Hundreds of Turkish Cypriots took to the streets on Friday evening to protest against the north’s ‘government’.

The protest had been called on by a total of 32 political parties, trade unions, and civil society groups, with marchers making their way down northern Nicosia’s arterial Dereboyu avenue, into the walled city and past Ersin Tatar’s official residence, before gathering in front of the ‘parliament’ building.

The central theme of the protest was that Turkish Cypriots have been “cut to the bone” by what the groups call poor political management, corruption, and a lack of direction at the top of the north’s administration.

During the march, chants rang out calling for an end to poverty, and saying that the “thieves” at the top of the north’s politics “will be held accountable”, while many chanted, “this is only the beginning, the fight will continue”. Boos also rang out among the crowds as they passed Tatar’s official residence.

High profile opposition figures in the north attended the protest, including incumbent Akel MEP and candidate for re-election in June Niyazi Kizilyurek, fellow MEP candidate for Volt Hulusi Kilim, Turkish Cypriot Nicosia mayor Mehmet Harmanci, north opposition party CTP general secretary Asim Akansoy, and fellow opposition party TDP leader Zeki Celer.

Speaking to the Cyprus Mail, Kilim said, “this protest is all about the effort the Turkish Cypriots are putting in in the defence of their own political will. It is about standing against corruption, it is about standing against all sorts of things which are going wrong with the country.”

He added that “people are raising their voices because all these years, all we are seeing is that things are getting worse and worse, so people are feeling upset about the direction that the country has taken.

It’s not going forwards, it’s going backwards, and people are saying that this is enough, and this is the overall message that people are sending today, it is enough.”

Zeki Celer also spoke to the Cyprus Mail, and said, “the Turkish Cypriots are living through very serious economic problems. Outside of that, corruption, illegal acts, and ethical problems being experienced are overwhelming this society.

The Turkish Cypriot community cannot stand such ridicule any longer, and as such has chosen to take action and raise its voice against its government officials and politicians.”

He added that Turkish Cypriots “usually take action against their government in a less aggressive manner, and typically their biggest action is at the ballot box.”

However, he said, “in response to these problems, economic crises, corruption, illegal actions, and other actions which bring shame upon the Turkish Cypriot community, trade unions, civil society organisations, and political parties have come together and taken action.”

When the protestors arrived at the ‘parliament’ building, they held a minute’s silence for the 24 Cypriot children and 11 adults who were killed when the Isias hotel in the Turkish city of Adiyaman collapsed during last year’s earthquakes which hit the region.

The trial of the 11 people held responsible for their deaths was going on in Adiyaman as the protest was taking place.

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Protestors make their way down Dereboyu avenue

Following the minute’s silence Cyprus Turkish secondary education teachers’ union (Ktoeos) chairwoman Selma Eylem gave a speech to the crowd.

She repeated the protest’s central message, that Turkish Cypriots have been “cut to the bone”, and decried the “theft, robbery, plunder, bribery, extortion, and money laundering schemes which have been created in the northern part of our island.”

She also criticised “this rotten order created by uninspected universities and educational institutions, fake diplomas, fuel purchases without tenders, tax evasion, illegal residence permits, citizenships being handed out, bribery, and human trafficking” which she said is rampant in the north.

“Questionable people who should be prosecuted have come to rule our country,” she said, adding that the north’s public services have seen “no investment” and that “teachers, pharmacists, doctors, and journalists are given no respect.”

She went on to say that “our democratic values are being destroyed”, but that “we will continue our fight until the swamp that has been created is drained and those who carry out these disgraceful acts, the enemies of the people, are held accountable.”

She then called for the “noblemen who created this scheme of plundering” to be “brought to trial in an open and transparent manner”.

“We will continue our fight until the will of the Turkish Cypriots and our right to self-governance are won,” she said.

She closed her speech by demanding for negotiations for a solution to the Cyprus problem to be reopened, adding, “we will continue our fight until we reach a federal solution and European Union membership, and until the north of our island is included in international law.”

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The first protestors arrive in front of the north’s ‘parliament’ building