Saturday, 28 February 2015

‘Three quarters of Maraş (Varosha) illegally occupied by Greek Cypriots’ claims former Evkaf head


A series of conferences in London by Taner Derviş, the former head of Evkaf, last month has turned on its head all perceptions about the ownership of the Cypriot town of Maraş. Among the many bold claims Derviş made were that Evkaf land was never sold by Turkish Cypriots to the British and evidence gleaned from title deeds “prove” that Turkish-owned property was “illegally transferred” to mostly Greek Cypriot owners while the island was under British rule.

Under Turkish control and uninhabited since the 1974 War, Maraş (also known as Varosha) is part of Famagusta district on the eastern coast of Cyprus. The town is presented by the Greek Cypriot side as inalienably “theirs”. Resolutions have been passed by the United Nations and European Parliament demanding its return to its “lawful” inhabitants, while South Cyprus leaders regularly put forward motions that Greek Cypriots be allowed to return as a confidence-building preliminary to the Cyprus talks.

Some on the Turkish side have long claimed Maraş is Turkish-owned, but have failed to present any significant facts to support their case. Any information that has been forthcoming, usually via media reports, is often in Turkish and not easy to find for those outside of the island.

Titled ‘Property and compensation rights of Evkaf Foundation and the Issue of Maraş’, Derviş’ comprehensive presentation aimed from the outset to demonstrate that this once fashionable seaside town that was frequently graced by British and Hollywood stars is, in fact, legally Turkish-owned.

Maraş measures 2.3 square miles and, according to Derviş, Evkaf owns the deeds to some 500,000 dönums – pretty much the entire area.

The Ottomans formed Evkaf in Cyprus in 1571

Sultan Selim II ruled when the Ottomans conquered Cyprus
When the Ottomans conquered the island back in 1571, one of the first things they set up was the Evkaf (short for Kıbrıs Vakıflar İdaresi or the Islamic Trust of Cyprus). The Sultan’s edict laid down the principles for its administration. These state that any property bequeathed to Evkaf for the benefit of Cyprus’ Muslim community is ‘irrevocable, perpetual and inalienable’. Should Evkaf be deprived of its property, it must be compensated for loss of use and revenue.

Over the centuries, new articles governing the administration of Trust property have been added. Derviş said these 485 articles have become embedded into the Laws of Cyprus, citing the core ones that shaped the formation and running of vakıf (foundation) land. For example, Article 11: Vakfieths (deeds of dedication) Irrevocable states: “A vakfieth registered under the provisions of section 9 shall be deemed to be irrevocable and the dedicator of the vakf shall have no power to rescind such vakf.”

Other Articles clearly state how land bequeathed to Evkaf perpetually remains its property and cannot be transferred by the Evkaf Mütevelli (Administrator), the dedicator or their heirs. Articles also exist that spell out the specific circumstances under which administrators may exchange Evkaf property for that of equivalent value and how Evkaf should be compensated if its property is forcefully seized by trespassers.

Evkaf rights embedded in Cyprus Law and international treaties

Britain prized away the island from the weakened Ottomans in 1878. During World War I, when the two sides were at war with each other, Cyprus’ status changed from a British Protectorate to being under British occupation. With the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the island became a Crown colony in 1922. The Treaty of Lausanne signed the following year included safeguards about Evkaf property. Article 60 of the Treaty stated that trusts created under the Ottomans shall be maintained under British rule.

These same principles are also included in the Republic of Cyprus’ Constitution of 1960. Article 110 clearly states that “no legislative, executive or other act whatsoever shall contravene or override or interfere with such Laws or Principles of Vakfs.”

In addition to these, Derviş pointed to the many legal precedents that were formed as a result of these laws being applied during the last one hundred years. Among key cases he cited involving Evkaf ownership rights being upheld were for the Arabahmet Aqueduct in Nicosia in 1914 and Tersefan farmland in Larnaca in 1958. 

Later, the international treaties that led to the creation of an independent Cyprus also acknowledged these Trust rights. 

