Monday, 23 August 2021

Passports withdrawn from occupation regime officials: meaningful or empty gesture?

The government of the Republic of Cyprus announced today that it was rescinding the Cypriot passports of 14 Turkish Cypriot officials of the occupation regime.
 
The 14 include the nominal leader of the Turkish minority on the island, Ersin Tatar, nine members of the so-called ‘council of ministers’ and the four members of the ‘committee on the opening of Varosha’.
 
The measure was in response to announcements made last month by the occupation regime and Turkey that they were planning to open for colonisation the Greek Cypriot town of Varosha. Varosha was ethnically cleansed of its inhabitants during Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus in 1974 but, unlike other seized towns and villages in the occupied areas, had not been settled or developed by the Turks. The expectation was that Varosha would be returned to Greek Cypriots as part of a wider Cyprus settlement.
 
The government announcement suggested that the reason the passports were withdrawn was because the 14 were regarded as having undermined the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and security of the Republic of Cyprus.
 
This rationale raises a number of questions.
 
1. An argument could easily be made that every single Turkish Cypriot leader since 1963, whether supporting armed rebellion against the state, propagating partition, supporting Turkey’s invasion of the island and, then, the puppet ‘state’ it established, has undermined the sovereignty,  independence, territorial integrity and security of the Republic of Cyprus.
 
2. If the withdrawal of passports is down to the 14 undermining the sovereignty, etc, of the Republic of Cyprus, then surely the repercussions must be severe. Depriving the 14 of their Cypriot passports is a symbolic gesture rather than a consequential one.
 
3. If one considers that when, in 2017, the Catalan parliament – with much stronger democratic legitimacy than the occupation regime – called an independence referendum, which the Spanish government deemed illegal, Madrid prosecuted the Catalan separatist leaders for ‘sedition’ and jailed them. One wonders why the Cypriot government is not going down this path or, indeed, the path of prosecuting the 14 for any number of other crimes – such as the illegal seizure and exploitation of private and government property in Varosha. The emptiness of passport withdrawal is made even more apparent when it’s realised that the 14 delinquent Turkish Cypriots are all holders of Turkish passports. Any inconvenience for them arising from the denial of their Cypriot passports will be mitigated by their ownership of other national documents. 
 
Finally, it’s worth noting that there’s one member of the occupation regime’s ‘council of ministers’ not affected by today’s announcement. This is Erhan Arikli, self-styled ‘deputy prime minister’ and ‘minister of economy and energy’, who as a Turkish settler rather than a Turkish Cypriot had no right to a Republic of Cyprus passport.
 
Arikli also happens to be wanted by Cyprus authorities for his participation in the murder of Tassos Isaak. In 1996, Isaak was beaten to death by a mob of nationalist Turkish Cypriots and Turkish settlers – led by Arikli – during a protest against the Turkish occupation in the UN buffer zone near Deryneia. 
 
Arikli’s senior role in the ‘government’ of the occupation regime indicates the extent to which it is run by crooks, fugitives and gangsters. 
 
(In 2015, Tatar – the leader of the occupation regime – had an arrest warrant issued by the UK Serious Fraud Office for his role in the illicit activities of Turkish Cypriot conman Asil Nadir, found guilty in 2012 of stealing money from his company, Polly Peck, and jailed for 10 years, before it was conveniently decided in 2019 that his prosecution was no longer in the public interest).
 
It’s a pity, therefore, that the authorities in the Republic of Cyprus have missed the opportunity to treat the 14 it has targeted today as full-blown criminals who deserve to end up before the Cypriot courts and potentially sent to Cypriot jails for their flagrant violations of any number of Cypriot laws.