The Cypriot government is notorious for maltreating refugees. Police violence, illegal arrests, illegal detention and deportation are common practice. Last May a group of asylum seekers led the biggest refugee protest that Cyprus had ever seen against these practices. The protest involved occupying Nicosia’s central square “Eleftheria Square” for 11 days and nights and the Red Cross headquarters for 5 more days and nights. Demonstrations took place that involved up to a thousand people. The Kurds, who participated until the end of the protest, successfully gained their legal rights as asylum seekers through this struggle: they were given medical cards and valid residence permits, temporary housing for all in need, an emergency lump sum of money and work permits complying with existing collective agreements.
While the Cypriot government (that also includes AKEL, the so-called “Communist Party” in Cyprus) doesn’t hesitate to use as propaganda the oppression Kurds suffer under Turkish rule, to damage its international standing, it is itself violating the rights of refugees and of Kurdish refugees. Now the Cypriot government seems to want to hand over Kurdish refugees to their oppressors and torturers. This is especially clear in the case of about 100 Kurdish refugees who were in the forefront of the struggle of the asylum seekers last May, that are threatened with deportation to Syria where they’ll face certain imprisonment, torture and persecution at the hands of the Syrian regime. A massive international campaign of protest is needed to stop the Cypriot government’s deportation plans.
If sent back to Syria, the refugees will face certain persecution
The Kurdish people are an oppressed nation. Their territory is occupied by Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria all of which refuse to recognise the Kurds as a nation. While they are denied their national rights such as being taught and participating in public life using their own language, they also face general forms of discrimination: sometimes they are refused access to high schools and universities and they always have big difficulties finding employment. Sometimes they are not even granted ID cards and passports or any paper to indicate their existence and their property is confiscated. The Syrian government (like other governments) is extremely oppressive against Kurdish protests against their oppression. Most of the 100 Kurdish refugees in Cyprus that participated until the end of the struggle in May were also activists in Syria and are wanted by that government. When these people fall into the hands of the Syrian government they risk disappearing in prison cells or “disappearing” all together. During the May demonstrations the families of those who participated were visited by the Syrian secret police to be informed that the authorities knew about the activities of their family members in Cyprus. They were threatened that they would pay for it. If these aren’t “political refugees”, then what are?
Authorities moved in vindictive way
The Cypriot authorities are not unaware of this reality. On the contrary, everything points in the direction that they are acting in a vindictive way. During the 10 days it took the authorities to interview all the refugees in a very perfunctory and bureaucratic manner, the authorities made their “judgment” on the basis of an interview that often didn’t last longer then one hour, translation included. When the asylum seekers wanted to explain the persecution of their nationality, and how their every protest was dealt with military violence and gunfire, they were interrupted and told that this did not have anything to do with their personal situation!
Appeal for Solidarity
The only way the Cypriot government can be pushed back and asylum can be won for the Kurds is on the basis of a huge international campaign. In the coming period protest actions will be organised in Cyprus and in front of Cypriot embassies in other countries. We will publicise internationally about this cruel, hypocritical and scandalous policy of the Cypriot government. We also ask all readers of socialstworld.net to immediately send protest letters to the following email addresses:
Send emails to:
President of Parliament, gen. secretary of AKEL
Minister of Interior
Office of the Ombudsman
And copies to:
Youth against Nationalism in Cyprus
Committee for a Workers International