Interestingly, Annex E of the Treaty of the Establishment of the Republic of Cyprus, which was signed in 1960, states that the newly formed state must bear “all legal liabilities and obligations incurred by the government of the Colony of Cyprus” as if they had been incurred by itself.
Archbishop Makarios (centre) and Sir Hugh Foot (right) for the UK, signing the Treaty of the Establishment of the Republic of Cyprus in 1960
Appendix U of the same Treaty also states that the British Government is, “making available the sum of £1,500,000 by way of a grant to the Turkish community in Cyprus to be used for education, the development of Vakf property and cultural and other like purposes.”

Derviş, who spent 32 years working at Evkaf, believes this grant by the British to Turkish Cypriots is the root of the popular myth about the so-called sale of Evkaf land. Many Cypriots were deliberately – but falsely – led to believe that “Maraş was sold to the British by Denktaş and Küçük in 1955 for £1.5 million” – an assertion that was firmly rejected by the two Turkish Cypriot leaders. For a start, in 1955 Turkish Cypriots did not even have control of Evkaf – its administration rested with Britain until 1956 – and moreover there are no deeds or other legal proof documenting such a sale, only the reference under Appendix U of the 1960 Treaty of the Establishment of the Republic of Cyprus.

British and Greek Cypriots complicit in illegal transfer of Evkaf property

Derviş underlined the fact that the Treaty of Establishment passed any earlier wrong-doing by the British entirely on to the Cypriot government. He claims there is plenty of evidence detailing the illegal transfer of Evkaf property throughout British Rule.

Another element Derviş repeatedly emphasised was that Evkaf is the “greatest landowner in CyprusOver the centuries, many Cypriot Muslims left land to Evkaf, hence its accumulation of huge wealth, but this was not at the expenses of others on the island.

Derviş reminded the audience that prior to the reign of the Ottomans, Greek Cypriots, who are Orthodox Christians, had lived as serfs under Catholic Venetian rule. This changed when the Turks arrived, who granted them numerous rights, including ownership of land. 

In 1924, two years after Cyprus formally passed into British hands, a land census showed that roughly one third was owned by the Sultan (now the State), one third by Muslims, and one third by non-Muslims (the latter two comprising a mixture of individuals and institutions).

Following the collapse of Ottoman rule, much Evkaf land was usurped by Greek Cypriots – primarily individuals, but also businesses, schools and the Greek Orthodox Church, who all helped themselves to Turkish-owned land. Derviş argued that Britain was complicit in enabling these unlawful transfers. Laws were ignored, court decisions in favour of Evkaf were not upheld, key documents were ‘lost’ and Evkaf resources were mismanaged.

To prove this, Derviş presented numerous title deeds from the past century where Evkaf-owned land was clearly unlawfully transacted by the central government. The vast majority of these deeds, he said, list names of Greek Cypriots as the new ‘owners’, all authorised by British officials. Through this Derviş claims some 77% of Maraş became illegally occupied by Greek Cypriots. He adds that his research exposes the same situation of usurpation and unlawful occupation across the entire southern part of the island.

Arestis & Lordos in legal battle with Evkaf over Maraş

This significant body of evidence assembled by Derviş and his team at Evkaf sheds a whole new light on key property judgments in Cyprus, such as in the Arestis case. In 2005, Ms. Xenides-Arestis won a claim of compensation against the Turkish side at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) without providing any deeds to the land she claimed her family owns in Maraş.

Evkaf was initially not a party to the Arestis case at the ECHR. Treated as a test case, its outcome paved the way for over 1,400 others to push for similar legal satisfaction, which prompted the European Court to rule that it was better for a local body – the internationally accepted Immovable Property Commission (IPC) in the TRNC – to find lawful remedies in not just the Arestis, but also all the other property cases involving Greek Cypriot refugees originally from North Cyprus.

