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Media Watch 2011

08 April 2011
Source: Cyprus Mail
Author: Simon Bahceli
Comment:
Turkish Cypriot discontent grows
FIGHTS AND scuffles broke out as around 3,000 Turkish Cypriots protesting against an Ankara-inspired economic austerity package sought to march on the north’s ‘parliament’ building yesterday.

FIGHTS AND scuffles broke out as around 3,000 Turkish Cypriots protesting against an Ankara-inspired economic austerity package sought to march on the north’s ‘parliament’ building yesterday.

Tempers frayed as the union-backed demonstrators took to the streets for the third time in as many months in an effort to force the Turkish Cypriot authorities to back down over implementation of the package that seeks to cut public sector employment and realign the pay scales of around 17,000 ‘state’ employees.

Chanting “Ankara get your hands off the Turkish Cypriots!” and “Ayse go home! (in reference to the code word that triggered the Turkish invasion of 1974)” the crowds took a clear message to ‘parliament’ and the Turkish ‘embassy’ which stand opposite each other in the north of Nicosia.

Anger against Ankara has been growing in the Turkish Cypriot community since the ‘governing’ National Unity Party (UBP) last year announced it intended to implement the Ankara-inspired economic austerity package.

Tensions then grew to a peak last month when tens of thousands demonstrated against comments made by the Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan that Turkish Cypriots had “no right to protest against Ankara” because it “fed and maintained” the community.
Although smaller in number, yesterday’s protesters made no bones about their disdain for the Turkish government. One group of protesters defied police warnings that banners deemed insulting to Turkey would be confiscated by brandishing one telling Ankara to “F__k off from Cyprus!” When a plainclothes police officer sought to remove the banner, he was rounded on by demonstrators and forcibly removed from the crowd amid chants of “Police out!”

Police also intervened when another protester climbed onto the railings of the Turkish ‘embassy’ brandishing a Republic of Cyprus flag – a symbol also deemed insulting to Turkey by the Turkish Cypriot authorities. Shouting, “This is not a Greek Cypriot flag; this is a Cyprus flag; this is my flag!” the protester was eventually forced off the railings by police. Attempts by the police to remove the protester from the demonstration were thwarted by other protesters.

Turkish and Turkish Cypriot leaders insist that austerity measures are vital for the north, which is currently languishing with €3 billion worth of debt to Turkey and private banks. They also insist that if the current budget deficit is not significantly decreased, they will not be able to pay civil servants. As well as cutting the salary budget, a number of ‘state’ corporations have been earmarked for privatisation – something the unions vehemently oppose.

While most opposition parties did not participate in yesterday’s rally, they say they will join future demonstrations and that the protest did have their “moral support”. Leader of the Communal Democracy Party (TDP) Mehmet Cakici told the Cyprus Mail he would be meeting with the unions soon to plan the next mass rally against Ankara. The only political parties that took part in yesterday’s protest were the small left-wing parties, the New Cyprus Party (YKP) and the United Cyprus Party (BKP), whose members were among the most vocal in expressing their distain towards the Turkish government.