Cyprus Mail
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The children of a different god

comment christosthe rights of cypriot citizens cannot be differentiated depending on their religious orientations
The rights of Cypriot citizens cannot be differentiated depending on their religious orientations
It’s time to change the rules over granting Cyprus citizenship


In contrast to paragraphs 1 to 5 of Article 49 of the Geneva Convention of 1949, which address the issue of the deportation and the forceful displacement of the local population by an occupying force, paragraph 6 of Article 49 refers to the population movements in the opposite direction, i.e., the “colonisation” of the occupied territories, with the aim of distorting the pre-existing demographic balance in the area of the settlement. These actions are also considered unacceptable by the Geneva Convention.

I suspect that Turkey will be quick to defend against the accusation that in Cyprus she has consistently violated the provisions of Article 49 of the Geneva Convention, that the relocation of the Greek Cypriots from the north to the south of Cyprus was effected on a “voluntary” basis, while the movement of the Turkish Cypriots from the south to the north was effected with the consent of the Greek Cypriot leadership. The truth is somewhat different. Both Greek and Turkish Cypriots fled south and north respectively to secure their physical survival, by running as far away as possible from the battlefields and the crossfire of the warring forces.

Thus, in a matter of days, the ethnic dispersion of the population of Cyprus was fundamentally changed, giving rise to a “bizonal” set up which had far-reaching political repercussions. Unfortunately, the leaders of the Greek Cypriot community failed to appreciate the significance of these developments and consequently irresponsibly embarked on a “long-term struggle”, which inevitably led to consolidating the faits accomplis.

Given the numerical imbalance of the displaced populations (the relationship between the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots was 80:20 per cent) and the occupying force’s clear refusal to allow the Greek Cypriots to return to their homes, it was natural and inevitable that the Greek Cypriots would be confronted with acute housing and jobs shortages in the south while in the north there would be an abundance of unoccupied residential facilities and an underutilised business infrastructure. These imbalances helped attract settlers from mainland Turkey.

Although a sizeable portion of Turkish settlers who settled in northern Cyprus for economic reasons were of Kurdish origin, there is little doubt that the settlement of Turkish nationals in northern Cyprus has been encouraged and assisted by the occupying power through the provision of financial and other incentives.

However, regardless of the unquestionable responsibility of the occupying power for such delinquent behaviour, it must be underlined that the blame cannot be extended to the settlers themselves and – even more so – to their descendants, particularly where the children were born in Cyprus from mixed marriages between Cypriot and Turkish nationals.

Clearly, the position adopted by a minute minority of Greek Cypriots that granting Cypriot nationality should be confined to children born in Cyprus by reference to their religious beliefs is totally unacceptable. Cyprus is a secular state and the rights (and the obligations) of Cypriot citizens cannot be differentiated depending on their religious orientations.

In my opinion, the problem of the settlers in Cyprus must be tackled with realism and human compassion for the simple reason that it is not possible to punish a human being born and raised in Cyprus because, in the distant past, their Cypriot father or mother chose to have an alien as a husband or wife. It follows that even those who have been born and raised in Cyprus must probably be treated as being entitled – under clearly defined conditions – to a Cyprus citizenship, even though both parents happen to be non-Cypriots.

A realistic approach might be the immediate granting/confirmation of citizenship to all permanent residents of Cyprus, born in Cyprus and having at least one parent who was a Cypriot citizen at the time of birth of the person seeking Cypriot citizenship.

It would not be unreasonable to give a similar right to those borne from “non-mixed” marriages, provided the following conditions are satisfied: 1. their principal permanent residence is in Cyprus and they intend to keep it there;

  1. must have lived in Cyprus for a substantially uninterrupted period of at least 15 years;
  2. must have paid social insurance contributions (in Cyprus or in another country with which Cyprus has a treaty for the mutual recognition of social insurance contributions) for a period of at least 10 years.
  3. The applicant must be able to financially support themselves, their spouse and underage children.
  4. He/she must be able to communicate in at least two of the following languages: one of the official languages of the European Union, Turkish and English.

In all the above cases of granting/ratifying Cyprus citizenship, a prerequisite should be the unconditional acceptance of the Republic of Cyprus becoming a bicommunal, bizonal federation, to the exclusion of the partition of the country into two independent states and the annexation of the whole or a part of Cyprus by a third country.

Given that this undertaking constitutes a fundamental provision of the Cyprus Constitution – which will continue to be one of the cornerstones of the Federal Republic of Cyprus – it is entirely logical to link the granting of Cyprus citizenship to the unconditional acceptance of the aforementioned commitment. In the case of non-mixed marriages, this should incorporate the state’s option to withdraw the citizenship granted in the event of failing to complete the transformation of Cyprus into a federated state, within 10 years of the granting of the citizenship.

I believe that the immediate implementation of such or similar measures will greatly facilitate the attainment of an agreed solution of the Cyprus problem, because it will greatly alleviate the fears associated with an uncertain future that preoccupy many Turkish Cypriots and Turkish nationals permanently residing in northern Cyprus.


Christos Panayiotides is a regular columnist for the Sunday Mail and Alithia

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