Because we’re worth it ...?
YOU can’t be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline. It helps if you have some kind of a football team or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer.” That was the view of Frank Zappa (for younger readers, a Sixties counter-culture hero and leader of rock band The Mothers of Invention). I think he had a point.
We have a number of half-decent football teams, sadly barred from testing themselves against any international opposition. Bizarrely, as I discovered some years ago, there exists an official TRNC Nuclear Office. I have no idea what they do there. It’s top secret, I imagine. Thankfully we are North Cyprus, not North Korea, so I think we’re still a long way from posing a Mediterranean missile crisis.
As for an airline, few of us mourn the passing of Cyprus Turkish Airlines, the disastrous loss-maker which proved, yet again, that state-run enterprises are there for the benefit of the employees and not the customers.
The good news is, we now have a North Cyprus beer – in fact, we’ve got six of them! The craft beer revolution that swept through Europe and North America as a backlash against the mega-breweries’ bland, factory-conditioned products, has come to Lefkoşa.
The Craft Brewing Co is run by brothers Orçun and Ogun Cananoğlu above their newly opened organic food shop. Here they make six very traditional styles of beer: IPA, American Pale Ale, Belgian Witbeer, Belgian Dubbel (highly-recommended), Porter and German Pilsner.
A cause for celebration indeed, but despite Orçun and Ogun’s valiant new venture, I fear our peculiar, cut-price paradise is still a very long way from being a “real country”.
If, as now seems certain, it is not to join with the South in some form of federation, what does the future hold? There are those who cry for recognition, but this is not a clear or straightforward process.
We have all the trappings of a proper state; a president, a democratically elected government, and a legal system, however flawed. But the Turkish Cypriots must look to Turkey for those other essentials, defence and a currency.
If we take more compelling candidates, such as Catalonia for example, we can see that, for one area to become a new state, another already existing sovereign state must lose some of its territory. As long as they remain the recognised state in Cyprus, the Greek Cypriots hold this trump card and will never relinquish their claim to the whole of the island.
A surprising number of entities exist as self-proclaimed states, many for decades, without recognition. Abkhazia (Georgia), Nagorno Karabakh (Azerbaijan), Somaliland (Somalia) and Transnistria (Moldova) have all managed to gain control over territory, often through warfare, and have established governments, parliaments, courts, health and education systems, and other characteristics we usually associate with states.
Yet in spite of these successes, most have failed to gain widespread international recognition. Recognition is fundamentally a political decision and these territories therefore try to convince the international public, and their leaders, that they deserve it.
So let us ask ourselves: does North Cyprus deserve it? In this International X-Factor, I’m sorry, but it’s a “No” from me.
For those who may be determined to misunderstand me, my position has been steadfast for 30 years or more; the Turkish Cypriots have the right to run their own affairs, within their own territory, unthreatened by a hostile Greek Cypriot majority. I have fought for this in the media. I have faced down physical abuse and intimidation for it and the reason I came here was to support it.
My sadness is, given this gift of self-determination, the Turkish Cypriots have used it to create a clapped-out kleptocracy of corruption and confusion.
Who honestly has any faith in the organs of the state? Not the consumers who pour over the border for their shopping. According to an international data payment company, Turkish Cypriots spent nearly 15 million euros on the other side in the first six months of this year. It’s a figure that has risen every single year since records began.
I used to chide people who went shopping on the “Dark Side”. I felt a certain loyalty -- still do -- and believe we should support our own shopkeepers and businesses. But could there be a compelling reason why people feel the need to go South? Might it not have something to do with food safety here?
The State Laboratory burned down last December, since when there has been no reliable testing of foodstuffs (if there ever was). Only last week the Agriculture Department was forced to admit that 40 tonnes of imported fruit and veg had been allowed on to the shelves without any tests.
The week before, five lorryloads of rotten and out-of-date food, including six tonnes of cheese and 150 kilos of meat, were destroyed after being seized from a storage company in Lefkoşa.
Not far away, I often pass the storage headquarters of one of our major supermarkets. The surrounding area is as dirty as a picnic site after a Bayram holiday. I’d like to think it’s not the same inside, but . . .
Cancer experts are concerned about levels of arsenic in our soil, almost certainly the result of the over-use of pesticides. They also fear that hormones used in milk production are contributing to high levels of certain cancers.
You may play it carefully and buy only fresh products marked organic and pesticide-free, but how can you be sure? Despite the success of the raid mentioned above, state agencies are reluctant to crackdown on friends and relatives – and everyone here has an uncle or a cousin somewhere. Softly-softly, catchee . . . nobody.
The most blatant and dangerous example of state failure is on the roads, where the death toll climbs almost weekly and will continue to do so until someone in authority grows up and gets a grip.
The scandals roll on and on; the universities that lure poor Asian and African students here with false promises of an English education and easy part-time work oppportunities to help pay their way, only for some to end up in degradation, even prostitution. There’s the destruction of the environment and the long-standing disgrace of homeowners who bought in good faith potentially losing their properties because of hidden loans.
This is a hearttfelt plea to all my friends in North Cyprus: now is the time to put things right, so that you may stand with your heads held high and say: “I am from North Cyprus. We are a decent country and we deserve respect.” We could all drink to that.
P Learn more about the new microbrewery on page 2
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