On November 9, 2001 the regime in the Turkish occupied part of the Republic of Cyprus, in an attempt to oppress freedom of speech and expression among memers of the Turkish Cypriot community, for the third time confiscated equipment belonging to the Turkish Cypriot daily newspaper “Avrupa”. The other two times occured on 16 May 2000 and 12 November 2001.
The climate of fear amongst those members of the Turkish Cypriot community who dare challenge Turkish policy on Cyprus was reinforced by the dismissal of a Turkish Cypriot high school teacher, Ms Nilgun Orhan, for articles she wrote critisizing Turkey. According to the Turkish Cypriot press, the decision to fire Ms. Orhan was made by the so-called “Turkish Cypriot Education Ministry” following an investigation into the articles she penned in the “Avrupa” newspaper. She wrote that Turkey keeps 35,000 troops in the northern part of Cyprus and was an occupation force that hindered democracy.
The persecution of the press continued on 12 December with further confiscations of the machinery belonging to “Avrupa”, and charges have been filed against the paper and its journalists and the sentences demanded three to ten years imprisnoment. On December 15, “Avrupa” announced that it has been forced to temporarily stop its publication because of this oppression as well as the supression and attacks which the paper and its journalists were subjected to by the occupation regime since the first day of its establishment on September 17, 1997.
It should be recalled that Avrupa’s journalists were arrested in July 2000 as “Greek spies” to appear in court in January 2002 and two firebomb attacks were carried out on its print works on November 27, 2000 and May 24, 2001. In this atmosphere of fear and terror, the establishment on December 12, 2001, one week after the meeting between President Clerides and Mr. Denktash, of the new Turkish Cypriot newspaper ‘Volkan’ which issued a list of Turkish Cypriots accused of being traitors, is not coincidental.
Against all journalistic principles and ethics Volkan from its first edition attacked those Turkish Cypriots who acquire passports of the Republic of Cyprus and those who cooperate with Greek Cypriots.
Furthermore, the Turkish Cypriot daily ‘Kibris’ reported on December 12 that the Turkish Cypriot leader Mr. Rauf Denktash stated that the Turkish Cypriot papers should not be used as “a gun and a bullet in the hands of the Greek Cypriots” and added that in case this happens “taking the necessary measures and making the necessary laws is a condition.”
The increasing repression of the Turkish Cypriots comes on the heels of the decision to proceed with direct negotiations on January 16, 2002, for a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem and raises questions about the political will of the Turkish side to engage in a substantive dialogue with good faith in order to arrive at a just and viable settlement in accordance with the UN resolutions, ensuring respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all Cypriots without discrimination.
In view of the above oppressive policy and the attacks against freedom of the press and the right of free expression in the Turkish Cypriot community,we are once again asking for your help in bringing this issue to the forefront by demanding that the Turkish government stop the persecution and respect the right of the Turkish Cypriots to disagree with Turkish policy on Cyprus and to freely express, without fear, their opinion.