The ECHR judgment meant it was left to the IPC to review and decide the appropriate remedies for claims made by refugees from Maraş. Among those applying was Andreas Lordos. Recently deceased, Lordos was one of the island’s wealthiest men prior to the events of 1974 and a big developer in the seaside resort, owning five hotels, and several apartment blocks.
Andreas Lordos, who died in Feb. 2012, one of 12 Greek Cypriot
refugees battling Evkaf over Maraş
In 2012, Lordos was among those who objected to Evkaf’s application to join the cases involving Maraş. 

Evkaf’s lawyer had initially presented evidence to the IPC from the Famagusta Land Registry, which showed the Arestis land was actually owned by the Abdullahpasha Vakfı and had been unlawfully transferred to a Greek Cypriot individual. This deed had failed to record either the amount or the purpose of the exchange, so in addition to being constitutionally estopped (prior laws prevented such transfers), the contract was also not legal as there was no consideration (payment).

Due to the objections against Evkaf from Lordos and the other Maraş refugees, the matter transferred to the TRNC’s Constitutional Court, which took Lordos as the test case. The TRNC Court took the view that it was important to determine the lawful owners of property before any remedies could be agreed to compensate for loss of use, or to award restitution or exchange. Given the comprehensive evidence Evkaf presented, the Court ruled the Trust should be admitted as a party to the all Maraş claims before the IPC.

Derviş also produced copies of the Arestis deeds in Parliament. These are dated September 1913, October 1949 and February 1974, all showing the unlawful transfer of Evkaf land to the Arestis family. He said as part of its legal action, Evkaf was itself demanding restitution and compensation from the IPC.

Why is Evkaf only now asserting its property rights?

When asked by one listener in Parliament why such evidence was only just coming to light, Derviş answered that it was important to provide clear, unequivocal proof about ownership, which had taken decades to compile. Some deeds were in the Ottoman archives, the others were split between the Turkish and Greek Cypriot Land Registries. The South, he said, is not interested in helping to prove Evkaf ownership and until recently, there was no digital technology to help pull the pieces together. However a partial map of land ownership in Cyprus and the illegal occupation of Evkaf land, backed by deeds and other legal proof, were now emerging.
Taner Derviş (front) with (from L-R) Lady Butterworth, TRNC London Rep. Oya Tuncali, Ersu Ekrem of BTCA, Lord Maginnis and Mr Tuncali at House of Commons on 28 Jan. 2015
Other questions put to Derviş in Parliament and his responses are summarised as follows:
-          Was there was a paper trail detailing land bequeathed to the Islamic Trusts? Yes.
-          Is Apostolos Andreas Monastery on Vakıf (Islamic Trust) land? Not sure, but don’t think so.
-          Do digital copies of these documents exist? Currently no. We are at tip of iceberg with the paper copies, as it is taking time to mine the considerable British, Ottoman and Cypriot property archives. It will take additional time to transfer all online. But I can send scanned copies of what I have to any who request.
-          Is it morally right for a religious scheme set up 500 years ago to still prevail? It’s the Ottomans who paved the way for Greek Cypriots to be landowners and why today the Greek Orthodox Church is so wealthy.
-          Is the Cyprus Government responsible for ‘mistakes’ made by the British over Evkaf land? Yes, the Republic of Cyprus agreed to this when the island became independent.
-          Can Maraş help a Cyprus solution? Politics will determine the outcome of the talks and who governs specific territory across the island, but the Law will still be needed to determine the rightful owners of land.
-          Will Evkaf’s claims help or hinder the current climate in Cyprus? Giving clarity on the legal ownership of land can only help a fair solution for all.
-          Surely Britain, as rulers of the island, had the right to change laws and even take over Evkaf land, as the Ottomans had done when they conquered Cyprus? The British usurped Evkaf law as early as 1907 – way before they had such rights. Moreover, they have legally committed to protecting and upholding laws governing Evkaf rights and property.
-          If British responsible, why not chase them for Evkaf compensation? These are not one-sided actions. There was complicity with Greek Cypriots, who benefited from these unlawful transactions.

