Τρίτη 27 Ιουλίου 2021

How to seize an island: Northern Cyprus


Fehim Tastekin

Northern Cyprus is receiving its share of the Turkish government’s practice of seizing and destroying all fields within Turkey, from politics to public institutions, the economy, and nature. All the decisions concerning Cyprus are made by Erdoğan despite the Cypriots and he does not even let Ersin Tatar make the announcement. Who is Tatar anyway? He is a trustee.

Now Turkey’s President Erdoğan is scaring us with even good news. When he delivers said ‘good news,’ there are a thousand disasters immediately afterward. He promised such a piece of good news to Northern Cyprus on the anniversary of the Cyprus Operation from July 20, 1974.

He mentioned the issue a while ago in the closed quarters of Varosha, the place about which the UN Security Council says, “attempts to settle any part of Varosha by people other than its inhabitants as inadmissible” and calls for the transfer of that area to the administration of the United Nations under Resolution 550. What will happen now?

Will Erdoğan change the status of Varosha, a part of its coastline, which has been partially opened? Will he give an ultimatum, saying, “We’re opening the city. The Greeks may come also. If they do not come by this date, they will lose their rights”? Will he change the name of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) to the Turkish Cypriot State? Will he say they have found a natural gas reserve off the coast of Cyprus? Or will he just promise a new parliament building? Everyone wants to know.
Northern Cyprus is also receiving its share of the Turkish government’s practice of seizing and destroying all fields within Turkey, from politics to public institutions, the economy, and nature. They are doing so with no regard for the status of the TRNC recognized by Turkey.

The opposition Republican Turkish Party (CTP) and the Communal Democracy Party (TDP) will boycott Erdogan’s ‘good news’ announcement in parliament on July 20. Former President Mehmet Ali Talat, who was backed by Erdoğan during the 2004 referendum, has approved of the boycott. Everybody knows how annoyed the trade unions are. Current President Ersin Tatar is considered an ‘appointee’ of the opposition. His predecessor Mustafa Akıncı has been publicly threatened, so much so, that Akıncı’s press advisor Ali Bizden was held for 11 hours on July 6 at Istanbul’s Sabiha Gökçen Airport and sent back after being told he had a ‘5-year ban on entering Turkey.” Perhaps he was blacklisted via the G82 code, which designates a “threat to national security.” In times such as these, codes like this rear their ugly heads.

The echo of Erdoğan’s partnership with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) in Turkey is even more overwhelming in the TRNC. Any mild criticism has been reframed as “relationship between Turkey and the TRNC has shifted away from the right platform.” This reaction from CTP is not even the froth of the accumulated anger in the island.

They say they would change the parameters of negotiations to put the TRNC on the path to independence via a two-state solution instead of federalism. However, a new conquest-minded imposition, which will eliminate the small area of movement left to the TRNC itself, is coming. It is an operation of forced annihilation. All the decisions concerning Cyprus are made by Erdoğan despite the Cypriots and he does not even let Tatar make the announcement. Who is Tatar anyway? He is a trustee. The TRNC government will be informed of these decisions at the same time as the TRNC citizens. The decision to partially open the Varosha was one such decision.

The governments of the Republic of Turkey, treated the TRNC as a “free crime zone.” Exiled mafia boss and YouTuber Sedat Peker has already disclosed certain incidents which took place on the island. The residents of the island know even more. Erdoğan not only multiplies this crime record, but changes the format. He is sending signals of a ‘new conquest’ to his masses and is seizing the island. The presidential elections in the TRNC were a milestone in the story of this seizure. Whatever happened during the presidential elections mirror what will happen next. Let’s shift our focus to a report published on June 10.

Mine Yücel, Abdullah Korkmazhan, Orhan Erönen, Mine Atlı, and Derya Beyatlı as researchers and Tacan Reynar as a reporter prepared the “Intervention Report concerning the 2020 TRNC Presidential Election.”

