Turkey wants to rewrite the history of the divided island of Cyprus

Abdullah Bozkurt / Stockholm

A recent deal between Turkey and northern Cyprus has raised concerns about a further surge in historic revisionism with a mix of Turkish nationalism and political Islam, a revised text of the deal has suggested.

According to the agreement, a copy of which was obtained by Nordic Monitor, Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC) agreed to launch an initiative to promote research on the history of education on island in pre-Ottoman, Ottoman and modern Turkish Republican periods.

Article 14 of the agreement, available only in Turkish, states that “the parties shall endeavor to organize mutually academic meetings and to prepare and publish scientific publications of experts in order to do scientific research on the history. of Cypriot education in the pre-Ottoman period, the Ottoman period and the period of the Republic of Turkey.

The text raised concerns among some members of the opposition in Turkey as to whether the Islamist government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his nationalist and neo-nationalist allies had embarked on historic revisionism in Cyprus.

“I could not understand exactly what was planned in Article 14 cooperation,” commented Ahmet Ünal Çeviköz, deputy of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and former diplomat, during deliberations on the text of the agreement in Parliament. Foreign Relations Committee on November 30.

“I mean, there seems to be an effort to rewrite history here,” he warned.

Text of the cultural cooperation agreement between Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus:


The agreement was signed in Ankara on February 13, 2020 by KKTC Education and Culture Minister Nazim Cavusoglu and Turkish Culture and Tourism Minister Mehmet Nuri Ersoy. It is valid for five years with a tacit renewal of an additional five years.

It’s no secret that President Erdoğan wants to promote his searing Islamist political ideology on the north Turkish side of the island, with funds from Turkey siphoned off to build mosques, hire more imams and support organizations. who are allies of the Erdoğan government.

The agreement also includes an article stipulating the use of the Yunus Emre Institute (YEI), the cultural propaganda arm of the Turkish government, for the promotion of Turkish Cypriots around the world. Turkey has established 64 YEIs in 53 countries and uses embassies and consulates to fill the void in countries where the YEI does not have a branch.

The provision has drawn criticism from the opposition over why the Turkish government employs its own cultural institute to promote the KKTC when it is supposed to treat the KKTC as an independent state.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan visited a mosque and prayed during his visit to the Turkish Cypriot side of the divided island on July 20, 2021. He was accompanied by Islamist and nationalist politicians.

In reality, the KKTC is subordinate to the Turkish government, which funds the Turkish Cypriot government and maintains thousands of troops on the island. In many cases, Ankara conducts intelligence and military operations on the island without even bothering to notify locals.

Turkey intervened in the 2020 KKTC presidential election to limit the influence of opposing individuals and organizations, with Turkish government agents threatening candidates running against Turkey-backed candidate Ersin Tatar .

Tatar, a nationalist, supports closer ties with Turkey and advocates a two-state solution on the island. He won the election with 51.69% of the vote, ousting incumbent President Mustafa Akıncı, a leftist politician who wanted to resume peace talks with the internationally recognized Greek government in Cyprus.

Akıncı claimed that a team from the Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MİT) led the election campaign on behalf of the Tatars.

Letter signed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan asking parliament to approve the cultural agreement with the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus:


To put more pressure on the opposition on the island, Erdoğan’s government has started to impose travel bans on some Turkish Cypriots to send a frightening message to opponents and critics. The ban, originally designed to bar the entry of suspected terrorists into Turkey, has for some time been used by the government to blacklist foreign nationals by filing them under the secret code G82.

Some of the people who have recently been the subject of this ranking are Ali Bizden, former press and communications coordinator of the Turkish Cypriot presidency, and the writer Ahmet Cavit. They were refused entry to Turkey in July 2021. Around three dozen Turkish Cypriots were reportedly blacklisted by Erdoğan’s government.

Ankara recognizes the Turkish Cypriot part of the island as an independent state and has no diplomatic relations with the government of Cyprus, which is a member of the European Union. Cyprus has been divided into northern Turkish Cypriot and southern Greek Cypriot since Turkish intervention in 1974.

Erdoğan’s government has also announced that it will reopen Varosha, a seaside town that has been fenced and abandoned since 1974. The move has been condemned by the international community and the UN Security Council.

The Turkish government began promoting a two-state solution for a divided Cyprus after the failed reunification talks in 2017.

Sharon P. Juarez