Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci on Wednesday said that there is no list of banned books in the north, after a female politician was arrested this week for allegedly possessing a book banned in Turkey.
Senior member of the Turkish Cypriot Republican Party (CTP), Bengul Garginsu, who is of Kurdish origin, was arrested in the north on Monday in connection with possession of a book that is banned in Turkey, written by the leader of the Kurdish Workers’ Party, the PKK. She was remanded in custody for two days.
Referring to the public debate on the arrest, Akinci said in a written statement that all disputes should be governed by the universal rules of law and human rights in a rational manner.
Akinci said that Turkish Cypriots have chosen to live their lives on the basis of democracy, freedom and human rights, but they also remain committed to the battle against the growth and spread of terrorism and violence.
“In this context, it is necessary not to damage the values of freedom and democracy in the fight against non-democratic approaches that threaten freedoms,” he said.
He said that legislators should make a clear distinction between violence and terrorism on the one hand, and democracy and freedom on the other.
Akinci said that instead of restricting freedoms in the north, “the trend towards strengthening freedoms should prevail, and measures should be taken to adopt the values of the modern world we feel we are part of.”
‘Interior Minister’ Aysegul Baybars, said that according to her information, Garginsu was not arrested only for possessing books banned in Turkey but also over accusations that she had participated in a terrorist organisation which is considered as a crime. Baybars said that investigations continue.
Garginsu’s lawyer had denied that his client was engaging in propaganda on behalf of the PKK. The PKK is considered a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the USA, the EU and Japan.
Following the arrest, social media was abuzz over whether there was a list of banned books in the north as there is in Turkey and many asked for the list to be published if it existed.
UniteCyprusNow (UCN) said on Wednesday it was deeply concerned about the arrest and the dangerous precedent to link book ownership with terrorism.
“We fear that this yet another attempt by Turkey to interfere in the democratic life of the Turkish Cypriots,” the group said in a written statement.
“We are encouraged by unified and instant reaction of the Turkish Cypriots with various political backgrounds against this intervention. This is yet another example that the Turkish Cypriots are well ahead of their political parties when it comes to protecting their own rights and liberties.”
This incident, the group said, “serves to remind all of us that the status quo is not secure. The period in which Turkish Cypriots will have any agency about their future is disappearing before our eyes.”
As “talks about talks” drag on, and “new models” are openly or covertly put forward, they said, “we are slipping quietly, but inexorably, into a de facto hard border with Turkey on Ledra Street. This means a more insecure future for all of us, and especially for our children.”
The group said that the time to unite Cyprus is now. “It is not enough to leave it to the politicians who have failed us for decades. It is up to us.”