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Turkey, Turkish Cypriots slam textbook ban

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Ankara and Turkish Cypriot politicians have condemned Cyprus’ decision to ban a schoolbook for praising modern Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

The Education Ministry withdrew the English language book “until a solution is found” after an earlier instruction telling teachers to “tear out page 36 before handing it to the students”.

Officials in the Turkish occupied north have come out against the book’s banning, highlighting the deepening division between the two sides, referring to the ‘distorted mentality against Turkey and Turkish Cypriots’.

Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar called it another example of how “the Greek Cypriot side, influenced by the church and anti-Turkish circles, is medicating its youth with its take on history”.

“There is no point in discussing what kind of a leader Mustafa Kemal Atatürk was because the whole world has accepted him as a great commander and leader, and as the founder of Turkey,” said Tatar.

The hardliner criticised previous Turkish Cypriot administrations for “softening” the history books following the Annan Plan.

Tatar argued that nations that do not know of their past go on to make great mistakes.

“Therefore, any differentiation made in our history books should be corrected as soon as possible.

“I emphasize that our youth should also know about the community’s experiences, the aims of the Greek and Greek Cypriot side, and what they have done to achieve them.

“Violating international law, inflicting genocide and oppression,” said Tatar.

He argued the solution could only be one of two-state based on sovereign equality.

Former chief negotiator Kudret Ozersay also slammed the move as an “outdated, hostile and unacceptable attitude,”

“Some sections of the Greek Cypriot side do not want to allow students to have a different perception other than the official one of ‘bad Turkey’”.

Different approach

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said: “This latest action of the Greek Cypriot administration, which has condemned the Cyprus issue to insolvency for years, shows they do not have the patience to share power and prosperity, nor do they want to live together with the Turkish Cypriots”.

Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades dismissed the Turkish Foreign Ministry response but conceded his minister mishandled the matter.

“What interests me is how to deal with an issue which, being the 21st century, may require a different approach”.

Anastasiades said he would review the matter with Education Minister Prodromos Prodromou during Friday’s cabinet meeting.

On Wednesday, the Education Ministry removed an English language workbook from the school curriculum for “inappropriately” lauding Ataturk.

The Oxford Discover Futures 3 book contains an insert on Ataturk, the first president of the Turkish Republic almost a century ago, in an exercise called ‘Turkey’s greatest hero’.

The passage is understood as an exercise, stimulating students to discuss “how can someone be both a hero and a villain”.

On the same page, there are also passages on the famous Mexican communist artist Frida Kahlo and her husband, Diego Rivera.

The ministry defended its decision on the grounds that Ataturk was not a leader who should be admired.

“Therefore, it is not possible to accept textbooks that promote or even praise his personality and ‘leadership’,” a ministry said in a statement.

“Ataturk’s name is directly connected with crimes against humanity such as the Armenian genocide, which is unequivocally condemned by our country and by the United States, France and many others,” it added.

Modern education, argued the ministry, is based on “respect for human rights and does not compromise with attempts to embellish such historical crimes”.