Hundreds of people marched across northern Nicosia on Friday night to demand justice for the 24 Cypriot children who were killed when the hotel they were staying in in Turkey collapsed during last year’s earthquakes.

Protesters gathered at northern Nicosia’s bus station holding tiki torches, with the protest aimed at “shining a light on justice” for the 24 children and 11 other Cypriots who were killed.

They then marched to the Turkish Embassy in Nicosia as the sun began to set.

The protest had officially began at 4.03 on Friday morning, with the fathers of the children who were killed walking from the Famagusta Turk Maarif Koleji school, where the children studied, all the way to Nicosia to join the rest of the protesters in the evening.

Friday’s was the second such march to have taken place for this purpose, with a mass gathering having taken place in Famagusta, the children’s hometown, in November last year.

There, hundreds, including Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar and multiple members of the north’s ‘government’ marched from the Famagusta TMK to the town’s cemetery, where the children are buried.

img 7092

Tiki torches aflame at northern Nicosia’s bus station

 

At both protests, demonstrators demanded that those responsible for the collapse of the Isias hotel in Adiyaman, where the children were staying, be charged with intentionally killing all 35 Cypriots and 37 others who lost their lives on February 6 last year.

Rusen Yucesoylu Karakaya, whose daughter Selin was among those killed, and who leads the association of parents of the children who were killed, spoke outside the embassy.

She said, “we have always said from the very beginning that our case would face a long journey. Decisions were made during the process which hurt us. Our only cause is the truth shown by science and the rule of law.”

She added, “the search for justice will go on until all those responsible for that building, which 72 people’s grave, receive the heaviest penalties they deserve.

“Since the first day, we have put aside our wounds which will not heal, and we have said together that those who caused us this pain and destroyed a whole generation must be punished … Crimes have been proven and the criminals are known. The court must act in line with these facts.”

She then turned her attention to the trial of the 11 held responsible, which is set to resume on April 26 in Adiyaman.

We remember with every breath, with love and longing, each of our children and beloved teachers who will once again be present with us in Adiyaman, and we will defend our cause and be as one,” she said.

She added, “these names, which have been kept alive not only in this country but also in many parts of the world for 438 days, will always live and be kept alive.”

“If they think the criminals of the Isias hotel, which according to expert reports was reduced to a pile of sand in just 17 seconds and became our children’s grave, will be released and continue their lives, they are wrong,” she said.

She added, “until this case is concluded, we will always be after these murderers who took our loved ones away from us.”

img 7093

Protesters march towards the Turkish Embassy

 

A total of 11 people who have been held responsible for the hotel’s collapse will see their trial resume in Adiyaman on April 26, with the court having most recently convened in January.

All 11 defendants, including the hotel’s owner Ahmet Bozkurt and his two sons Mehmet Fatih Bozkurt and Efe Bozkurt, deny all wrongdoing. They stand accused of “causing death by conscious negligence”, and, if found guilty, could be jailed for up to 22 and a half years each.

However, the families of those killed and the entire Turkish Cypriot political spectrum have demanded that those charges be upgraded to charges of intentionally killing those inside the hotel.

Five of the defendants had been held in custody following the closure of proceedings in January, but two, including Efe Bozkurt, have since been released.

Karakaya and Pervin Ipekcioglu, whose daughter Serin was also amongst those killed at the Isias hotel, met with Turkish Justice Minister Yilmaz Tunc on Wednesday.

img 7095