This report gives an idea of what Cyprus will look like from now on. It covers the threats Akıncı had to face while he competed. He reached the second round against Tatar on October 18, 2020. According to the report, which compiled information provided by witnesses to the incidents, Turkey’s Vice President Fuat Oktay’s propaganda team spent three weeks on the island in support of Tatar. Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) staff tried to intimidate Mustafa Akıncı and Serdar Denktaş into withdrawing from the race. This staff bought votes. They used trolls to wage a social media war. Journalists were threatened with arrest.

Going into more detail, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu went to the island on September 9, 2019 and held meetings with citizens, together with Turkey’s Nicosia Ambassador Ali Murat Başçeri. They did not inform President Akıncı. Later, Çavuşoğlu directly targeted Akıncı, saying, “I have never worked with such a dishonest politician.”

Kudret Özersay was summoned to Ankara with Tatar on January 10, 2020, immediately after he announced he would run for office.

Vice President Oktay was the chief of the intervention. He met Tatar in Varosha on February 15, 2020. Just like Çavuşoğlu, he did not inform Akıncı. Erhan Arıklı was also summoned to Ankara on August 6, 2020 when he announced his candidacy. Tatar was again present there.
On August 15, 2020, deputies from Tatar’s National Unity Party (UBP) were summoned by the Turkish Ambassador in Nicosia to the Beyaz Ev (White House) of the Security Forces Command in Kyrenia. The Commander of the Corps and MİT officials attended the meeting.

Meanwhile, the Turkish media supporting the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) increased its negative coverage of Akıncı. The pro-government newspaper Yeni Şafak wrote that Akıncı was the “Raider of the Greeks” on September 10, 2020. (His last name means raider in Turkish.)

The most striking event is that Cenk Gürçağ, chief of staff of the Turkish Cypriot president, was first summoned to Ankara by MİT. He told them he had to inform Akıncı. Then, on September 17, 2020, he was told that a team from Ankara wanted to meet with him and invited him to dinner. On September 18, 2020, when he went to the Archway restaurant in Kyrenia where the appointment was scheduled, he was told that there was no such reservation. Some people then stepped in and told him there was a ‘misunderstanding’ and he was taken to Merit Park Hotel. In the meeting there, MİT Head of External Operations ‘Mr. Kemal’ head of the Greece and Cyprus Department of MİT, ‘Mr. Ali’ and a MİT expert ‘Mr. Hakan’ were present.

Gürçağ asked the team, “Why are you here?” They answered that the enemy was at the door. “We need people here who won’t betray Turkey. That’s why we’re here.” Gürçağ wanted to know why he was called. The answer must have been like, “Because we have looked into your ancestors. Your father and uncles are all nationalists who risked their lives to join the Turkish Resistance Organization (TMT).” Gürçağ told them, “My uncle, my father, and my president (Akıncı) have also been wounded in the war.” Then they told him that they did not know that, saying, “Why doesn’t he say this? To look better to the Greeks? Akıncı has a toxic language.” MİT members claimed that three names from Akıncı’s team were “people working for the Greek intelligence.” Then they listed their threats. 

“They will all be prosecuted. We don’t want Akıncı at that post. He’s not going to win the elections anyway. It will be made certain that he will not win. Even if he wins, nothing will ever be the same. We know everything about everyone close to him. His withdrawal from the election would be best for him, his family, and his close aides. Tell him to post his withdrawal on Facebook tonight. We’re coming as a messenger from the very top. No one and nothing are more important than Turkey’s survival.”  

Akıncı revealed this threat on October 9, 2020. Additionally, A 20-member team, led by Oktay’s press adviser Ali Genç, met Tatar and his people at Lord’s Palace on October 2, 2020. Footage from this incident was shared and started a huge debate in which threats were heard.
Then there is the incident which is considered to be direct interference in elections: Erdoğan called Tatar to Ankara on October 6, 2020 and announced that he will open Varosha with the ‘good news’ that the water pipe leading to the island has been repaired.

On October 9, 2020, the Turkish embassy distributed supplies to sports clubs. Meanwhile, many associations received aid. On the same day, some 9,872 people received 2,000 liras in their bank accounts in the name of “Pandemic Social Support.”

