The leader of the London Borough of Waltham Forest has apologised to the UK’s Greek Cypriot community after the council granted permission to Turkish Cypriots to hoist the breakaway regime’s flag on Monday to mark the 38th anniversary since the north’s unilateral declaration of independence.
The move, however, angered Turkish Cypriots who launched a petition calling on her to resign.
The flag was hoisted on Monday at the Waltham Forest Town Hall in an event organised by Turkish Cypriots after getting permission from the local council.
It was, however, removed a few hours later after the National Federation of Cypriots in the UK protested to the council. The federation said this move was “deplorable, insensitive, and deeply provocative to Cypriots, not to mention disrespectful of the longstanding UK position on Cyprus of successive British governments.”
The protest prompted an apology from Council leader Grace Williams.
She said the event was part of the council’s cultural programme that aims to celebrate the diverse communities that make up Waltham Forest and the flag was raised after a request by a Conservative councillor. “We accept this remains a disputed territory not recognised by the UK government and will not be raising it in future,” Williams said.
The councillor also said the intention “is to celebrate our communities, not cause division” and apologised for the offence caused.
The removal of the flag, however, angered members of the Turkish Cypriot community who launched an online petition calling for Williams’ resignation. They said she had discriminated against Turkish Cypriots and deeply offended the community.
“It was a special moment not just for the dozens of Turkish Cypriots who had gathered outside the town hall, but also the tens of thousands who saw the event and news online. The joy and pride felt were enormous,” the petition said, of the hoisting of the flag. “Turkish Cypriots exist, and our rights, identity, and homeland deserve respect too,” it added.
They said Williams had essentially caved into complaints “by a small group of anti-Turkish racists” arguing that, for years, Waltham Forest Council has permitted a similar flag-raising ceremony for Tibet, which is also not recognised by the UK government.