is your opinion about Turkey’s illegal activities in Cyprus’s EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone)?

Oz Karahan: Turkey is doing what it always does. Pushing its limits in the world’s eye with its aggressive, illegal and terrorist actions. And this time they are playing their “Syrian refugee card” to blackmail Europe. They occupied northern parts of Syria like how they did in 1974 in Cyprus. And when Europe opposes these terrorist actions, they are threatened by Turkey by opening the gates for the Syrian refugees. Now with the EEZ situation, we are witnessing the same. Europe is talking about sanctions but I believe that it is not enough. Turkey needs a serious answer for its terrorist activities.

Klaudia Kerekes: What happened in Syria is very important. The world’s attention was again on the Turkish-speaking Cypriots when their community leader Mustafa Ak?nc? condemned Turkey’s occupation of Syria. This was a brave move when you think that he is also a hostage of Turkey like many other Turkish-speaking Cypriots. What is your opinion about this?

Oz Karahan: We have different views with Mustafa Ak?nc? on many issues. He represents the “federalist” political side but we are fighting for a “unitary” Cyprus. He is way softer towards Turkey than us, like other federalists. But we support anybody who tells the truth. And we stand with any Cypriot who becomes a target of the fascist-occupier Turkey. After his comments against Turkey’s Syria occupation referring to the occupation of Cyprus, all Turkey became one again against Cypriots. We are talking about Turkish people, maybe the most polarized community in the world. But when the subject is about Turkish-speaking Cypriots who are against their illegal actions, all of them unite using their classical phrases like “Turkish Cypriots are bastards of Greeks” or by calling us “seeds of Greeks”. That is fine for us but they should know that Turkish-speaking Cypriots will always fight for an independent Cyprus. Some will believe mistakenly that separatist and segregationist federalism is the way, some will believe in fully independence can come through with unitary state. But the only obvious thing is that “we all do not want Turkey in our lands”.

Future of the Island

Klaudia Kerekes: Talking about a federal or unitary solution, what do you believe will come out from the recent reunification talks under the UN auspices?

Oz Karahan: Of course nothing will come out in favor of Cypriots.

Klaudia Kerekes: What are your views about the future of the island? What do you think will happen in the near future for Cyprus?

Oz Karahan: As I said, I do not believe that a federal solution can bring full independence to Cyprus. Also, continuing the reunification talks under the UN auspices will lead us nowhere. The only solution for Cyprus is turning back to the “unitary state”, the 1960 constitution and the Republic of Cyprus. For the future, I can say that this island is never going to be a Greek island and it is not going to stay divided forever. It will be a Cypriot island, if Cypriots are smart and fight for the principles of one nation, one flag, one homeland and one state… If Cypriots allow the current status-quo to continue for their comfort or political ego for a little bit more, this island will be a Turkish island in the near history, and forever.

We will hear the name of Cyprus more in the future since Turkey’s new target is this island again, after their successful occupation of Syria. But different than 1974, Cyprus is now a country which is part of the European Union and an economically independent state. Cyprus is a front for the progressives of the world to fight against Turkey’s Erdogan, one of the world’s most totalitarian figure and his regime. And there are forces like Union of Cypriots which the international community should support in their fight against them.

Klaudia Kerekes is a Hungarian political science who has experience of working with various NGOs that focus on conflict resolution in the Levant region. Read other articles by Klaudia.