Commentary: Turkey’s Client State in Revolt


By Edmond Y. Azadian

Popular discontent and protests sweeping across the Arab world have also hit “The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus,” a client “state” created by Turkey after the invasion of the island in 1974. To this date no country has recognized that artificial “country” except the regime in Ankara.

Former Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Eçevit concocted an excuse at that time that Greek colonels, then ruling in Greece, had been plotting to unite Cyprus with Greece (Enosis) and launched an invasion under the pretext of defending the Turkish minority, which was not threatened in any way and was living with the Greek Cypriots rather harmoniously. A thirty-thousand-strong Turkish army occupied 38 percent of the island’s territory, where they have stayed ever since.

Turkey used the 1960 Geneva agreement to invade the island as the protector of the Turkish minority. Some population engineering was exercised by the mass moving of Anatolian peasants to Cyprus to change the demographic profile of Cyprus. At that time, Turkish Cypriots numbered 80,000, more than half of them with British passports. That figure was boosted to 260,000.

Journalists and historians to this date keep repeating the fake argument that the Greek colonels had engineered a coup by deposing the popularly-elected president, Archbishop Makarios, and installing an adventurer named Nikos Giorgiades Sampson, whose “rule” lasted little over a week, to provide enough time and excuse for Turkish forces to invade the independent island.

At that time US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger threatened Greece not to intervene, as otherwise it would face US forces on the way.

In reality the colonels themselves were in cahoots with the Pentagon and they could not act without Washington’s acquiescence.

Throughout all the negotiations, Ankara kept its forces on the island with the excuse that Greece was threatening to unite the island with the mainland. It turns out today — and it is openly advocated — that Turkey itself has the same intentions and designs over Northern Cyprus.

The US permitted and encouraged the Turkish invasion of Cyprus to reward Ankara for its pro-Western stand and to steer the Turks towards cooperation with Israel, which to this day has worked well, Prime Minister Erdogan’s rhetoric notwithstanding.

Today Turkey is at a crossroad, because the popular storm of demonstrations has also hit Northern Cyprus. Indeed on January 28, the Forum of Labor Unions organized a rally of 10,000 protesters in the Turkish sector of the divided capital of Nicosia, chanting: “Hands off Northern Cyprus.”

While Mr. Erdogan was patronizingly advising Husni Mubarak to “listen to the people,” he himself turned a deaf ear to the popular call in Cyprus and resorted to insulting the protesters.

What triggered the uprising was the austerity plan imposed on the economy of the North. Since the invasion, Turkey has been financing not only its occupation forces, but also the artificial economy of Northern Cyprus. In the end, the US taxpayers have been footing the bill for this illegal situation, in terms of US assistance to Turkey, which has been benefiting from American largesse, at the expense of Greece, another NATO ally. There has never been parity in the US military aid between these two countries, maintaining a 7-10 ratio in favor of Turkey. Recently, Greek Premier Papanadreou blamed Greece’s economic collapse on the arms race imposed by Turkey.

The Turkish daily Hurriyet, in an editorial on the dichotomy of the Turkish foreign policy, quoted an interesting metaphor: “Turkish society (and presumably its political life) is like moving on two opposite axles, one turning in one direction while the other one is turning in exactly the opposite direction.”

One immediate example of that axle analogy is Turkey’s condescending advice to Egypt’s former ruler, without heeding the very same in the face of protests in Northern Cyprus. Other examples are Ankara’s refusal to recognize Karabagh Armenians’ right to self-determination while occupying Cyprus under the pretext of defending the same right for the Turkish minority. Last year when clashes erupted in China resulting in 200 casualties, Erdogan cried who would listen that the ethnic Uyghurs were being subjected to genocide. But it turned out that there were more Chinese victims than Muslim Uyghurs ones. Erdogan’s government sheds crocodile tears on the genocide in Gaza, while murdering 30,000 Kurds in Turkey. For Turkish leaders the accusation of genocide is a convenient tool to achieve any political goal, while they sit on the loot left from historic Armenia, denying that their ancestors could not have committed the Armenian Genocide.

Today the moment of truth has reached Ankara and Turkish Cypriots are demanding the end of the colonial rule in that occupied section of the island.

The protests were triggered when Ankara asked Northern Cyprus to come up with 600 million Turkish liras toward the deficit.

Learning about the insults hurled at his government’s face, Erdogan publicly replied: “Who the hell are these people, that are living on our hand outs?” He also blamed Northern Cyprus’s puppet president, Dervish Eroglu, for allowing such protest rallies. Eroglu himself is an immigrant from Turkey who continues former President Raouf Denktas’s intransigent policy versus the Greek Cypriots. Right now he is caught between a rock and a hard place.

Following Erdogan’s outburst, one of his deputies, Jemil Cicek, infuriated the protesters further. He said that Erdogan had not said enough: “The protesters insulted Turkey on Friday and the next Monday they went to cash their salaries provided by Ankara.”

Action followed Ankara’s word when the New Turkish “ambassador” to Northern Cyprus was appointed. That “ambassador” is nothing but a governor sent from Ankara. A very unpopular Turkish diplomat Akca was sent to Cyprus. Writing in the Cyprus Mail, Simon Bahchali states: “With the appointment on Thursday of Halil Ibrahim Akca as a new ‘ambassador’ to the North, Erdogan sent a clear message to the Turkish Cypriot Unions, the Turkish Cypriot Leader Dervish Eroglu and the Turkish Cypriot people in general: ‘Either you are with me or against me. Either way, my wishes will prevail.’”

Some politicians in Ankara, while blaming Erdogan for his rage, are giving the unequivocal message about Turkey’s long-term goals. One of those politicians is Nationalist Movement Party leader (MHP) Devlet Bahceli who says: “Whether we like them or not, all our Cypriot brothers and sisters are important to us. Northern Cyprus will continue its existence as an inseparable part of Turkey and all the aid they receive rightfully belongs to them like their mother’s milk.”

As far as Ankara is concerned Turkey is in Cyprus forever, regardless of EU demands, the Anan plan or any other formula.

Once again, the Platform of Unions is planning another “Survival Rally” on March 2. In the southern Greek-Cypriot section of the island, the Teachers’ Union is planning its own rally in solidarity with the Platform whose clear message to Erdogan is: “Colonizers, pack up and leave Cyprus; we don’t need your help, this land is ours.”

This time around it seems that the time has come for Mr. Erdogan to heed his own advice and “listen to the people.”