Featured Image: Turkish-speaking Cypriot worker crossing the free areas of Cyprus knowing that he will not be allowed to turn back to his home anytime soon.
The island of Cyprus is still under the occupation of Turkey and three NATO armies despite Cypriots’ long history for fighting against imperialism. Today, its lands and its people are also divided because of the imperialists and their geopolitical aims for 46 years.
While the vast majority of the Greek-speaking Cypriots live in the free area of the Republic of Cyprus, most of the Turkish-speaking Cypriots are trapped in the area occupied by Turkey. Western divide and rule policy was the way that foreign powers used to punish one of the founder countries of the Non-Alignment Movement during the Cold War era.
The tragedy started when Greek-speaking Cypriots wanted to unconstitutionally change the consociational system despite Turkish-speaking Cypriots’ opposition in 1963. This dispute continued until the young unitary state that got its independence from the United Kingdom was occupied by Turkey, after the US-backed Greek coup that organized for the annexation of the island in 1974.
Barbed wires and a demilitarized zone are dividing the free and the occupied areas. But since 2003, Turkish-speaking Cypriots and Greek-speaking Cypriots were able to visit, live, and work “freely” in their whole homeland bypassing checkpoints.
At least this was the case until COVID-19.
When the pandemic started, the checkpoints of Cyprus closed for the first time since 2003. On 8th June 2020, the government in the free areas of Cyprus opened the checkpoints. But the regime in the occupied area controlled by Turkey did not do the same.
Now, thousands of Turkish-speaking Cypriot workers who have to go back to work in the free area to feed their families are forced to sign a document stating that they will not turn back to the occupied area until the regime decides to open its checkpoints.
The Turkish-speaking Cypriots who did not receive any help from the regime organized demonstrations to demand the opening of the checkpoints, but nothing changed. Now, many of them had no choice other than signing the document and going to the free areas of Cyprus for work. Thousands of people left their families and became refugees in their own homeland in one day.
The biggest political organization which has the mutual support of both Greek-speaking and Turkish-speaking Cypriots, the Union of Cypriots, organized its supporters to offer accommodation to the Turkish-speaking Cypriot workers who were sleeping in their cars. The organization started its campaign by creating a network for helping workers who do not have accommodation in the free areas of Cyprus.
The Union of Cypriots is one of the organizations that campaign for a unitary Cypriot state. They advocate the idea that any separatist and segregationist idea, including the UN-backed federation plan, is an imperialist solution. Unlike the mainstream center-left and right-wing organizations which fight for “bizonal, bicommunal federation”, the Union of Cypriots believes that Cyprus and Cypriots are too small to be divided. That’s why they have a unique place in the Cypriot community with international recognition and their achievement to be a unified front for the freedom fighters and anti-imperialists.
Uniting Cypriots by uniting workers is giving hope to this small island nation. After the Union of Cypriots’ efforts, some other political parties and trade unions also took the initiative to start helping the workers until the checkpoints open. But it is clear that if Cypriots do not renounce the two-statist, or its newer version “bizonal, bicommunal” federalist dreams, this island and its people’s suffering will never end.