By Loucas Charalambous
IF ONLY things were the way our politicians and journalists presented them, and the culprits responsible for the attacks on Turkish Cypriots earlier this week were indeed some marginalised troublemakers. But unfortunately it is not so.
And all of our journalists and politicians who think they have done their duty by offering some routine verbal condemnations would do well to explore the matter a little more deeply, and look for their own responsibilities in the aggressive behaviour of the louts.
I have written in the past about the repulsive phenomenon of aggressive behaviour towards Turkish Cypriots who cross south either to work or shop. I had suggested that this hideous behaviour was fuelled, to a large extent, by the general climate of hate and hostility cultivated by many politicians and some of the media against the Turkish Cypriots.
The political demagogues and rejectionist journalists can express their opinions and criticise those who support a settlement, but they do not have the right to cultivate, so thoughtlessly, hatred and hostility between the two communities.
Even the reporting of news is done in a way that cultivates hostility towards the Turkish Cypriots. The opposite has been happening in the north, where school teachers for several years now try to explain objectively to children the events that led to division, teach the need for re-unification and try to promote a conciliatory climate.
It is no coincidence that since 2003, when the checkpoints were opened, there have been millions of visits by Greek Cypriots to the north without any incident of violence against them being reported; in contrast there have been countless such incidents against Turkish Cypriots on our side. I will just mention the attacks on Turkish Cypriot cars at the traffic lights outside the Apoel club building in Nicosia. I witnessed attacks at this location on two occasions with louts rushing out of the club building and using iron bars to smash car windscreens and injuring the passengers. Nobody was ever punished for these disgraceful offences.
Above I also mentioned the role played by the media, and I will give an example of their irresponsible behaviour. In its edition of December 21, 2010, Phileleftheros, in a prominent position in its sports sections wrote the following: “There is information that Turkish Cypriots have shown an interest in visiting the free areas to watch tonight’s basketball match between Apoel and the Turkish side Karsiyaka at the Eleftheria stadium. Because in some cases the Turkish Cypriot supporters have been very provocative the police should ensure we do not have any incidents.”
Of course the police did not need Phileleftheros to advise it to take measures, but the report was inflammatory. The truth is that Turkish Cypriots have never caused episodes in our stadiums. They may have been very boisterous on one or two occasions when they attended matches at GSP stadium, but they did not cause trouble.
But the newspaper report could easily have roused passions. The louts could have easily thought, ‘as the newspaper reported they are coming to provoke we will go and show them…’ What other consequences could this so-called report have had?
The Turkish Cypriots never showed up that night, but the Karsiyaka players lived through a nightmare and were in danger of being burnt by fires started by the Greek Cypriot ‘fans’. Film footage and photographs were seen all over the world through the internet.
Our politicians and journalists, instead of unequivocally condemning this hooliganism and demanding the punishment of the perpetrators, made statements the following day, that were more provocative than the actions of the louts. Having mentioned the “unacceptable episodes”, they went on to attack Turkey because it engaged in a “propagandist exploitation of events”. Their statements almost condoned the violence.
We should therefore not be surprised if the louts continue their thuggish behaviour as happened last Monday. And they will not stop as long as those, who should be taking a leading role in eradicating this appalling behaviour, are in effect condoning it and acting like accomplices.