The EU funded a “project” called “Human Rights Platform” in North Cyprus. The project aims to gather as many civil society organizations as possible under its umbrella and designated them to follow the EU mandate. The EU already started its control by over these organization by setting the agenda, assigning different “themes” to certain organizations to lead. Refugee Rights Association will foresee human trafficking and refugee rights concerns; KuirKibris will foresee LGBTQ+ rights; Civil Society Initiative will work on democratic participation and decision making. Turkish Cypriot Human Rights Association is also in the platform, thoughthey are not assigned to a specified area. All of these Turkish Cypriot NGOs will be working together under the EU funded project about detention rights and freedom of consciousness.
Even though Human Rights Platform Project (HRPP) started a year ago, its announcement was made quite recently on 10 December 2021, just before the general election campaign started in North Cyprus. Its initial declared funding is 700-thousand-euro. As the EU Support Office Head of Sector Michael Docherty claims, this “Platform Project” is seen as a milestone for Turkish Cypriot community. Few political parties had signed the EU sponsored “obligations” and there is a strong “pro-EU” theme in their propaganda. Thus, this milestone project has already shown some visible influence over the signatory political parties’ political discourse and attitudes.
As a Turkish Cypriots scholar, I firmly believe transparency and accountability of using Euro funds. Hence, there is a need to examine different states’ political actions on Cyprus openly and critically. Nevertheless, I do not see any transparency happening on the EU’s political agenda over Cyprus and in particular the EU policies coveringNorth Cyprus. I have several points and questions to the EU as their Head of Sector Mr. Michael Docherty made some bold claims.
HRPP and Michael Docherty explains “civil society” in its ideal version. Civil society is ‘free” from the state, works for human rights and democracy to pressure state for improving human rights.He also tells us that the EU sees the members of the project as “human rights defenders” where their own “administrations” would be very unhappy with human rights demands. The people who work under the project follow Docherty’s teaching as they stated in BayrakRadyo, a station run by the state authorities of North Cyprusthat “it is not the cost of implanting systems for creating social justice mechanisms that is the problem in North Cyprus but the will of the authorities” and they will play the role of “reminder”, a watchdog and they will also play the “advocacy” role for the vulnerable individuals.
It is a known fact that any state sponsorship on civil society, especially financial support or job appointments, compromises neutrality and effectiveness of NON-governmental organizations. However, this EU funded project where the majority of the civil society in North Cyprus is targeted to be put under one umbrella is not led by “free civil society agents”. The project coordinator DeryaBeyatli is not an independent, free agent of “civil society.” Quite the contrary,she officially works for AKEL elected member of the European Parliament as being his official representative in the North.Politicians have a certain view of the world, and they try to implement that world view via their political actions under certain political affiliations. Thus, it is not surprising to see that the EU funded project is guiding Turkish NGOs to follow certain discourse and practices not as a civil society project, but a political party affiliated one.
European parliament elections were an assimilationist first step where Turkish Cypriots are given a simulacrum “free election” where Turkish Cypriot candidates can be elected under the current Republic of Cyprus structure that gives sole power to Greek Cypriots without any quota to Turkish Cypriots as it was the original spirit of the Republic, also endorsed by the United Nations’ comprehensive settlement plan for Cyprus (Annan Plan). What we are seeing with the EU Parliament election“project” is an “individual-based integration” of Turkish Cypriots to the current Republic of Cyprus. AKEL’s EU parliamentarian and his representative are constantly feeding people that “once Turkish language is accepted by the EU, we can live under Republic of Cyprus as citizens just like we can live in Germany”.
The EU is not a “human rights agency”.The EU itself is a political actor in Cyprus and in the Eastern Mediterranean. Leading states of the EU has their own national interest driven political agendas on the island and on the region. Either side of Cyprus is nothing but a proxy political element in world politics, and Cyprus as a whole is a focal point of global geopolitical rivalry. These leading states use the EU as the cover to hide their national interest, supporting policies that would assimilate Turkish Cypriots instead of recognizing them as a community that has the equal political rights with Greek Cypriots.
