AN OPINION poll published earlier in the week by Turkish Cypriot newspaper Dialogue found that 89 per cent of Turkish Cypriots wants a number of Turkish soldiers to remain in Cyprus after a settlement. The same percentage considers that guarantees should remain as they are.
In fact, to a question of whether the status of the new state, as a member of the EU provided adequate security guarantee, 75.5 per cent responded negatively. The survey, which used a sample of 1,304 people, was conducted by the polling firm that correctly forecasted the win of Mustafa Akinci in the 2015 elections.
The survey’s findings are not a surprise. In the last 13 years, I have personally met hundreds of Turkish Cypriots – almost all of them had voted in favour of the Annan plan in 2004 – but none of them said they would accept a settlement that would not include some form of guarantee by Turkey.
It may seem strange that almost all moderate Turkish Cypriots who do not want links with Turkey still want the guarantees. What Turkey’s former prime minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, had told Andros Kyprianou when they met was no exaggeration. “The Turkish Cypriots might not want us, but they do not want to give up our guarantee.”
They have strong reasons for insisting on Turkey’s guarantees. Their experience, not only of 1963-64 but also of the last 13 years (since the crossings were opened), has made them feel they cannot trust us. There is on the other side a feeling of fear similar to the one that exists among a large number of the Greek Cypriots, which derives from the Turkish invasion of 1974.
It should be clarified here that at least on the part of the Turkish Cypriots a distinction is made that is correct. They are not afraid of Greek Cypriots in general. It is no coincidence that after 2003 a large number of Turkish Cypriots sought to get acquainted with Greek Cypriots and make friends on our side, a move that happened to a lesser extent the other way around.
What they are afraid of is that on our side there are always extremists who could act against them with impunity. In this respect, unfortunately our side has done all it could to make such fear justified. I am not just referring to the events of the sixties. In the years that passed since the opening of the checkpoints, our politicians and our state have behaved with criminal irresponsibility on this issue.
The cultivation of a climate of hate and hostility through incendiary rhetoric by a large section of our politicians stirred up and encouraged criminal acts committed against innocent Turkish Cypriots on our side, without anyone ever being arrested or punished. If you talked to Turkish Cypriots this impunity combined with the random attacks is the main argument they use to back the need for Turkey’s guarantees.
There have been many incidents of attacks on Turkish Cypriots or of damage caused to cars in the last 13 years. Outside the Apoel club-house in Nicosia there have been dozens of attacks on Turkish Cypriot cars by young thugs using iron bars; these thugs are unfortunately given shelter by the club. No-one has ever been arrested even though this would be easy for the police to do.
In November 2015, during the annual student demonstrations against the establishment of the ‘TRNC’, there were at least three attacks on Turkish Cypriots in their cars by young thugs on main streets of Nicosia. Nobody was detained and nobody was taken to court to be charged despite the fact – as had been reported subsequently – some of the perpetrators had been identified.
Neither the justice minister, nor the chief of police, nor the attorney-general have felt the need to explain this peculiar inability of the authorities to arrest and charge even one of the thugs involved in at least one of the hundreds of incidents against Turkish Cypriots. And they can convince nobody that expediency was not behind this failure to act.
We should bear in mind that the state and some of our politicians have a big responsibility for the fact that even moderate Turkish Cypriots, as the survey we mentioned above showed, are strongly opposed to the abolition of Turkey’s guarantees.