Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar hit back on Friday after teachers protested his presence at an event to mark the north’s Teachers’ Day on Friday.

Tatar attended a customary event at the Ataturk cultural centre in northern Nicosia alongside ‘education minister’ Nazim Cavusoglu, but the presence of both was protested by a number of teachers present at the event.

Cyprus Turkish secondary education teachers’ union (Ktoeos) disciplinary board member Secil Toprak took to the stage and gave a speech in which she said: “We are used to giving lessons, and today, we would like to teach the pair of you the lesson of shame.”

At this point, chants erupted around the amphitheatre from union representatives and other teachers.

Recommencing her speech, Toprak said “they want to discredit teachers, and our rights are being usurped.”

“Today is not a day of celebration for us, but a day of fighting for ourselves,” she said. She then turned to Tatar and Cavusoglu and asked: “What are you trying to achieve by demotivating teachers and implementing decisions to move us away from secular education?”

“Maybe this time, the teachers will teach the lesson of shame, and after today, you will be able to put yourself in teachers’ shoes,” she said.

Tatar reacted in his own speech at the event, saying “it really saddened me that a teacher would look at us and say, ‘shame on us’.”

“People should come to their senses. If there is a fight, the basis of this fight should be a love of national, spiritual values, customs, traditions, culture, and Turkey, and loyalty to the nation,” he said.

He said teachers are “confusing children at an early age” and added that “the culture of conflict is unbecoming of teachers”.

Cavusoglu also took to the stage to defend himself and called on teachers to “ask the Turkish language association what the word ‘shame’ means”.

“We are not doing anything to upset teachers or embarrass teachers or be ashamed of what we did during our time in office,” he added.

The event took place just hours after a number of teachers had protested outside northern Nicosia’s district court over charges filed against 22 of their colleagues for “battering the police” at a protest in August last year.

The case will resume on December 15.