Backlash at Turkey blocklist of 42 Erdogan critics

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Amid a backlash, Turkey’s Foreign Affairs Ministry has refuted issuing a list of 42 Turkish Cypriot critics of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who are barred from entering the country.

The persona non grata list includes former Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci.

Asked by Asli Aydintasbas, columnist at Cumhuriyet, one of the country’s biggest publications, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Ismail Catakli, said: “This is an utter lie”.

Despite Ankara’s official denial of such a list, some Turkish Cypriot critics were not allowed to enter Turkey in recent months, as they were labelled a “security threat”.

The list includes most leaders of left parties, trade unions and NGOs active in the north, including Akinci and his spokesperson when he was in office, Baris Burcu.

The infamous ‘list’ was brought to light by controversial journalist Sener Levent’s Avrupa newspaper, claiming it was obtained from the Turkish embassy in the Turkish occupied north of the island.

Avrupa revealed the blacklist after the head of the Media Workers Union Basin-Sen Ali Kishmir, was refused entry to Turkey on Sunday.

Kishmir was barred from entering Turkey, as authorities cited security reasons, claiming the journalist a threat to the country.

He was the third Erdogan critic to be barred from Turkey in the last few months after academic Ahmet Cavit An and journalist Ali Bizden were denied entry after authorities once again citing “security reasons”.

Kishmir was prevented from entering Turkey on his return to the north after a meeting of the European Federation of Journalists in Croatia.

Basin-Sen’s head is a fierce critic of Ankara and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over their interferences in the Turkish Cypriot community.

The incident triggered support for Kishmir from the Cyprus Journalists Union (CJU).

The European Federation of Journalists, the International Federation of Journalists, and the OSCE Office of freedom of the press have taken up the matter.

In a written statement, CJU said it “stands by colleague and compatriot Ali Kishmir” and intends to take joint steps with Basin-Sen to make the condemnation of Turkey as widespread as possible.

Cyprus European Parliament MP for EDEK, Demetris Papadakis, submitted a written question to the European Commission whether or not it is informed of the situation and what measures it is prepared to take.

The MEP stressed that Turkey violates democratic rights, such as freedom of expression and free and unfettered movement.

Meanwhile, authorities in the breakaway north have played down the issue, saying Turkey had a right to refuse entry to anyone it wished.

Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar defended Turkey’s decision not to allow entry to Kishmir.

“Every country has the right not to allow entry to foreign nationals for security reasons if they consider them to be a threat or have insulted the country,” said Tatar.

Tatar was backed by the Turkish Cypriot ‘foreign minister’ Tahsin Ertugruloglu, who said the issue was being exploited politically by influencing public opinion.

Avrupa published the list on its front page with photos of 42 Turkish Cypriots barred from entering Turkey, including its publisher Levent.

Among Turkish Cypriot politicians and activists shown on the list are known human rights lawyers Tacan Reinar and Mine Atli and the secretary of the union of Turkish elementary school teachers Sener Elcil.

Elcil was awarded the European Citizen’s prize in 2016 for his vision to reunite Cyprus.

Journalists Serhat Incirli and Sami Ozuslu, who leads the Journalists’ Union (KTGB), and Selma Eylem, the head of the secondary school teachers union, KTOEOS, are also on the list.

The list did not fail to include prominent artists such as theatre director Yasar Ersoy and Umit Indaci, Nilgun Ecevit Orhon.

Also included are Murat Kanatli, the leader of the New Cyprus Party and conscientious objector, and Cemal Ozyigit, the leader of the Communal Democracy Party.

According to Avrupa, the list was compiled by the Turkish embassy in the north.