An anonymous commenter wrote in response to my post ‘Turkey’s guardian angel’, the following:
‘Minority rights ... isn't that what it all comes down to, respect for and protection of the minority? Plans for "enosis" understandably threatened a Muslim minority in Cyprus which risked becoming a negligible part of a country committed to homogeneity and with a very poor record of minority rights protection. Are there any safeguards that can realistically ensure the protection, in a reunited Cyprus, of what would still be a minority population? Are the warring parents going to be able to sit on their hands and stay out of it? Is it ever likely that Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots would be able sit at the same table and draw a line under past resentments? If there are no realistic safeguards then partition is a forward step away from the present stalemate and legal uncertainties. I would be interested in your views. You mention respect for human rights ... you need an effective enforcement mechanism too. The European Court of Human Rights is hopelessly overloaded with a back log of 90,000 cases, so practical international supervision is unlikely. You would need a strong independent judiciary before anything else. If that can be guaranteed, the rest should follow.’
Thanks, anonymous, for your comment and bringing up some issues, which I’d like to respond to.
1. Minority rights. No, minority rights is not what the Cyprus issue ‘comes down to’. What about the rights of Greek Cypriots – 80% of the population and who, for 800 years, endured foreign occupation and rule? Reducing Cyprus to the rights of the TCs is the equivalent of reducing South Africa to the rights of the white minority or Ireland to the rights of the Protestant minority. Both these post-colonial minorities tried to impose partition/apartheid on the majority and the injustice has been addressed or is being addressed with democracy; democracy being what the Cyprus issue should ‘come down to’. What do the TCs have to fear from democracy? Anyhow, the relationship between Greeks and Turks is not the main problem on the island; the main problem is Turkey, the invasion and occupation.
2. I do not accept that enosis would have ended the human rights of the TCs and that taksim/partition was a legitimate response to GC ambitions. Before the 1950s, there was no significant history of ethnic conflict on Cyprus – excepting, of course, the institutionalised repression of Cypriot Greeks as subjects of the Ottoman Empire and the massacres committed against Cypriot Greeks in 1821 – and it is entirely likely that had enosis been achieved, TCs would have remained on the island, unmolested, with their lives and rights in tact, able to play their part in the future of the island. Enosis was directed at British colonial rule, not at the Turkish Cypriots. Taksim, on the other hand, was aimed at Greek Cypriots, demanded violence against them, was predicated on ethnic cleansing. How else was partition to be achieved? Anyway, enosis is hardly the issue today, is it?
3. Nor do I accept with regards to the Turks/Muslims in Thrace and the Dodecanese, that Greece has a ‘poor record’. All things considered and compared to the rest of the Balkans (and Turkey), Greece has a reasonable record regarding its Turkish/Muslim minority. Discrimination was a result of Greece’s fears that its Turks/Muslim would follow the TC lead and demand partition/secession in Thrace. TC dread of Greece was unwarranted, an artifice designed to legitimise nationalist calls for partition.
4. Minority protection. GCs have never been interested in interfering with the identity/cultural/religious/educational rights of the TCs. GC hostility to the TCs in the 1960s was not a result of ethnic or religious intolerance, but a reaction to the militant and concerted TC campaign to partition the island. If all the TCs were after was protection of their minority rights, then there would be no Cyprus problem.
5. Warring parents. This question should be addressed to Turkey, not Greece, which has virtually abandoned interest in Cyprus since 1974. Besides, a united, independent Cyprus in the EU should reduce dependence on the ‘mother countries’. GCs have largely outgrown their dependence on Greece whereas the TCs still cannot envision a future for themselves or the island free of Turkey’s overweening influence.
6. Past resentments. This is a problem, but not an insurmountable one. I don’t believe ethnic hatred on the island is dangerously deep – the peaceful Green Line crossings would suggest this – and is certainly not on the Yugoslavian scale – but I would have no problem with a truth and reconcilliation commission to address bitterness. The best antidote to bitterness is justice.
7. On human rights and an independent judiciary, I agree, and would add that human rights for GCs means the right of return for the refugees and the right to move and live freely anywhere on the island. A united Cyprus, in the EU, without the appalling Annan derogations, would ensure this.