The current “Human Rights Platform” project coordinator, in line with the EU discourse, along with many people who work in different “sectors” of the project openly argue that “North Cyprus” entity is illegal and “nothing can be improved until there is a solution for Cyprus problem”. During the last twenty some years, the EU has been making Turkish Cypriots to report a lot of human rights breaches, yet there have been no real improvements in the North. The reason is also hidden in the EU discourse: all the human rights violation reporting is to “prove” that North cannot create a political mechanism that effectively works. The “peace” supporting EU funded organizations in North Cyprus who are largely engaged with and fundedbythe EU, either through “civil society”, “political parties” or as “business people,” give one signal to the Turkish Cypriot community: “Turkish Cypriots cannot make any positive change in their political, social, cultural and economic life until a federal solution”. Of course, the solution that is sought is not a “federal” one. It needs to be stated as suchto ensure that Turkish Cypriots feel content to follow EU’s dominant discourse. Turkish Cypriots, no matter how dire their situation gets, do not give up on their aspiration to establish a bi-zonal, bi-communal federal solution.While the EU funded organizations in North Cyprusare taught to be ashamed of their communal violent past and talk about it openly, they are also systematically taught by or through the EU funded projects to “reject” and feel “ashamed” of their own traumas about Greek Cypriot violence towards them.Yet, the truth remains. Turkish Cypriot traumas are as real as Greek Cypriot traumas, andthey are not willing to accept any solution without federation and bi-zonal, bi-communal structure.
In other words, the EU is not only working with a politician to control all civil society under one umbrella.The political aim of the people they are entrusting Turkish Cypriot civil society are people who believe that “if any state mechanism works properly in the North, this would lead to a firm establishment of a state in the North which would prevent unification of the island”. It is not a logical claim, a political one. Once Turkish Cypriots can stand on their feet, this would not distance them from seeking federal unification of the island.It would only make them somewhat an equal partyat the negotiating table. Currently, Turkish Cypriots are left powerless in order to be cornered to accept unitary state solution. Yet, the discourse of the EU funded civil society constantly dominates the political discourse by making left parties to argue “the only way out for Turkish Cypriots is federation and the proof of that is the lack of a functioning state mechanisms in the North”.
The puzzle in front of us is simple yet hidden, so let us make it visible by asking some questions: How can people, who are vehemently opposed to Turkish Cypriots managing their own society with effective, functional state mechanisms, be working with the aim of strengthening our democracy and democratic mechanisms? Such effort, if had been done genuinely, would have created effective, functioning governance that administers Turkish Cypriot society. Would such people who already denounced the political capacity of their own society put a genuine effort for ensuring social justice and human rights? The answer is that neither the EU nor its politicians(or their long arm bureaucrats) would ever want real political capacity building for the Turkish Cypriots. It is against their openly stated political views and aspirations and the national interests of the nation-states that appointed them in Cyprus.
Let us dig further and ask other questions:
When their ultimate aim is to make the ‘establishment’ in the Northcollapse, would the EU operators be unhappy when there are severe human rights violations to report?Would they “advocate” anyone effectively to correct or prevent any violation? Prevention is generally what is sought after in creation of mechanisms. But if they prevent violations with effective mechanisms, would this help them to “report the illegal North Cyprus”? Would people in such political agenda of disparaging the North’s political establishment use the information thatthey are gathering to further weaken the system, eliminate people within the mechanism who show strong agency for positive change, or would they support Turkish Cypriots’ democratic capacities? Would they see each and every individual deserving of rights and protection or would they use them as Machiavellian means to their own endas political pawns to support their “illegal, no good North Cyprus” claim? This political view usually use a common phrase in Turkish “KKTC’nizbatsin” -Damn your TRNC! Would such a political endeavor be concerned about effective state mechanisms to stop violations against human beings?
