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Education Minister highlights Turkey’s human rights violations

By In-cyprus.philenews

February 17, 2024

Credits @FFHR.CZ

In a rare presence of a minister of the Republic of Cyprus in a committee of the European Parliament, the Minister of Education, Culture, and Youth, Athena Michailidou, had the opportunity to elaborate, before the committee members of Culture and Education, on the situation prevailing in the occupied territories by Turkey and the unacceptable actions of the occupying force regarding the human rights of the enclaved, focusing, as expected, on the right to full access to education.

Ms. Michailidou vividly described, in front of dozens of MEPs, the continuous violations of international law by the occupying regime.

The minister’s speech, exclusively held by Phileleftheros, was presented behind closed doors and moved on four main axes, which are recorded below, along with Athena Michailidou’s exact references regarding each axis:

Consequences of the Turkish invasion and the ongoing violations of human rights of our encaled citizens by Turkey.

● The violent expulsion of our island’s legal residents from their homes, the creation of 200,000 refugees, the death of 3,000 of our compatriots (including many civilians), and the creation of a sad list with hundreds of missing persons, many of whom are still missing, are just some of the consequences of Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus and the ongoing illegal occupation of much of the territory of the Republic of Cyprus.

● Fifty years after the Turkish invasion, Turkey continues to violate our human rights, to confiscate our properties, to destroy our cultural heritage, to settle and alter the demographic character of our occupied territories, and to strengthen the occupying army.

● 20,000 of our compatriots chose not to leave their homes and remained, initially, enclaved in the areas occupied by the Turkish army. These people were victims of unacceptable actions by the occupying authorities, with continuous harassment and significant restrictions on their free movement, the exercise of their religious rights, and the provision of adequate medical care and education. Turkey thus forced the overwhelming majority of our enclaved citizens to abandon their homes.

Contrast of the actions of the Republic of Cyprus for full access to education for Turkish Cypriot students living, studying, and operating in the free areas.

● The Republic of Cyprus respects and ensures the rights of all citizens legally residing in its territory, regardless of gender, race, color, religion, nationality, or other characteristics.

● Especially regarding the rights of Turkish Cypriot students living in the free areas of the Republic of Cyprus, it is emphasized that they enjoy equal rights regarding unimpeded access to education, just like all students attending schools in areas under the effective control of the Republic of Cyprus.

● Similarly, Turkey is expected to ensure the human rights of our Greek Cypriot and Maronite compatriots – European Union citizens living in our occupied territories, who should be able to enjoy unimpeded, until the day of the reunification of our island, free movement, full education, exercise of religious duties, health services, and other goods enjoyed by other European citizens.

Violations of the rights of the enclaved

Restrictions on full access to education and other unacceptable actions of the occupying regime

● Following unprecedented bans imposed by the occupying authorities from the very moment after the Turkish invasion, only three primary schools operated in the occupied areas, one in Rizokarpaso, one in Agia Triada, and one in Kormakitis. The schools in Agia Triada and Kormakitis closed in the 1990s.

● After persistent efforts by the Republic of Cyprus and despite obstacles posed and continued by the occupying authorities, the Rizokarpaso six-grade gymnasium reopened in 2004. Towards the end of the same school year, the operation of the Rizokarpaso kindergarten was also successful.

● This year, 10 children attend the Rizokarpaso kindergarten, 18 children attend the Rizokarpaso primary school, and 15 children attend the Rizokarpaso gymnasium.

● While it was expected that the primary school and kindergarten in the occupied Kormakitis would operate this year, the occupying regime still does not allow, even today, in the middle of the school year, the transition of selected educators to the two schools.

● The occupying authorities continue to obstruct the smooth operation of schools in occupied Rizokarpaso. In May 2023, they informed that those who wish to transfer to the schools of Rizokarpaso would have to obtain “special” permission from the so-called “ministry of foreign affairs” of the occupying regime.

● The actions of the illegal regime that violate the fundamental right of access to education for our enclaved students include other perennial and permanent challenges, mainly concerning bans and censorship in textbooks and the “rejection” of educators appointed by the competent Authority of the Republic of Cyprus without explanations.

● Another proof of Turkey’s unacceptable overall stance is its decision for Turkish Cypriots to unilaterally withdraw from the award-winning inter-communal program IMAGINE, which, as the Republic of Cyprus, we had successfully integrated into our schools and which included joint actions of Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot educators and students, promoting understanding, peace, and coexistence.

● It is clear that Turkey’s and the occupying regime’s stance aims to expel our enclaved from our occupied territories, as well as to reject and fail any attempt to reunify our island.

Intention of MEPs to visit Rizokarpaso

Sensitization of MEPs to activate them with the aim of changing Turkey’s stance.

● The initiative of the Committee on Culture and Education is consistent with the European Parliament’s longstanding sensitization to the violations of the fundamental rights of our enclaved students by Turkey.

● The European Parliament can play a very important role towards the above direction, utilizing the available tools to exert pressure on Turkey. They call on the members of the Committee to decisively assist in ensuring the inviolable rights of our enclaved students – citizens of the European Union.

According to information provided on the subject by the Government Spokesperson, the Members of the Committee showed particular interest in all the Minister’s references, even requesting more details on the matter.

Moreover, their positive reaction to the Minister’s intervention was followed by their intention to visit our country and seek to visit occupied Rizokarpaso themselves, to ascertain the situation “with their own eyes.”


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