Government spokesman Prodromos Prodromou urged the Turkish Cypriot side on Friday to refrain from politicising and taking advantage of the theft of a Turkish flag and a picture of former Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash by a 16-year-old Greek Cypriot from a school in Lysi village in the north.
“Any potential attempts from the occupied areas to politicise and take advantage of the incident would be very provocative at a time when the occupation regime and Turkey are making so many grossly illegal moves, seeking to perpetuate the occupation and the division and to create new unacceptable faits accomplis,” Prodromou said.
“Not one of us can compromise with what has been done and with symbols of the occupation,” he said, but stressed that “the occupation cannot be dealt with through individual actions and emotions.”
“We can definitely understand the emotional charge,” he said but added that logic must prevail.
The 16-year-old had stolen the items on September 8 from a primary school in Lysi, where he had gone along with around 2,000 Greek Cypriots for the first service held at the village church since 1974. He had slipped out of the service and entered the primary school nearby where he was caught on CCTV taking the flag and the picture of Denktash from the premises.
An announcement by the office of Turkish Cypriot ‘foreign minister’ Kudret Ozersay late on Thursday confirmed that authorities had officially issued an arrest warrant for the teen.
Snapshots of the CCTV footage, reminiscent of the tragic endeavour of Solomos Solomou in 1996, made the rounds of social media and news reports.
As the teen had taken the stolen items with him to the government-controlled areas through the Pergamos crossing, Ozersay’s office said efforts have been made through the UN for the return of the flag and picture. Unconfirmed reports said the items were returned to the north by Friday.
“Beyond the fact that the young man put himself at danger, caution is needed as there is also the risk to put into question our ability to one day hold services in our churches in the occupied territories,” Prodromou said.
Reports claim that Turkish Cypriot ‘Prime Minister’ Ersin Tatar will attend the flag hoisting ceremony of the school during the first day of the new academic year next Monday.
Critical commentary on the incident from the Greek Cypriot government and parties stopped with Prodromou, however. The two main parties, ruling Disy and opposition Akel did not issue any statements.
But the more hardline parties could not pass up the opportunity.
Solidarity said the 16-year-old “has nothing to be jealous of from the analogous heroic acts of the past,” though noted that it would not be wise to repeat such actions in fear of retaliation by the Turks, “who will be ready this time to kill our children in cold blood.” The party also asked that the state provide protection to the teen.
Far-right party Elam applauded the act as one of “national resistance,” and called on all youth, “the most lively and militant cell of this society, to remain at the forefront of the anti-occupation struggle.”
On Thursday, senior Diko official Chrysis Pantelides found himself under fire after congratulating the 16-year-old through a tweet that said that the action was “a brave, brash and risky act against the symbol of the occupying country in an occupied town. Well done to him.”
The tweet prompted a backlash with social media users reproaching Pantelides for encouraging such behaviours among teenagers and warned it could put the boy’s life at risk or others who might be prompted to imitate him.