Let us move towards a particular incident to ask more specific questions to help us reach clearer answers for the above questions. The press release of Human Rights Platform Project on 29 December 2021 announced that“a refugee woman” had “committed suicide” in the night that she was admitted to North Cyprus state psychiatric hospital. Platform, however, could not decide the exact date of this individual’s death. In their Facebook page where they published the press release, they said “suicide that happenedlast month [November 2021]” but the date of the deathwas stated to be 15 October 2021, a month earlier. When this press release was given to the very few selected on-line “news outlets”with the title of “Refugee suicide under the state observation”, the dates were all mixed up. The claim starts with 15 November in this version but the following text reads this as 15 October(https://gazeddakibris.com/devlet-gozetiminde-yasanan-intihar-halen-aydinlatilmadi/?fbclid=IwAR0e6SU67C02MQgwSxE8cEBL6Bth-mU6i87jckFkJAzvhYdpOxo4HBZ1nKk. Also seehttps://kibris.online/haber/kuzey-kibris/780492/devlet-gozetiminde-yasanan-intihar-halen-aydinlatilmadi/).
First, let us ask the following question: Why, the Platform being a highly competent and caring advocacy group, confuses the exact date of this death?The accurate date sounds to be 15 October as the Domestic Violence Shelter, getting involved in their own set of questions, argued that the suicide happened on the night that connected Friday to Saturday. The date (15) is a Friday only in October 2021,not in November. Hence, we understand that she died in October, not in November. Whydid theon-line “left wing” news that reported the incidentdistorted the date on their headline to 15 November together with highlighting that she died “under state observation”? Could it be because TRNC was announced on the same date, 15 November, back in 1983? Could the Platform’s first concern be using the refugee woman’s death as a subliminal message to tell the readers “TRNC, which was established on 15 November, cannot protect individuals”?Could it be possible that her death was made a political tool by objectifying circumstances of her death? Have these selected “independent news sources” ever received any EU funds?These questions suggest that we cannot dismiss the possibility that this “refugee woman” and her death foremost might have been used as a propaganda tool.
The circumstancessurrounding her death do not end here when the Platform’s actions are further scrutinized: Why did the members of the platform had waited for a press release 75 days after the suicide of this individual occurred? Could it be because they would like to cover the responsibility of some of the Platform members in the path that led to this individual’s suicide? Other stakeholders’ comments to this press release signal a “neglect” by the Platform or some of its members. It seems that there are other stakeholders who were afraid that they would also be found responsiblefor the Platform’s neglectful actions. For example, The NicosiaMunicipality Women’s Shelter stated that the Platform already knew there was a suicide risk of “this refugee woman”. Then the shelter asked, why the shelter was not notified by the Platformabout such a high risk of suicide, which would have put both the woman and the rest of the Shelter’s residence in danger had they accepted to admit her to the shelter.Indeed, why?Questions of the shelter continued with pointing out the lack of communication to the related stakeholders about refugee woman’s overall living conditions.She was known to be victim of ongoing domestic violence, but this victimization too was ignored by the Platform. The Shelter raised specific questions addressing to the Refugee Rights Association, asking why they were not concerned or informed about the domestic violence if she was regularly receiving support from the Refugee Association. Further inquiries were made by the Shelter whether therewas a problem with translation, or about the potential of the Association to pursue social investigations about the conditions of people whom they worked with.The questionsthat the Nicosia Municipality Women’s Shelter raised signal the possibility of serious neglect and incompetence of the Platform as a whole or the organizations that compose it.
The Platform members wentto the Turkish Cypriot state’sBayrakradio to assert that “not much money was required for implementing systems that would ensure the rights of vulnerable groups where their needs were effectively met” by following the EU discourse.The reality of the matter is that competency and creation of effective systems where valuable human lives are not wasted need a lot of resources. “Neglect” and “incompetence” claims under the EU guided “civil society” themselves pose a big problem. Unfortunately, questions do not end here, either.
I have different set of questions to Mister Michael Docherty as being the EU Support Office Head of Sector:
Do you know that the whispers within the civil society are even stronger than the above mentionedpublicly raised “incompetency” and “neglect” questions? There are whispered claims that Platform gave “a highly depressed female refugee” some misleading information, making her falsely believe that she could be deported. Obviously, such misinformation given to a severely depressed individual could have led to suicide. Within days of hearing such thing as a whisper, I read the Platform’s press release about a “female refugee suicide”, wondering whether the whisperswere related to this already dead woman.Might the source of the loud whispers be the growing discontent among the other stakeholders that would like to free themselves off from the responsibility of this tragic death, or other potential responsibilities in the future?Most importantly, are there others like her who would become next suicide victims in Turkish Cypriot institutions “under the state authority”?