“What matters is the truth about who really owns Maraş”

After the Derviş Parliament talk, Leyla Kemal, one of the attendees, told T-VINE: “It’s so important to know about our roots. It doesn’t matter how long it has taken, what matters is the truth about who really owns Maraş. And that the law is properly and fairly applied for all in Cyprus.”

Late it may be, but the thorough and detailed work by Derviş and others on Evkaf property rights stands to be a real game changer in Cyprus.


London conference to shed light on real owners of Maraş / Varosha, 21 Jan. 2015

Friday, 27 February 2015

Londoners delighted by the harmonious East-West sounds of Tanini Trio


Londoners were treated to a virtuoso performance from three renowned Turkish musicians last Wednesday, 18 February. Collectively known as Tanini Trio, Tahir Aydoğdu (kanun), Bilgin Canaz (ney), Hakan A. Toker (piano) performed a selection of their own compositions to a 400-capacity audience at King’s Place in central London.

Their beautiful instrumental songs seamlessly married traditional Turkish folk and classical music with Western sounds, evoking a range of emotions in the listeners. From the mellow, yet playful piano and kanun, to the ney-led mystical roots of Anatolia, the music resonated well with the diverse audience, which included the London ambassadors for Turkey, Uruguay, and South Korea, who gave the band a 2-minute standing ovation at the end.

You can see two short clips of Tanini Trio live in London here and here

Titled “Touches”, Tanini Trio’s evening of music has been staged all over the world as part of their efforts to promote global peace and friendship through music. The concert also travelled to Scotland, where the band performed at the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow on Friday 20th. Both events were free to attend and were organised by the Yunus Emre Institute London, supported by the Turkish Consulate General Edinburgh and the Turkish Culture and Information Office in London.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

FOCUS: Remembering Osman Türkay on his 88th birth anniversary


By Semra Eren-Nijhar

Former Culture Minister of Turkey, a cultural historian, poet and translator Prof. Dr. Talat Halman once observed that Osman Türkay’s (16 February 1927 – 24 January 2001) work combined Blake’s apocalyptic vision which Eliot’s gloomy depictions of modern civilisations. Not only does Dr. Halman make this comparison, but he goes further to say that the scope of Türkay’s work arches over the entire geography of world culture.

Osman Türkay was an internationally acclaimed Turkish Cypriot poet and writer. He was nominated twice for the Nobel Prize for Literature – in 1988 and in 1992 – and has been accredited with many awards and honours nationally and internationally for his contribution to literature.

Although he was Nobel Prize nominee, anyone who wants to buy his books will struggle. Even though he was one of the few poets whose work was translated into many different languages, well before world literature circles discovered other Turkish writers and poets these past two decades, it is nearly impossible to find copies of Türkay’s works in book shops around the world, especially in English.

It is sad to note that Osman Türkay who created a kind of ultra-modernist new poetry, is on the verge of being forgotten, except in his native country of Northern Cyprus.

As someone who has been conducting research on Osman Türkay’s work over the last twelve years, I am still discovering, exploring, uncovering and coming across something new in his poetry and writings. It is a very deep and wide ocean; the deeper you dive in, the more you discover. It is an ocean where his thoughts rises like waves of philosophical wisdom.

                                       I walk and how thoughtfully, the places towards times
                                       I stand for a meaning in the abstraction of numbers
                                       Words on tongues, sounds in stars
                                       And a bell rings down the throat of a camel
                                       Words echo, sounds echo, brain echo
                                       As if they collide and crash the mountains in a fight.

His writings are like the eye of his mind intelligently going from one planet to another, to explore the meaning of what is to be being a human on Earth. He describes planet Earth in his poems with a musical rhythm about the Earth’s soul, inspired while listening to Beethoven, Bach and Mozart.

                                       Convulsion is a pre-Chaotic silenced
                                       Time supervenes: Light.
                                       Mask which descends on a frightful face,
                                       Earth settles: Water

                                       His freezing heart beats in a mountain lake
                                       and in the depth of the sky is Hammerklavier!

