By George Psyllides
Two Turkish Cypriots were injured on Monday after they were attacked in their cars by pupils out on the streets to protest the unilateral declaration of the breakaway state, police said.
Reports said the attacks were carried out by members of far right group ELAM.
Although the anniversary of UDI in the north is November 15, which this year fell on a Sunday, the demonstrations were postponed until Monday, a school day.
Police said there were three separate incidents in Nicosia. Two Turkish Cypriots were treated in hospital – one suffered an eye injury, the other was hurt on the chest. Police could not give further detail about their condition. Two of the cases were reported to the authorities.
Police said the incidents happened between 11am and 1pm. The first one took place on the junction known as the Milano traffic lights (Prodromou Street) in Engomi. Pupils attacked a car with Turkish Cypriot plates but the driver escaped uninjured. He did not want to file a complaint and was escorted by police to the Ayios Dhometios crossing.
The second incident took place nearby on Hytron Street, near the Nicosia district office. A father and a son were attacked inside their car by a group of pupils throwing stones. The father was injured and the car was damaged police said.
The third case happened on Griva Dighenis Avenue. A Turkish Cypriot suffered injury to the eye following an attack by pupils.
Several people have been questioned but no arrests were made.
Police deputy spokesperson Nikoleta Tyrimou said the force had a plan in place to police the organised demonstrations.
ELAM, she said, marched from its HQ on Naxos Street, off Makarios Avenue, towards the Ledra Palace crossing. The group was escorted by police and no trouble was recorded.
The far right group denied any involvement and described the reports as lies and mud-slinging.
The incidents were immediately condemned by President Nicos Anastasiades who described the perpetrators as foolish people who did a disservice to efforts to resolve the Cyprus problem.
“The only thing such unacceptable behaviour consolidate is the distrust between the two communities over the possibility of peaceful coexistence,” the president said in a statement.
“Beyond this however, they also provide arguments to those who cite the need for guarantees and guarantor powers,” he said, referring to the reunification talks.
Anastasiades said the state would not tolerate such behaviour from isolated or minority groups who “invoke pseudo patriotism with the aim of dividing our country once and for all”.
Anastasiades apologised to the Turkish Cypriots, saying that the incident did not reflect the great majority of Greek Cypriots.
“I express my deepest regrets to our Turkish Cypriot compatriots over today’s unacceptable incident, which does not reflect the feelings of the overwhelming majority of Greek Cypriots for peaceful coexistence and hopeful prospects for the future.”
Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci said the perpetrators of the attacks must be arrested and brought before justice.
“This behaviour does not contribute to the negotiating process in any way,” he said.
On social media, Anastasiades posted on his twitter account in Turkish his sorrow over the attacks, condemning the incident and saying such behaviour could not be tolerated.
In a similar move, Akinci posted in Greek “satisfaction over the fact that Mr. Anastasiades condemned the ELAM episodes close to the Nicosia checkpoints to Turkish Cypriot cars. However we hope to immediately see those guilty arrested and taken before court.”
Hundreds of secondary school children took part in the demonstrations in Nicosia with protests taking place near the checkpoint at the bottom of Ledra Street, and at Ayios Kassianos near the Famagusta Gate, as well as the one at the Ledra Palace hotel.
The education ministry also condemned the attacks saying it was opposed to any form of violence.
In Ayios Kassianos, chairman of the pupil co-ordinating committee (PSEM) said Cyprus could not remain the only divided country in Europe.
“And neither the modern world not Europe should tolerate the presence of an occupation army in their midst,” PSEM chairman Marios Prokopiou said. “And we cannot give out the impression that we are OK with the prospect of losing half our homeland, something which is happening unfortunately.”
Prokopiou said the biggest challenge for the Cypriot people was not to be reconciled with occupation. On a day like this, everyone must understand their responsibility towards history and fight for the freedom of Cyprus, he said.
The ongoing reunification talks were an unprecedented opportunity to resolve the Cyprus problem, he added, stressing that “everyone must act as a shield for President Anastasiades and support him to achieve the much desired solution in the talks.”
The second demonstration at Ledra Street was closely monitored by riot police, which installed barricades as officers lined up in front of the crossing point.