Turkish Cypriot trade unionists, face five years of prison each, for expressing their thoughts about Turkey, in the northern part of Cyprus. While those who have run their banks into bankruptcy, leaving thousands of Turkish Cypriots who lost their money without hope have been committed to only two years of imprisonment, expressing your thoughts and ideas in the northern part of Cyprus, may cost you upto five years of imprisonment and lots of backlash from extreme right wing groups.
The Executive Committee of Turkish Cypriot Teachers' Trade Union KTOS, made up of 30 teachers are facing upto 150 years of imprisonment in total, if they are committed. Today, the trade unionists were at the police headquarters, giving their “testimonies” about an advertisement they have published in two daily political newspapers, Yeniduzen and Avrupa. Though the advertisement did not question the sovereignty or integrity of the Turkish Cypriot state but rather said “NO TO ANKARA”, they are being charged with “seditious publication” towards bringing about a change in the sovereignty of the state, for creating hatred, contempt and disaffection against the state and for belittling it.
Earlier in the week, KTOS gave an advertisement in the newspapers and said “Ankara: we do not want your money, your package or your civil servants. We do not want to be slaves”. Extreme right wing groups have been reacting strongly, using verbal abuse and threats against the trade unionists. Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, called on the Attorney General to look into laws in order to ban the trade unionists from teaching at schools.
At the police headquarters, while “testimonies” of the KTOS trade unionists were being taken, leaders of progressive trade unions of Turkish Cypriots like KTAMS (civil servants trade union), TURK-SEN (oldest trade union of Turkish Cypriots), DEV-IS (Revolutionary Trade Unions Federation), TIP-IS (doctors' trade union) were also there, to show their support and solidarity. Mehmet Seyis, president of Genel-Ish, part of DEV-IS, in a statement to the press said, “The developments look like an Inquisition Court. Trade unions will not be quiet. The assault on KTOS from right wing, looks as though it is being directed from the same centre. KTOS is not the only target of this attack. All trade unions that are part of the ‘This Country is Ours Platform’ are under attack.” He went on to say that the main aim of these attacks is to repress the working people who will be affected by the IMF-styled economic package imposed by Turkey on Turkish Cypriots and being implemented by the Turkish Cypriot government, which will take back many rights and benefits of the working people.
Police went to the headquarters of the Turkish Cypriot Teachers' Trade Union KTOS today and took their computers, printers and fax machines, saying these were “evidence to the crime” allegedly committed by the trade union. KTOS gave advertisements in the newspapers in North Cyprus which said “No to Ankara's money, economic package and Ankara's civil servants.” KTOS came under attack from right wing groups and the General Secretary of KTOS, Varol Oztug appeled to the international community for support, saying their lives were in danger. Charges are being pressed against KTOS for allegedly making “seditious publication”.
In an urgent call to the international community, Oztug, the General Secretary of KTOS said the following:
Today Rauf Denktash and the other fascist political groups in Cyprus threatened us. Secret polic came to the head office of KTOS and took all our office equipment. This is the indicator that there is no democracy in North Cyprus which is defined as subordinate local administration of Turkey. Our lives are under danger.
Police also went to the two daily political opposition papers, Yeniduzen and Avrupa, to question the editors for publishing the advertisement of KTOS. In the advertisement KTOS had said “Ankara: No to your money and no to your civil servants and economic package. We don't want to be slaves. Turkish Cypriots: We have the knowledge, skills, potential and sufficiency to rule ourselves.”
While police officers were trying to take the computers, printers and fax machines of KTOS away, Oztug gave a press conference and said that the attacks had nothing to do with the advertisement they gave. “We have been chosen as targets by certain circles. This is a systematic assault by the President Rauf Denktash and all right wing organisations\”, he said. Police is pressing charges against KTOS for allegedly making “seditious publications”. Under the Criminal Law dated fom British Colonial times, “seditious publications” mean “provocating the community against law and order, against the state etc.”
Meanwhile opposition political parties and NGOs that work for peace and democracy in the divided Cyprus issued statements giving support to KOS. CTP (Republican Turkish Party) appealed to all sectors of society for calm. Patriotic Unity Movement (YBH), an other opposition political party said in its statement today that the attack from right wing NGOs against KTOS seems to being directed from the same centre. YBH said that KTOS and its member teachers have a very important place in the struggle for peace and democracy in Cyprus. Meanwhile Bas?n-Sen, Media Workers Trade Union said the attacks against KTOS, do not comply with the right for freedom of thought and freedom of expression.
KTOS website: www.ktos.org
KTOS e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
We need urgent international supports. Yesterday we gave the press release to the local newspapers, which includes negative impressions of the Turkish policies towards North Cyprus.
Today Rauf Denktas and the other fascist politic groups in Cyprus threatened us. Secret police came to the head office of KTOS and took all our office equipments. This is the good indicator that there is no democracy in North Cyprus which defined as “Subordinate Local Administration of Turkey”.
Our lives are under danger.
