By Ilker Kilich
IT IS NOT the first time since Mustafa Akinci became Turkish Cypriot leader that he has faced criticism from both sides of the divide as well as from different quarters of the political spectrum. He has been in the position for much less than a year and as such I consider most of the criticism unfair and immature.
A Greek Cypriot journalist for example recently alleged that the Turkish Cypriot leader had succumbed to pressure and “completed his transformation into Turkey’s puppet”. He had “predictably” fallen in line with the invader and occupier’s policy of dictating to Cyprus and to Turkish Cypriots.
This view has also found some support amongst the Turkish Cypriots.
This is almost exactly the same accusation I heard about another Turkish Cypriot leader, Mehmet Ali Talat, from the mouth of the late President Tassos Papadopoulos at a private meeting in London.
The meeting took place at the Dorchester Hotel on July 25, 2005 with London-based Turkish Cypriot representatives, organised by the Cypriot High Commission.
Alienating, degrading, non-recognition, underestimation, rejection and ignoring a progressive Turkish Cypriot leader has long become the norm and an easy way to block any genuine attempt by Turkish Cypriots towards the re-unification of the island.
A decade on, we still meet the various reincarnations of a weeping Papadopoulos… weeping to keep the status-quo.
The journalist critic of Akinci enthused about how wonderful Limassol was. Limassol (Leymosun) is the birthplace of Mustafa. He lived and enjoyed the seaside, sun, sand and mountains until he was 17 but not so much so after 1974 when he was 27. He was a lead singer in a local band and also enjoyed music. Now he is 67 and a grandad. He may deeply miss his birthplace but the fact is that he has been deprived of it.
Mustafa Akinci has spent his last 47 years helping to achieve peace and re-unification of our divided island. Not an easy task when he has had to confront nationalistic opposition as well as the so called occupying external power(s).
Akinci and Talat may not be perfect leaders but they are the best the progressive political movement could produce and get elected in very daunting, treacherous and dangerous politics. It also took us more than 40 years to get there.
We certainly cannot allow anyone to negate that achievement. Those who keep shouting that part of Cyprus is under occupation of a regional power who does not hesitate to shoot down a Russian warplane, surely must have a better understanding of the political environment within which these leaders have to operate and assume their roles.
If these democratically elected, progressive leaders are expected to stand for reunification and stand up against an overpowering occupier, as well as every other interfering external power, then the last thing they need is to be subjected to attacks by those who actually want, or pretend to want, a peaceful unification of the island.
Going back to Limassol, it is no longer Mustafa and his people but probably the newcomers who fully enjoy the gifts and fruits of the seaside town just as it is no longer the uprooted Greek Cypriots of Karpas and Kyrenia but the settlers who enjoy the beautiful peninsula and the prettiest harbour of the island. Why should those people want change? Why should they want reunification while separation admittedly offers so much pleasure and romanticism?
Is there any other credible or respectable reason behind these attacks on Akinci, a rare Turkish Cypriot leader who genuinely desires peace through re-unification of Cyprus?
I am one who does not necessarily agree with everything Akinci says or does, but it should be the every Cypriot’s duty to help free him from captivity and not to push him further into the hands of the captors.
Anyone involved with the Cyprus problem should realise that Akinci can only make progress in the right direction if he receives real help and support from all progressive and peace-loving Cypriots. Alienating him is defeating the objective.
We must appreciate that Mustafa Akinci has helped to create the best-ever atmosphere within which negotiations are being conducted and we must assume our responsibility for its continuation.
Ilker Kilich is a London-based Turkish Cypriot architect