Tensions Rise Over 1950 Enosis Referendum School Commemoration Day

The political paradigms of Enosis and Taksim (the Turkish-Cypriot equivalent of Enosis meaning union with Turkey) are the deepest political divisions between the island's largest communities.

tensions enosis

Tensions between the Greek-and-Turkish Cypriot leaders and negotiators are rising over a recent House of Representatives decision to commemorate the 1950 Enosis Referendum in schools. Enosis means union with Greece and was a historical backlash against the British Empire which colonised Cyprus until 1960. During the referendum 77 years ago, a vast majority of Greek Cypriots voted to unite with Greece. When their decision was ignored by the British colonialists, it triggered the war of independence which ended in 1960 with the establishment of the Republic of Cyprus.

It’s likely that the Turkish-Cypriot separatist ‘parliament’ will now look to pass a tit-for-tat motion.

The Enosis Day in schools resolution was introduced by the fascist party ELAM and passed unopposed. The Turkish-Cypriots – whose leadership recently decided to follow the timezone in Turkey – are vehemently against it. The reunification negotiators cancelled a scheduled meeting, while Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci said it was unacceptable. President Nicos Anastasiades branded Akinci a hypocrite, saying that the Turkish Cypriots celebrate the Turkish invasion of Cyprus by parading in the streets.

The political paradigms of Enosis and Taksim (the Turkish-Cypriot equivalent of Enosis meaning union with Turkey) are the deepest political divisions between the island’s largest communities. They resulted in inter-communal tensions, eventually giving Turkey the excuse it needed to invade in 1974. In a world that seems determined to go back in time, it’s not surprising that the populist rhetoric of old is making a comeback. Britain faces its Brexit, the US faces an isolationist, protectionist, intolerant future, and the EU faces various populist-verging-on-fascist movements.

Never has it been more important for the leaders to keep talking about peace and reunification. It’s incredibly important for the country to move forward in time, not backwards. Fascism and ethnic extremism leads to intolerance, war and repression. Anyone who lived through the Cold War and remembers the terrible fear of nuclear attack should speak up against fascism and extremism in all its forms.

There is no doubt that ethnic nationalism played a big role in both communities, and both communities must now show maturity and balance no matter the provocations. It’s a critical challenge that must be met democratically. Instead of focusing on our disagreements, we must focus on what we agree upon – human rights, the right to peace, and the right to life.

Fascism and nihilism must remain in the past and their malignant roots buried too deep to poison the future.

Cyprus is an independent country, not a colony or even a member of either of its neighbors. It is an EU member state with its own internationally-recognised government and parliamentary system that should be focusing on the important issues like the universal healthcare scheme, and economic reforms. Going to the past all the time isn’t healthy.

True patriotism is standing up for all the human rights of every citizen, not picking and choosing on the basis of ethnic roots. It is a grand thing to be proud of one’s roots, but arrogant and ignorant to believe they are superior to anyone else’s.