If the EU funded civil society had given misinformation to a severely depressed individual andlet herto commit suicide “under state control”, would such death work for or against the EU induced policies on the North? Theworld has been watching the EU’s border policyon refugeesand the pain that the EU policies are causing them with strong disapproval. Would this be another way of using the generalEU policy on refugees? On 10 December, the Human Rights Day, Michael Docherty stated that the platform was a dog that not only to barkbutalso to bite when he was explaining the aims of the platform. Could we say that the path that led to this refugee woman to death was the first demonstration of this “bite” that we are seeing? Should we take Mister Docherty’s statement about “biting” human beingsas the new and official EU policy? Is this platform the long arm of the EU that will bite North Cyprus administration by helping along the actualization of human rights abuses rather than prevention of them? Is it more important to “report” than prevent? Are the vulnerable, voiceless groups that Platform reach perceived as tools for political ends to be used?
Michael Docherty, after telling us that they are here to bite, also states: “I won’t apologize repeating myself, I do not think you can be convicted of plagiarizing yourself: We all know that north of Cyprus is in a particular situation with regards to international law. Nevertheless, that should not be a reason for allowing the territory to develop to a zone of impunity and respect international principles of governance and human rights… built bridges in the rest of the EU, in the whole of Cyprus in particular”. No, we cannot convict you of plagiarizing your own words. But can we, Mister Docherty, convict you of creating this soft image about the obstacles in front of Turkish Cypriots by calling their status “particular situation with regards to international law”? Can we convict you of accessing North Cyprus with a limited money to control and manipulate under the disguise of “human rights” where there arevalid questions about competencies and intentions of the people whose political affiliations can be summarized as “Damn your TRNC!”? Can we convict the EU of policies that have been playing divisionary politics, ensuring Greek Cypriots that their “oxi/no” to the Annan plan would not prevent their accession to the EU as the sole controllers of the Republic of Cyprus?Could we convict the EU for its policies for the last 15 years since the rejection of the Annan Plan by the Greek Cypriots, forsuch rejectionensured our Greek Cypriot compatriots that Turkish Cypriots would not gain any type of economic opening and their isolation and dependency on Turkey wouldcontribute to the continuation of division of the island?Could we convict you of creating this illusion that Turkish Cypriot dependency of Turkey is singlehandedly Turkey’s doing? Can we, Mister Docherty, convict you of having these individuals in this Platform of dubbing you to say that “it is not money and resources, but the lack of the will of the state that prevents social justice”? Turkish Cypriots’ “particular situation”, as you put it, prevents them to create mechanisms for social justice because they are dependent. It seems with all this money that was announced to be spent before the general elections by the EU is a symbolic representation of the domination game of “who the Turkish Cypriots will be dependent on”. Can we convict you for paying money to constantly give us a message that we, as Turkish Cypriots, “cannot stand on our feet, cannot govern ourselves”?
Yet another set of questions:
The people who could not even read the word “enthusiastic” from the paper to express us how enthusiastic they were about bringing human rights project on 10 December also read from the paper that Human Rights Day was not a day for “celebration” because of the many human rights abuses in the world. When this statement was made, 25days had already passed since “a refugee woman’s” death. Towards the end of your speech in the press conference, you turned to your right and exchanged a teasing glance with your/AKEL bureaucrat who, in turn,had what seemed like a suppressed laughter. It was the 25 day of the death of the “refugee woman” and there still was 19 days for the press release by the Platform about her death. Still, there was room for suppressed laughter in front of cameras.What is the source of the ease of the Platform that they will not need to answer anything about their responsibility on the death of this individual? Will this ease where they suppress their laughter and “happiness” lead to other deaths where they will report and “prove” the human rights abuses with a similar suppressed but not so hidden expressions of joy and happiness?
One last comment/question to Mister Docherty: he announces some positive developments by starting his sentence with the phrase “the situation is not all black”. Racism still exists in today’s world full force but at least the language of the “human rights defenders and spenders”, even if it is a disguise for imperial politics, should correct their language. Steve Biko reminds us with his deep question: when black is equated all to the negative how can we move past degrading treatment to Black bodies?