There is no censorship in Cyprus, Education Minister Prodromos Prodromou said on Saturday when asked to comment on the issue of an English textbook that was withdrawn over a reference to Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish Republic.

The ministry withdrew the book after its previous instructions to “tear out” the ‘offending’ page sparked outrage when posted on Facebook by an English teacher earlier in the week.

The page in question contains a reference to Ataturk, the first president of the newly formed Turkish Republic one century ago, in an exercise called ‘Turkey’s greatest hero’. It also has an exercise about the famous Mexican communist artist Frida Kahlo and her husband Diego Rivera.

Following the strong reactions, the ministry appeared to make things worse with a statement announcing the book’s withdrawal.

Speaking to Cybc on Saturday morning, Prodromou admitted that the ministry could have better handled the situation, saying that the move was rash and came from a position of paranoia.

“We have no need to tear out book pages,” he said, adding that the English book was among nine others reviewed by the ministry ahead of the beginning of the school year, and claiming the specific page must have slipped officials’ attention.

“No pages have been ripped out, because as far as the ministry is concerned, the book does not exist,” he said.

Prodromou echoed the ministry’s statement from earlier in the week by saying Ataturk was linked to crimes like the Armenian, Pontian and Assyrian genocides, and pogroms against Greeks in Smyrni and elsewhere.

He then speculated the book was made for Turkish schools, as its contents beyond the ‘offending’ page, such as references to Turkish cities and names, seem to be geared towards a Turkish audience.

He concluded that an English classroom is not the place for political and ideological debate, which is neither useful nor beneficial in this case.