Cyprus conflict resolution strongly questioned if minorities continue to be excluded – new MRG report
22 March 2011
Minorities in Cyprus face serious discrimination and their exclusion from political activity adds to the obstacles in resolving the nearly four-decade long conflict, Minority Rights Group International says in a new report.
The report says that the systematic failure to recognise the existence of minority groups and include them in on-going peace processes has further burdened a frozen conflict.
‘There are several ethnic and religious groups in Cyprus who are not constitutionally recognised and this has contributed to wide-scale marginalisation and exclusion,’ says Nurcan Kaya, MRG’s Cyprus Programme Coordinator.
‘Despite minorities in Cyprus being affected by the country’s conflict, they have never been included in attempts to negotiate peace. This is one of the major reasons for the failure of these processes,’ she adds.
In the Greek-Cypriot dominated Republic of Cyprus, three religious minorities – Armenians, Latins and Maronites – enjoy recognised status under the Constitution, but other minorities there – Roma, Turkish Cypriots who have chosen to remain in the southern part of the island, and new migrants – have no recognised status.
‘New migrant groups in particular are subject to overt discrimination and hostility. Many of them don’t even know what rights they have and have little confidence that the state would protect their rights,’ says Anthoula Papadopoulou, Chair of the Steering Committee of KISA - Action for Equality, Support, Antiracism, an NGO based in the Republic of Cyprus.
‘This is both alarming and appalling considering that the Republic of Cyprus is a member of the European Union and is subject to several regional and international legal instruments on minority rights and anti-discrimination,’ Papadopoulou adds.
According to the report, in the unrecognised ‘Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’ (TRNC) no minority group enjoys any recognised legal status. The TRNC is home to the bulk of the island’s Roma population, as well as Turkish nationals who have settled on the island, including those belonging to minority groups, such as Alevis, Kurds and ethnic Bulgarians, and an ever decreasing number of Greek Cypriots and Maronites.
The very notion of ‘minority’ carries a pejorative connotation in the Turkish language; as a reflection of this, the legal framework set up in the northern part of the island is entirely deficient in accommodating the rights of minorities, the report says.
The report says that minorities, along with other sections of society in Cyprus, encounter a series of human rights violations, which are a direct or indirect outcome of the conflict.
Direct violations relate to the right to move and reside freely in every part of the island and the enjoyment of the right to property. Indirect violations relate mainly to the changing nature of economic life and demographics on the island. In the Republic of Cyprus, even the constitutionally recognised minority groups have never been included in peace negations.
‘The pace and depth of the current peace negotiations in Cyprus leaves little room for hope, but there is even less hope that such a process could ever succeed if minorities on both sides continue to be excluded from the process,’ Kaya says.
The report recommends that both the TRNC and the Republic of Cyprus create and increase constitutional guarantees for minority protection and asks the UN to set minority protection as a separate agenda item in future peace negotiations.
Notes to the Editor
- The report Minority rights: solutions to the Cyprus conflict will be available for download from Wednesday 23 March 2011, see http://www.minorityrights.org/10663/reports/minority-rights-solutions-to-the-cyprus-conflict.html
- Minority Rights Group International (MRG) is a non-governmental organisation working to secure the rights of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples worldwide
- Interviews are available with the report’s authors:
Nurcan Kaya, MRG’s Cyprus Programme Coordinator and Nikolas Kyriakou, European University Institute
- Anthoula Papadopoulou, KISA - Action for Equality, Support, Antiracism
For further information, embargoed copies of the report or to arrange interviews with the report’s authors please contact:
Emma Eastwood/Farah Mihlar
MRG Press Office in London
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