The decision of a 17-year-old enclaved boy from Rizokarpaso to convert to Islam should not be politicised the Commissioner for Humanitarian Affairs Photis Photiou said on Wednesday.
Public opinion is divided over news that the teen decided to convert. There are around 500 people enclaved living in Rizokarpaso, 70 per cent of whom are aged over 65.
“This is an isolated case and it should not be politicised. It is a humanitarian and social issue,” Photiou told the Cyprus Mail.
The 17-year-old comes from a large family facing a number of problems, and he also decided to drop out of school, despite the fact he is a top student.
“He was an excellent student, especially in math and physics, and he was to graduate this year, but he refused to continue going to the school possibly out of fear that he might be pressured to reconsider,” Photiou said.
He added that the issue began three years ago and that many efforts have been made by himself, the school and the community, to convince the teen to change his decision.
The boy comes from a large family, Photiou said, “the mother abandoned them a few years ago” and through pressure from problems faced he decided to follow Islam.
“I am in constant communication with the father. He has to take care of six children aged between 12 and 20 and there are multiple problems,” Photiou said.
He added that he tried to convince the boy to spend a period of time in the government controlled areas, and that they also offered him a study scholarship but the 17-year-old refused.
“He refuses to be approached by everyone, including his own father,” Photiou said.
Reports in the media said that the enclaved expressed fears that his other siblings might be influenced, and convert to Islam as well. According to the same reports, members of the enclaved community blamed the Church for this as they feel the religious education of the enclaved youth is not among its priorities.
“I don’t believe they are so alarmed, this is an isolated case and it began some time ago. It did not affect the other students,” Photiou said.
A Rizokarpaso community member, who wished to remain anonymous, told the Cyprus Mail that it is natural that the enclaved youth would be influenced as they interact with settlers from Turkey their whole lives.
“They live together, they play together as children, they grow up together, and it is understandable that they are influenced. The government urged those people to remain there to keep the place Greek, but many have been ruined. This is the sad truth,” the source said.
Reactions as to the news on social media ranged between “who cares?” , to others who feared the teen might join ISIS. Many commentators however, slammed a media outlet that tried to sensationalise the incident and said that the boy should be free to do as he likes. Some slammed the government and its policies as to the enclaved that led to this incident.