Turgay Avci, chairman of the north’s higher education standards authority (Yodak), insisted on Monday that his own degree is real.

Avci had faced allegations that his degree, which he says he obtained from the American University of Beirut in 1985, was not authentic.

However, speaking to Kibris Postasi TV on Monday, he insisted that this is not the case.

He described the American University of Beirut as “one of the world’s leading universities”, and referred to the civil war which was raging in Lebanon during the 1980s.

“I did not give up at that time and graduated while bombs were falling.”

He also pointed out that he had worked at Famagusta’s Eastern Mediterranean University for 30 years, and that he had also served as the north’s ‘foreign minister’ under ‘prime minister’ Ferdi Sabit Soyer between 2006 and 2009.

“How could someone who has been involved in politics and with the Republic of Turkey for so many years have a fake degree?” he asked.

He added that he had filed a total of seven lawsuits to clear his name, and that he believes that “the correct decision will eventually be made in court.”

Additionally, he said he is only responsible to Ersin Tatar.

“I am responsible to the president. The president stood by the [Yodak] chairman he appointed because he knows the truth,” he said.

“I would not have done this if I had not graduated. I am not someone who you can write about left and right and destroy me. I have a wife who has suffered from very serious illnesses and two children who are lawyers. The allegations made are immoral.

“This job has now become a matter of honour for me,” he said, adding that he had sent a letter to the American University of Beirut authorising the north’s police and the Turkish foreign ministry to examine his degree certificate and records.

The allegations regarding the authenticity of Avci’s degree gained traction after the committee investigating the allegations concluded that there was no person named in the population records of either the Republic of Cyprus or in the north by the name Avci claims to have used while in Lebanon.

Avci says his degree was issued under the name “Turgay Salih Zeki”, and that this name was changed to Turgay Avci when the north, under the interim administration of the ‘Turkish federated state of Cyprus’, changed its law regarding the issuing of surnames.

He said that he then travelled to Lebanon and registered to study there under the name on his Republic of Cyprus passport, which was still Turgay Salih Zeki.

Unrelatedly, the American University of Beirut has operated a campus in Paphos since last year, with the foundation stone of a new campus building laid by President Nikos Christodoulides in June.

The Cyprus Mail contacted the American University of Beirut to verify Avci’s records and is awaiting a response.