His concept of inner-space is composed in his poems as messages. The messages reflect the pictures of his spiritual world. Türkay has seen the universe as part of the creation and focused his theories around cosmogony. His artistic productivity found a base also in his writings where he combined Earth’s past and future as a whole which are intertwined with each other.

We are witnessing the horrific dangers and the destruction of our environment by man-made science. The risks are clearly far too high and the price of human tragedy too heavy and words of the politicians and big business too hollow to be believed.

Türkay was well ahead of his time and the technological progress influenced his poetry. He chose the subjects for his poetry on themes such as nature, environment and the nuclear age. He had seen the destruction of this universe by man-made science, which continues its forward march under the veil of ‘progress’.
                                          In situations through which all roads lead to destruction
                                          Death loses its natural quality
                                          And fear becomes a blind alley
                                          In the depths of the vast city which we call Universe
                                          Stings its virulent pain into your heart
                                          Poison, the vomit of the cobra,
                                          Like a loose ink pistol

Türkay was a poet of the new space age. His model was the universe and the light is the true meaning of everything in the cosmos and the cosmos the real mother of mankind. He was exploring the meaning and the roots of the universe by underlying the importance of light on Earth. His devotion to mountains, sea and the sky is his affection for nature. Nature nurtured his poetry in his native country of Cyprus from an early age, as his young adulthood experienced shaped his philosophical writings in his later life.

                                           Your life is fire,
                                           or, it is hissing waters.
                                           Heat is another terminus, outside
                                           the boundaries of numbers:
                                            O Man, come then, be a dagger
                                            and slip out of your sheath;
                                            come, be a sea, a light
                                                                                    or water:

Even the extensive written words are not sufficient to describe Osman Türkay’s poetry. Yet another year has passed without seeing his work acknowledged or published. It makes me sadder year-by-year that a poet and writer who contributed immensely to world literature does not receive the appreciation which he rightfully deserves. How will the new generations know about this space age-poet, how will the world of literature make progress on the Millennium Poet, when nothing by him is published in English, so that he may become renowned and celebrated as a Millennium Poet?

Türkay was not only a poet, but also as a translator who translated into Turkish the works of T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Dylan Thomas, Pablo Neruda and Vladimir Mayakovski. How his work can go unnoticed by the authorities on literature in Turkey is beyond anyone’s imagination.

His humanism, his abstract formulation of the Universe, the cultural references in his poem and the various different themes of his poetry should not be kept to the old publications of his books, but should be shared with the 21st Century general public to read and enjoy. That was the reason why his work was published into more than twenty world languages more than a decade ago.

                                          At a distance far away
                                          the aching soul of a pigeon
                                          veils the universal human conditions.

Semra Eren-Nijhar is an author, sociologist, documentary film maker and policy consultant on diversity, migration, Turkish people living in Europe and the Executive Director of SUNCUT.

Other articles by Semra Eren-Nijhar:

FOCUS: Chanel fashion show and fake feminism: do women really need to see that?, 6 Oct. 2014

FOCUS: Floating bodies of refugees in the Mediterranean Sea, 8 Sept. 2014

FOCUS: My heart bleeds for Soma – coal mine disaster in Turkey, 18 May 2014

FOCUS: Is Dr Oetker really sincere about facing up to its Nazi past? 18 January 2014

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Keeping your eczema and psoriasis under control

Up to 20% of children are said to suffer from eczema, one of the most common skin disorders
Wellbeing / Body

By Feriha İbrahim

Skin is the largest organ of the human body and it serves multiple functions. The most important of these is as a protective barrier, keeping the body away from noxious external elements. It also keeps the internal system intact. Other functions of skin are:
  • UV light protection
  • Thermoregulation: helping the body to maintain a regular temperature even in varying external temperatures
  • Control of water loss

Skin disorders can occur when a layer of cells start losing their main properties. There are many types of skin disorders but the two most common ones are eczema (dermatitis) and psoriasis. Both these conditions can flare-up at any time, but with the right treatment can go into remission.

Eczema is also called dermatitis, which means ‘inflammation of the skin’. It is a long-term chronic illness that can affect all ages. Up to 20% children can suffer from eczema, however many grow out of it by their mid-teens.

