Turkish Cypriots in uproar over Turkey’s control

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Turkish Cypriots are angry over the latest financial protocol signed by authorities in the Turkish occupied north and Ankara, with trade unions threatening an indefinite general strike.

The protocol signed on April 14 is the latest in a series of financial bailout agreements, much like the memorandum Cyprus had with international lenders.

However, the breakaway north’s financial protocols with Turkey come with strings attached.

The 53-page protocol was met with strong opposition in the north as it is expected to restrict the freedoms of Turkish Cypriots further.

Hür-İş union boss Ahmet Serdaroğlu said: “If the protocol is adopted as is, it will poison the community’s relationship with Turkey and create chaos”.

The protocol includes economic reforms and non-financial regulations and provisions such as changes to the constitutional right to assemble and demonstrate and monitoring all communication platforms to tackle misinformation.

One provision provides for up to five years in jail for insulting Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar or Turkey, much in the fashion Turkey’s laws prohibit journalists and opposition from taking a swing at the country’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

A political party leader in the north has been taken to court over a social media post criticising Tatar.

Mine Atli, head of the Community Democratic Party (TDP), the party once led by former Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci, was taken to courts by Tatar, with a north Nicosia court setting a 50,000 TRY (€3,000) bail.

Atli, a lawyer, defended her right to “post anything she pleased”, noting that “we are not afraid, and I am not going anywhere”.

EU Commission spokesman Stefan de Keersmaecker also criticised the protocol’s provisions, saying they appeared to restrict freedom of expression.

“The use of criminal law as a tool to exert pressure on critical voices is unacceptable.”

The protocol was defended by the ruling coalition’s ‘finance minister’ Sunat Atun issuing a written statement.

“Mother Turkey is only looking out for our safety and wellbeing,” he said.

“Anyone attempting to distort our goal of using the protocol as best we can, and attempting to use that against Turkey, is harming the people”.