Cyprus’ European elections have only put all the nationalists to the forefront, and made way for people to spew bile and racism, without actually focusing on real positions, and the real questions that the continent and the world face
While Cyprus has throughout the centuries been a multicultural location, with seemingly liberal values outlined in a constitution created in 1960, the truth of the modern Cypriot state is far from any of those values. The reason being that anachronistic beliefs on both sides of the island’s divide have fuelled hatred and fear, which has subsequently manifested itself in severe racism and scepticism of others, one of Europe’s biggest issues.
Greek Cypriots feel cheated. They feel as a community that the island has always been a foreigner invader’s stomping ground, inhibiting them from realising their own truths. Turkish Cypriots on the other hand are afraid and do not trust the other community. What, with Ankara breathing down their necks, and with a past that doesn’t paint Greek Cypriots in such a positive light.
These are issues of any election in Cyprus, with political parties always waving the banner of the Cyprus problem, and saying they have to best solution. It has become a cliché of modern politics on the island to not actually negotiate a reasonable solution to the Cyprus problem, and blame ‘the others’ for the hardships on both sides, and to then furthermore blame the political party in power for the failure of peace talks. Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots are quite similar in this, and it keeps us from realising our true European potential. European potential being a modern country, with freedom and equality for all.
I myself am an immigrant to this country, and not just any immigrant, I come from one Cypriot parent and one Greek parent, who were both immigrants to the United States. My family’s older generation is largely uneducated, and in America they had to blend in, leading to them creating friendships and ties with people outside their own communities. Thus, the main problem of racism and inequality hits home, but it is also blatantly obvious through the recent TV debates by candidates that question the quality of another candidate based on their race.
This year is the first time two Turkish Cypriot candidates are running for any office in the state-controlled part of the island, and they have sure been scrutinised for this.
In particular, left-wing Akel candidate Niyazi Kizilyurek has drawn the attention of the main ruling-party Disy. One of the Disy candidates, Eleni Stavrou-Syrou suggested that he was Ankara’s stooge in a social media post.
Now, maybe it seems to be political banter, but the issue here has been magnified, with people rallying behind her and supporting her CLAIM.
Due to my job, I am a member of many social media groups that deal with politics, and not a day goes by that there isn’t someone posting in these online groups, some type of hate for the Turkish Cypriot candidates. Their comments tend to be something about betraying the country, or as one of my favourite comments put it ‘We have sat in it, Niyazi will go to the EU Parliament with G/C votes.’ He is suggesting that people voting for Niyazi, who are Greek-Cypriot are betraying their country.
There has been no comment about his actual positions, but instead comments that he is Turkish-Cypriot, a recognised part of Cypriot society, as per our constitution.
As it is clear, racism trickles down from the main parties and those droplets then turn into a movement, which brings me to Elam, an extreme-right movement and Eurosceptic party brought to the island from Greece, where extreme right nationalism has manifested itself in the Golden Dawn.
Elam also has candidates running in these elections, and many Cypriots have expressed the opinion that they will be voting for any other party, just so Elam stays out of the EU parliament.
Now, although Elam members will be the first to try and cover their tracks and positions, regarding their nationalist tendencies, it goes without saying that their actions speak much louder than their words.
As a party statement points out is 2018: “The Turkish-Cypriots are a minority and they have all the rights and duties that come from that fact.”
In essence: the party says the Turkish Cypriots should be treated as a minority and that any idea of political equality should be denied.
Of course, their educational policy ideas are also quite strict, as this statement points out. They say that education should return to a Greek Orthodox educational system. Just pointing out, many Greek-Cypriots are not Orthodox or religious.
Politically, I cannot speak much on the Turkish-Cypriots as a whole, because many live in the north, where they are essentially taken out of Europe, or focused on the changes going on in their self-proclaimed ‘state’.
From my experiences with friends, they cross to get something they cannot find in the north, and they generally think that most Greek-Cypriots don’t want them. However, even from my limited societal experiences they have a similar view of ‘the other’ both Greek-Cypriot and foreign, considering them as outsiders in their society.
The point is clear, Cyprus’ European elections have only put all the nationalists to the forefront, and made way for people to spew bile and racism, without actually focusing on real positions, and the real questions that the continent and the world face. In truth, Cyprus tends to echo America, where political debates for the past 20 years have not focussed on policy positions, but rather on taking down your opponent through any means necessary and trying to cause scandal, just to prove your point.
So in Cyprus the truth is that Europe or not, focus tends to on sweeping generalisations about people, while individuals that actually seek change and to make a more tight-knit, equal, and free Europe are side-lined.