There are different types of eczema, the most common being atopic eczema. The condition can appear on any part of the body, from the head down to feet. The main symptoms are:
·         Skin feels dry
·         Some areas of skin become red and inflamed
·         Itchy
·         Skin can become cracked

Ask your pharmacist about the most suitable over-the-counter treatments for your skin disorder
There are many factors that can trigger eczema, from genetic inheritance, to a change in climate, through to allergies, diet, or infections. Keeping skin moisturised using emollients (medical moisturisers) is key to managing all types of eczema. Topical steroids containing corticosteroids (hormones) are used to bring major flare ups under control. The steroids reduce the inflammation (redness and swelling), suppress the immune system and narrow the blood vessels in the skin, which in turn curb the irritation.

Those living with this condition should:
·         Avoid irritants to the skin and other factors that trigger the disorder
·         Use emollients regularly
·         Use topical steroids for severe outbreaks

Psoriasis is another common skin disorder. This auto-immune condition, which triggers the rapid growth of skin cells, is said to affect up to 3% of the population, affecting both males and females equally.

Red, scaly skin typical symptom of psoriasis
Essentially psoriasis suffers find that their skin replacement process takes a few weeks instead of a few days, which results in a build-up of excess skin cells. The excess then forms into patches (plaques) of red, scaly, flaky skin. It can affect any part of the body, including the scalp, hands, feet and genitals.

Factors that cause psoriasis are stress, infections, drugs, sunlight, hormone changes, alcohol and smoking. There are many applications that can be prescribed to treat psoriasis too.

The key to treating skin disorders is keeping the skin soft and moist. If your regular skin cleanser and moisturiser for dry skin are not working, ask your local pharmacist about medical emollients. Their properties tend to be milder, avoiding colours and fragrances that often cause irritation, while helping to nourish and rehydrate the skin, and restore the balance of essential oils.

Popular treatments you can buy over-the-counter include creams, ointments, lotions, shampoos and shower gels. Some are more suitable than others, depending on where on the body the symptoms are and the severity of your condition. For example creams are great for moisturising, but ointments are more effective if you are suffering a flare-up. Talk to your pharmacist, who can advise on the ideal emollient therapy for you.
Each person’s skin disorder is unique to them and it can take a few attempts before your pharmacist, or in more serious cases, GP or specialist consultant finds the right treatment for you. These can also include steroids, antihistamines, Ultra-Violet (UV) light therapy, bandages and wet wraps, immunosuppressant tablets and biologic injections.

For more information, visit the National Eczema Society and the Psoriasis Association or NHS Choices  

About the author: Feriha İbrahim is a fully qualified pharmacist who, together with her family, runs Woodside Pharmacy – both branches are located in Leytonstone, London E11.


How to beat the flu thiswinter, 2 Nov. 2014

How to stop smoking, 30 May 2014

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Anger at London School of Economics after bullies force public to be locked out of the TRNC Foreign Minister's conference


By John Oakes

The London School of Economics is under fire from Turkish Cypriots who were refused entry to a public meeting addressed by the TRNC Foreign Minister Özdil Nami. University officials claimed they were compelled to take severe safety measures because of “threats" received.

The Foreign Minister was invited to speak at the LSE about the current state of the Cyprus talks, during his visit to London where he was expected to meet with top-level officials from the British government. The event was advertised as open to the public.

LSE officials changed the venue at the last minute and restricted access to the talk to students and staff from London University. They also changed the event title to refer to Mr Nami as ‘A representative of the Turkish Cypriot community’.

A member of staff at LSE told T-VINE it was their “duty to protect members of the public” because an organisation had made "a credible threat” to disrupt the meeting. The police had not been informed.

It appears that a university organisation – believed to be the Hellenic Society – had objected to Mr Nami being referred to as "H.E. [His Excellency], the Foreign Minister of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus". Greek nationalists – it is not clear if they are students or external to the university – also threatened to disrupt the meeting if it went ahead for these same reasons.

