Advocates of European Union face intimidation

September 7, 2001

Academics in the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus who allegedly advocate pro-European ideas face intimidation, according to an international relations professor.

Muharem Faiz, of the Near East University in Nicosia, said: "I have received threats by phone and one night several men came to my door and asked: 'Why are you spreading pro-European Union propaganda? You are a traitor.'" Professor Faiz added: "If you teach ideas explaining the benefits of EU, such as greater democracy, freedom of expression, economic prosperity, you are seen as a threat."

Since 1971, Cyprus has been divided following Turkish army intervention after a Greek-inspired coup. The Turkish Cypriot side of the island has been under an international trade embargo for nearly 20 years. Its economy is on the verge of collapse after its only trading partner, Turkey, was hit by its worst economic crisis.

Last year, there were demonstrations by Turkish Cypriots against the president. Most of its students leave the island on graduating, adding to economic and social problems.

According to an opinion poll, Turkish Cypriots overwhelmingly want to join the EU and oppose the president's refusal to enter into accession talks. The Greek Cypriot side of the island is due to join in the next few years.

Earlier this year, the National People's Movement was formed. Following its creation, a series of bombings occurred against an opposition newspaper.

Members of the group have been accused of intimidating those in favour of taking a more moderate approach to ending the partition of Cyprus and for supporting joining of the EU.

Senol Levant, editor of the Avrupa newspaper, said the group was part of an attempt to silence critics of Turkish domination: "Anyone who advocates an end to partition or even supporting the joining of the EU is a target, whether a politician, an academic, or a journalist."

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