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Turkish Cypriots to sue Republic of Cyprus for citizenship discrimination

Sener Elcil head of KTOS union

Around 1,000 Turkish Cypriots are planning to sue the Republic of Cyprus on the grounds of discrimination for its alleged refusal to grant them citizenship.

The case concerns applicants with one Turkish Cypriot parent and one from Turkey or another country who has been refused citizenship by the Republic of Cyprus.

The action has been in the works for months now, largely coordinated by teaching unions Ktos and Ktoeos in the north, and a meeting on Thursday is set to decide on the next steps.

Ktos general-secretary Sener Elcil told the Cyprus Mail on Tuesday that both Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot lawyers were going to be on board, although their names would only be official by the end of the week.

“We are going to use all legal ways – through the courts but also protests in front of parliament and the presidential palace,” he said

Thursday’s meeting is set to be a briefing where legal experts will get an overview of the case set to go before court.

Turkish Cypriot lawyer Murray Hakki told the Cyprus Mail he had agreed on principle to take on the case.

“Some children are being punished for having parents from mainland Turkey,” and thus “the action or inaction of the Republic of Cyprus is discriminatory and an abuse of discretion.”

Elcil said he had had met with ombudswoman Maria Stylianou Lottides in November, but that she had not been particularly helpful.

“She was too afraid to even take a picture with us,” he said.

This attitude serves to push Turkish Cypriots to get Turkish citizenship, Elcil added.

One applicant, a 36-year-old pregnant woman who did not wish to be named said not only was she never able to get a Cypriot citizenship, both sides made it impossible for her to get married to a Greek Cypriot.

“I worry for myself but also the future of my child,” she said.

The woman’s mother was a Turkish Cypriot born in Limassol and her father Turkish.

The two had met in Izmir, Turkey and when her father was visiting Famagusta to meet his in-law’s, the invasion took place.

“My father was a student, never involved in the war.”

Nonetheless, they couple got married in 1974 and the applicant was born in Kyrenia in 1981.

Applications for a Cypriot citizenship have been refused on the grounds that her father’s entry in Famagusta port was illegal.

Her attempts to use her mother’s Cypriot citizenship in her own application have been in vain.

Six years ago, she met a Greek Cypriot man. They were unable to get married in government-controlled areas as she was asked to bring residency documents and a work permit, she claims.

“They treated me like a refugee (settler). I told them I don’t have a work permit because I already have Turkish citizenship.” That gives the woman the right to be in employment without needing such documentation.

In Turkey, where they tried to get married, authorities made things hard for them, primarily due to her husband being Greek Cypriot.

“We stayed there for two months and they wouldn’t let us get married.

“In the end, we had a party in 2014, I put on a dress and we got married.”

The ‘marriage’ was in fact just a party and the two are still not legally married.

There are several cases of a similar sort, Elcil said, which they brand as unconstitutional.

In the past, he said several people have turned to bribes in a bid to obtain Cypriot citizenships.

The woman acknowledges the fight might be long in court ‘but I want to win’.

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