As a result, some 20 prominent members of the British Turkish Cypriot community were forced to cool their heels for an hour in the entrance lobby, while Greek Cypriot students subjected Minster Nami to stiff questioning during the closed meeting.
Cetin Ramadan (R) with Konsey head Aysın Yılmaz outside Downing Street last November
Cetin Ramadan, vice-chair of Konsey (UK Council of Turkish Cypriot Associations) summed up the anger in the Turkish Cypriot camp: "It is totally unacceptable for the London University to lock us out of a meeting advertised as being public. Some of us have come from as far afield as Cambridge specially to be here."

"Students have a right to protest and demonstrate – but not to interfere with the free and democratic circulation of knowledge. What happened on Tuesday night at the LSE is a prime example of the tail wagging the academic dog. The university should be teaching the values of free and fair discussion – not suspend them arbitrarily."

"If the London University is not willing to stand up to such bullies and equally, is content with disrespecting democratically elected members of the TRNC Government by refusing to call them by their proper titles, then we will urge the TRNC [authorities] to work with other organisers and venues for these political discussions about the Cyprus problem. The only loser will be London University's Contemporary Turkish Studies department, the current sponsor.”


TRNC Foreign Minister Özdil Nami to give a conference on Cyprus talks in London next week, 14 Feb. 2015

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

British MEP to give talk at two fundraising events in Girne for SOS Children’s Village

Daniel Hannan MEP has regularly spoken out over the EU's treatment of Turkish Cypriots. Photo: BBC

Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan will be the keynote speaker at two events in Girne, North Cyprus today helping to raise vital funds for the SOS Children’s Village in Lefkoşa.

A lunch event has been organised at Deniz Kızı Hotel, situated to the west of Girne. The entry price of 70Tl (£20.00) includes a full Niazi special kebab buffet meal. The event starts at 12.30pm local time.

In the evening, Mr Hannan will be speaking at a special dinner laid on at The Colony Hotel in the town centre. The entry price is again 70Tl (£20.00) for a three course meal.

Both events have been organised by James and Carol Blackwell-Gibbs. For tickets and more information, call 0533 864 4115 or email

The fundraisers will aid the work of SOS Children’s Village – a unique facility in North Cyprus helping to care for deprived, neglected or orphaned children since 1993.

Mr Hannan has been a Conservative MEP for Southeast England since 1999 and is Secretary-General of The Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists (AECR). He speaks French and Spanish, loves Europe, but believes that the EU is making its member countries poorer, less democratic and less free. A regular contributor to The Daily Telegraph via his blog, Mr Hannan has spoken out in favour of Turkey’s EU accession and on the ending of Turkish Cypriots’ international isolation.

In November last year, the MEP spoke out in his capacity as AECR Secretary-General against a one-sided resolution about Cyprus passed by the European Parliament (EP). He said:

“It’s not Turkish actions that are creating tensions but EU actions. Turkish Cypriots have constantly supported the EU’s reunification plan and been punished. Greek Cypriots have rejected it and been rewarded.”

See his short talk at the EP here

Monday, 16 February 2015

Positive action vs positive discrimination

Edmonton Labour shortlist (L-R): Kate Anolue, Ayfer Orhan, Kate Osamor

By Ertanch Hidayettin

One of the local Turkish language papers posed an important question for the Turkish speaking communities in Britain. Are we actually united?The paper, Londra Gazete/London Turkish Gazette is printed bilingually. In the main Turkish pages the question takes the form of “Are we really one?” Freudian slip, or lost in translation? 

Being “one” and being “united” – the two are very different.  The paper qualifies its questions by asking “are we bonded together by a common Eastern Mediterranean heritage and a shared musical and culinary culture? Or do we all just happen to speak the same language?”

What prompted the question posed by the paper is this: the long serving Edmonton MP Andy Love unexpectedly announced that he would not be standing for the Labour Party in the forthcoming May General elections. This created huge excitement among the Turkish speaking communities. 

