“Cyprus case should be a learning experience for Kurdish question”

Prof. Dr. Niyazi Kızılyürek is an internationally acknowledged expert on the Cyprus question and currently works in University of Cyprus. Kızılyürek is also known for his activism on the both sides of the island, his contributions to the efforts of confrontation and struggle for peace and reconciliation. We talked to Niyazi Kızılyürek about the recent situation in Cyprus, by way of his new book (“A History of Resentment and Violence: Fight for Status and Ethnic Conflict in Cyprus”) published in Turkey.

Given the documents that are published in your book for the first time, can we say that Turkish government's contradictions in terms of the power groups in Cyprus that was represented by Rauf Denktaş and the Special Warfare Department of Turkey are the reflections of “the deep state” in Cyprus?

It is not a secret that “the deep state” is directly related to Cyprus. For instance, I remember that Mehmet Ağar said that the deep state “worked in Cyprus and Hatay”. Indeed, before the Special Warfare Department and the Counter-Guerrilla were started to be discussed commonly, the deep state was already working in Cyprus. Turkish Resistance Organization (TMT) took up arms and got into the action in 1958. For instance, on May 1958, leftist Turkish Cypriots had been targeted. And on June 7, 1958, a provocation was staged, which was similar to the one that led to September 6-7 pogrom in 1955. As a result of TMT's bombing attack against a Turkish news agency, the attacks against Greek Cypriots had started and the ethnic conflict between two societies had escalated. In my book, I lay bare the fact that the bomb was placed by TMT, and Rauf Denktaş played an important part in this attack. Political murders didn't ceased after the establishment of Republic of Cyprus. Ayhan Hikmet and Muzaffer Gürkan, two journalists who were advocating for the peaceful co-existence of the two societies, were murdered in 1962. Similarly, Turkish Cypriot Derviş Ali Kavazoğlu, a syndicalist and member of the communist party AKEL, was murdered in 1965.

There is another point that should be noted: the Special Warfare Department and TMT working under it hadn't always been working in concert with Turkish government and in fact, they were sometimes in conflict with the government and working in opposition. For instance, between 1960 and 1963, Turkish government was advocating for the survival and rooting of the Republic of Cyprus and they instructed Emin Dırvana, who was the ambassador sent to the island, accordingly. However, the Special Warfare Department, TMT and Rauf Denktaş had been making counter-propaganda and working for the separation of the island. Thus, there was a virtual “war” between Emin Dırvana and Rauf Denktaş.

You say, “The fight for status in Cyprus is going on through different means.” What are those different means? And what is the ultimate solution of this “fight for status”?

I mean, though arms are no longer (or not for now) a part of this fight in Cyprus, it goes on diplomatically. Turkish side threatens with use of force and annexation from time to time and Greek side appeals to ECHR and carries out negotiations for the resolution of the Cyprus question. These maneuvers of both sides in the eyes of the international public opinion can be considered as “the different means”.

The ultimate solution should be the one which both sides agree on and embrace. Given the contemporary conditions, this should be understood as a federal state which would be founded on the basis of political equality, containing two regions and societies.

What do you expect from the ongoing peace negotiations in Cyprus? What is your predictions?

Compared to the previous ones, there is considerable progress and agreement in the current negotiation process. However, it should be noted that there are important difference of opinion concerning the issues like territory and security/guarantee. Every one knows that the solution is only possible with “Land for Peace” formula and this means: Turkish side should give some parts of the territory seized in 1974 back to Greek side and in turn, Turkish Cypriots should be a part of the sovereignty and government on the basis of political equality. At this stage, Greek side accepted the political equality of Turkish Cypriots and waits for the fulfillment of their request concerning the territory. Soon, we will see that if it is possible, since the sides will go abroad for negotiating this issue on November.

Can we say that the tension between the ethnic groups in Cyprus history, which you define as “conflict of purposes” and “status concern”, is similar to the tensions that took place in other regions of Ottoman territory?

The ethnic conflict in Cyprus is not exceptional. During my research, I benefited from the similar instances and the Cyprus experience helps us to understand the other instances better. If we look at the clashes in eastern provinces of Ottoman Empire and fights in Balkans and Caucasus, we can understand that “fight for status” is an important factor. However, given the current situation, I believe that thinking through “conflict of purposes” and especially “fight for status” might provide new insights for understanding the current condition of Kurdish question in Turkey and Middle East. In Turkey, the discussions concerning the Kurdish question had been mainly focusing on the cultural and economic aspects of the issue until recently and the emotional aspects and the issue of status had been commonly ignored. If you look at the last 15 years of the Kurdish movement, you can see that the demand for status is the most important one. I think that Cyprus case should be a learning experience for Kurdish question. Today, Kurds in Turkey demand decentralization, local government and constitutional status. Repressing these demands by violence will create hatred, which will probably lead to a grueling and blood-soaked future in Turkey and in the larger region.

The concept of resentment can help us to understand the Armenian Genocide better”

Can we use the concepts of “conflict of purposes” and “status concern” in Cyprus case for explaining the Armenian Genocide?

I think there are conceptual propositions in my book that should be considered in terms of the Armenian Genocide as well. For instance “violence reshape the societies” and of course the concept of resentment which I insistently emphasize. I think that the concept of resentment would help us to understand the aggression and “excessive” violence of Unionist leaders and Muslims against Ottoman Armenians. It should also be noted that the annihilation of Armenians amounts to annihilation of the possibility of demand for status that might come from Armenian political subjects. However, such analogies should be used by considering the difference of contexts, political processes and balance and relation of powers.


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Ferda Balancar