Turkish Cypriots decry earthquake tax

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Trade unions and opposition parties in the Turkish-occupied north are in uproar after the ruling coalition intends to levy a year-long tax on salaries for earthquake support to Turkey.

Reacting to the news, nine unions, including teacher unions KTOEOS and KTOS, and media staff union Basin-Sen, condemned the ruling coalition’s intentions.

“The members of the government, who have been deaf for years and failed to show any sensitivity to the material and intellectual rights of the Turkish Cypriots, are now trying to take advantage of the pain the community is going through,” they announced.

“The Turkish Cypriots have shown that they have stood in solidarity with victims of the earthquake.”

Some 75 trucks of humanitarian aid collected in the north have already been sent to Turkey.

The unions called the act illegal, expressing doubts over whether the money to be cut from people’s wages will find its way to people in need.

Unions were not alone in reacting against the ruling coalition’s move as the leader of the Democrat Party, Serdar Denktash, called it “illegal”.

“Taking a cut from someone’s salary without the person’s consent is equivalent to embezzlement.”

He said the initiative also laid the groundwork for anti-Turkey rhetoric among the Turkish Cypriots.

Meanwhile, the Turkish Cypriot Chamber of Commerce, KTTO, also weighed in on the tax, saying that it was ‘unconstitutional’, arguing that such a decision could not be imposed without approval from the Turkish Cypriot Assembly.

“Everyone must know that no matter how great the disasters and sufferings we are going through, they cannot justify acts using the constitution,” KTTO said.

Dogus Derya, a member of the opposition Turkish Republican Party (CTP), argued that the ruling coalition should instead “send the money given for the Islamic government complex” to the earthquake victims.

Derya referred to plans to build a luxury presidential palace and a new parliament building in the north.

Among the more than 41,000 dead in the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria, 49 Turkish Cypriots died, the majority being students, teachers, and parents on a school trip in Adiyaman.

Of the 39 victims, 35 died when the Isias hotel, where they were staying, crumbled to the ground.

Two of the Isias hotel owners in Adiyaman and a manager have been arrested for illegal alterations to the building, which rendered it unsafe.

Reportedly, columns had been removed from the ground floor to make room for the hotel lobby, while two floors had been added without the necessary permits.