As we know, Turkish speaking communities (TSC) comprise one of the largest minority ethnic communities in Northeast London. In Enfield, one in five citizens is a Turkish speaker and Edmonton is one of the most popular areas in the borough for them to work or reside in.  Many TSC activists have successfully joined their local Labour Party – ten are serving as councillors in Enfield alone, with many others in neighbouring boroughs – and they felt this created a perfect opportunity to have one of them to be chosen to represent the Party at the May elections in what is very much a Labour safe seat.

In order to speed up the process, the Central Labour Party imposed an all women, all BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) shortlist. 107 applications were received, among them several prominent Turkish-speaking Labour Party members from North London.

Three finalists made it to the shortlist. The only Turkish speaker is Ayfer Orhan, an experienced local councillor on Enfield Council. Of Turkish Cypriot heritage, Ms. Orhan is currently a Cabinet Member responsible for Children’s Services, a very important position indeed.   

A lot of Turkish, Kurdish and Alevi community members from Turkey have expressed disquiet about Orhan’s selection. They felt that since their people make up a huge number of Edmonton’s residents, one or more of their candidates should have been selected. A recent survey however identified the issue that very few names of the TSCs are on the electoral roll. According to the survey, across the whole of Britain only 30,000 people originating from Turkey have registered to vote.
Retiring MP Andy Love (3rd from left) & overlooked prospect
Ibrahim Dogus (2nd from right)

Central Labour Party’s decision to have an all women, all BAME list is admirable. It is positive action, which aims to tackle under representation of women and BAME communities in their Party. This is perfectly legal. Edmonton will almost certainly return a Labour MP. So, the number of MPs from these groups will hopefully increase too.

Unfortunately the position of some of our community members is one of positive discrimination. They want the selection of someone purely on the basis of his/her ethnic origin. This is unlawful.

This extends to the Turkish Cypriot community too, who are also aiming for positive discrimination and are doing their utmost to have Orhan selected on 21st February.  An unholy alliance representing the left, right, Labour, Tory, and LibDems have been meeting to draw up strategies for this purpose. Those among us who support one of the other two candidates, both of African descent, have been declared “traitors”.

Peray Ahmet (pictured) for instance, a young Turkish Cypriot Labour Councillor in Haringey, has come under a tremendous attack for declaring support for Kate Osamar, one of her best friends that she calls “my comrade”. This is a very sad state of affairs.

The most stomach-turning issue for me is long standing local Turkish Cypriot Tories expressing support for Orhan simply because she is Turkish Cypriot. They are openly stating how important it is for Orhan to be elected as an MP. Does this mean they will campaign against their own candidate? If I were the Chair of the local Tory Party, I would instigate disciplinary procedures against them.

Ayfer Orhan has been a very active Labour Party member in Enfield, and in my opinion the most experienced candidate among the three shortlisted. I would be happy for her to win the nomination of her party, simply for this reason, in other words on merit.

Israfil Erbil head of the UK Alevi Federation
From what the Leader of the Alevi Federation in Britain, Israfil Erbil said on Genc TV the other night, Ayfer Orhan has made a huge mistake in disregarding the large number of local party members from Alevi communities. At the end of the day they will have a huge role in deciding who will represent the Party at the election. If she loses the vote on 21st February, it seems she will do so because of her failure to lobby this group of people effectively.

If she eventually becomes an MP, it will be wrong to view Ayfer Orhan’s success as success for the TSC. It is an important personal achievement of someone who has fully integrated into this country. This is the message we should be relaying about such role models to our young people.

As a community, we have a duty to encourage and empower our young people to enter into all spheres of life, including politics, in this country. It is wrong, however, to advocate positive discrimination.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: T-VINE columnist Ertanch Hidayettin is a Cypriot Turk of African heritage who came to the UK in 1970. A qualified teacher he chose to pursue a career in local government, working for local authorities in a variety of posts including as an Equality Officer for Islington Council, before retiring in 2007. Since then he has worked with the National Resource Centre for Supplementary Education (NRCSE). He is a community activist and a commentator in Turkish and Cypriot media.


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