Angry Turkish Cypriots protest economic woes, international isolation

Turkish Cypriots, angry about an economic downturn and political dependence on Turkey, have started taking to the streets to protest, the Guardian newspaper reported.

Nationals of the breakaway state, heavily reliant on Turkey economically, are suffering from a slump in the value of the lira and rising prices.

“Turkey should keep its hands off Cyprus and take its lira and go away,” Şener Elcil, the head of Turkish Cypriot Teachers’ Union (KTÖS) and an outspoken opponent of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his policies toward northern Cyprus, told the Guardian on Sunday.

Thousands of Turkish Cypriots have taken to the streets due to the economic situation that has left many struggling to make ends meet. And ahead of the parliamentary elections scheduled for Jan.23, calls for a boycott are mounting, the Guardian said.

“Turkey is our biggest problem,” Elcil said.

Five years ago, teachers were earning the equivalent of 1,100 euros ($1,245) a month as a starting salary, however today they take home 350 euros ($395) because of the losses for the lira, Elcil told the Guardian.

Cyprus has been ethnically divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded the north in response to a Greek Cypriot coup aimed at uniting the island with Greece. The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), founded in 1983, controls the northern third of the island and is only recognised by Turkey, which provides it with financial aid in liras.

The breakaway territory’s economy relies heavily on mainland Turkey, where a financial storm has erupted after its central bank cut interest rates to 14 percent from 19 percent over the past three months despite a jump in inflation to 36.1 percent. The lira has hit successive record lows against the dollar.

Turkish Cypriots are also tired of international isolation and things will only get worse, Elcil said.

“Partition is so close,” said İzzet İzcan, the leader of United Cyprus Party (BKP), one of three left wing groups that have announced they will be abstaining from this month’s parliamentary vote.

Ersin Tatar, the President of the TRNC, is Turkey’s puppet and his pro-partition policies are not in the Turkish Cypriot community’s interests, İzcan said.

Tatar, strongly backed by Ankara, is now insisting on a two-state solution to the Cyprus problem. Informal talks on the island’s future, held in Geneva in late April, broke down after Tatar ruled out negotiations based on a bizonal, bicommunal federation advocated by the United Nations and Western powers.

Efforts to forge a mutually acceptable solution to the Cyprus problem may become impossible unless both sides take determined steps, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said in reports submitted to the U.N. Security Council last week.

“The only way to oppose them is to fight all together,” İzcan told the Guardian.

“Elections are no longer representing the real will of ordinary Turkish Cypriots. They’re like a game planned and played by Turkey,” he said.

“Our main problem is political. Our economic difficulties are the result of a political situation, of Turkey continuing its military occupation of the north by means of the lira.”


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