Cyprus Turkish Teacher Trade Union (KTOS) Secretary General”
KTOS, Cyprus Turkish Teachers Trade Union, in advertisements published in todays newspapers, said “NO” to Ankara. Founded in 1968, KTOS has been known for its progressive struggle for democracy within the Turkish Cypriot community and for peace in Cyprus. KTOSs advertisements created reaction among the extreme right wing groups in the community. Unrest against Turkey has been brewing withing the Turkish Cypriot community but this is one of the rare occassions where an NGO openly says “No to your money and no to your civil servants, we dont want to be slaves” to Ankara.
KTOS, in advertisements published in Yeniduzen and Avrupa, two daily political newspapers in the northern part of Cyprus, said:
We do not want either your money, your package or your civil servants…WE DONT WANT TO BE SLAVES.
In the same advertisement, there was also a message to Turkish Cypriots saying that “Turkish Cypriots, we have the knowledge, skills, potential and sufficiency to rule ourselves.”
The advertisements of the teachers created reaction among extreme right wing and fascist groups within the Turkish Cypriot community. Such groups cannot tolerate any sort of criticism against Turkey.
An IMF styled package that harshly cuts down benefits and rights of the working people and public spending, bringing new forms of taxes was sent by Turkey to be implemented in the northern part of Cyprus. The imposed package created big reaction among the community and even though there has been countless demonstrations and general strikes, under the slogan “This country belongs to us”, the National Unity-Communal Liberation Party coalition in government in the north is gradually implementing it.
There has been three big demonstrations of Turkish Cypriots, demanding from Turkey to stop interfering within the internal affairs of the Turkish Cypriot community, for an early solution to the Cyprus conflict. 41 NGOs, among them two political parties, CTP and YBH, trade unions and professional organizations, organized rallies in July, September and October last year. More than 6 thousand people gathered on the 1st of September rally and there was a general strike where 38 thousand people went on strike, culminating with a rally with more than 15 thousand people. In a statement on this occasion, the 41 organisations leading the “This country belongs to us—we shall govern it” campaign, had said:
“THIS HOMELAND IS OURS, WE WILL GOVERN IT!
WE WILL NOT BOW TO IMPOSITIONS!
The basis of the immense problems in north Cyprus is political.
Turkish Cypriots are not allowed to govern their country.
We do not govern the police force, nor the military.
Establishments like the Central Bank, Turkish Cypriot Airlines or Turkish
Cypriot Petrols are not under our control.
All investments are controlled by the Nicosia embassy of Republic of Turkey.
All political decisions are made by the coordination comitee.
Essentially Turkish Cypriots are not governing their own country.
The “Economy Package” imposed by the leaders of Republic of Turkey and is about to be implemented by their domestic collaborators aims to exterminate Turkish Cypriots economically, socially, politically and culturally.
The political meaning of this package is:
Joining of north Cyprus to Republic of Turkey.
Total extermination of the Turkish Cypriot community from this island.
Turkish Cypriots will not accept this destruction.
We have the knowledge, ability and power to govern our country.
We will put out a common struggle for independence, democracy and peace
in Cyprus and will live with pride and freely in our own country.
We will support any struggle in this frame-work and will be with our public during their independence and freedom struggle.”
KTOS, is part of the same group of NGOs that leads this campaign.
Earlier, in July 2000, unrest against Turkey climbed when a group of journalists, writing in AVRUPA, highly critical of Turkey and its military authorities in the northern part of Cyprus, were arrested for allegedly “spying” for Greek Cypriots, at the orders of the then Commander in Force of the Turkish Cypriot Security Forces. Court cases against AVRUPA, both military and civil still continue, but the “spying” case had to be dropped when the police could not produce “enough evidence” to “convince” the court on the alleged charges.
41 NGOs, among them two opposition political parties, CTP (Republican Turkish Party) and YBH (Patriotic Unity Movement), as well as trade unions, waging a campaign entitled “This country is ous—we shall govern it” issued a statement today, saying the Turkish Cypriot community is being terrorized, using the Turkish Cypriot Teachers Trade Union KTOSs advertisement published in yesterdays dailies in the north.
In the name of 41 NGOs which form “This Country is Ours Platform”, Ali Gulle, General President of Dev-Ã\ufffds (Revolutionary Trade Unions Federation) said that for many years now, Turkish Cypriots are encountering human rights violations and the KTOS advertisement should be seen as the “exploding point” of all these violations. The economic package being imposed by Turkey and implemented by the regime in northern Cyprus is taking back many rights and benefits of the working people he said. When Turkish Cypriots were being “belittled” by the Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit and other Turkish ministers, Gulle asked, where were those who are protesting the teachers advertisement. He appealed to all to stay calm and said that “This country is ours platform” will not back down despite the fascist atmosphere being attempted to be created.
Meanwhile Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, called the Attorney General and the Minister of Education to a meeting, “to ban the trade unionists from teaching”. The Turkish Cypriot council of ministers are also taking up the”advertisement” in their meeting today.
The advertisement that the teachers gave which created strong reaction from right and extreme right wing, said “NO” to Ankara, stating “We dont want your money, your civil servants or your package…We shall not be slaves”.