Serdar Denktaş, who was interviewed for the report, said the TRNC Central Bank has been instructed to make payments to all banks by October 9, 2020 at the latest.

Denktaş said that he met with MİT members at a friend’s house on September 4, 2020 who pressed him, saying, “If you stand down, you will be able to establish relations with Turkey that you have never been able to.” Denktaş said his phones were tapped and that he was followed by official vehicles. He also said that the Turkish Embassy in Nicosia interfered in the election, that there were suspicious activities in the counting process, that the results were added up in non-impartial institutions, and that supervision and observation were not allowed. According to Denktaş, Erdoğan sent a 27-member team to Cyprus which worked for Tatar with 300 to 400 people on the field.

The report said that because Akıncı did not stand down, his party was undermined, his phones were tapped, he was followed by vehicles with official license plates. The media that supported him had to change their stances as a result of such pressures, he said. Businessmen were threatened and journalist Rasıh Reşat, who was part of his team, was called to Turkey, but did not go. He said that the teams, who said they spoke on behalf of the Turkish state, went from village to village saying, "Akıncı will not win. We’ve taken every precaution. Even if he wins, he won't be able to keep his position. Akıncı claimed that the political party UBP was just a subcontractor in this process.

Akıncı also said that lawmakers at the Beyaz Ev meeting were told that “The Republic of Turkey definitely wants Tatar; it does not want Akıncı. For Turkey, it is an issue of survival. You will also work for Tatar to be elected.” These deputies were all followed and monitored during the election campaign.

Akıncı then called the Turkish Ambassador and shared what happened at the Beyaz Ev and elsewhere. The ambassador criticized him saying, “You want a federation. You are after a separate identity in relation to Turkishness. You are after a Turkish Cypriot identity. Turkey wants total change here with all the institutions.” Akıncı handed the ambassador a letter to be delivered to Ankara. But three hours later, the ambassador rejected the accusations of interference and returned the letter.

After the report was published, Akıncı confirmed the information and said, “There is nothing exaggerated in the report.” He said Turkey had always interfered in TRNC elections, but has never been involved to this extent, with its MİT, military, and bureaucracy. He said all Turkish institutions were on the field with links to oppression, threats, and interests.

Journalist Pınar Barut reported that she and her crew filmed Tatar entering a hotel with the AKP team. Upon this, the Turkish Ambassador summoned the chief prosecutor to the embassy and tried to have the media team arrested on charges of “disclosing state secrets.”  When she refused to give her source, she was threatened with “When you go to Turkey, you will be arrested for espionage and spying.”

This is a process that Cyprus has been going through since 1960 and there are many international dimensions of this process, together with its international guarantors. Recent events in the northern part of the island would make Rauf Denktaş turn in his grave. He was the founding president of the TRNC and was labelled as being against any solution.

Before anything else, Erdoğan is talking about the next steps and, with these interventions, he is ignoring the TRNC as a state and overstepping in the name of Cyprus. The island has been stirred up. Niyazi Kızılyürek wrote in his column in the newspaper Yeni Düzen describing the situation beautifully:

“Now, 47 years later, there is enthusiasm and the passion for a conquest again. With its Islamists, nationalists and social democrats, all of Turkey has once again set its eyes on Cyprus. But this time it is an attempt at a different kind of conquest. On the one hand, a new pillage move is being made in Varosha, which has been freed from Greek Cypriots and kept closed until now. On the other hand, the seizure of the Turkish Cypriot community is in question. However, the Turkish Cypriots who applauded the first conquest are rebelling this time. Because, as Hamlet said, ‘To be, or not to be, that is the question.’ This is the transition from one conquest to another conquest that well deserves the description of a ‘total seizing.’”

In the report, Serdar Denktaş said, “From now on, the possibility of an ‘annexation’ for the TRNC is very high.” Several others have the same prediction: Turkey will do to the TRNC what Russia did to Crimea. Annexation or adhesion.