Students primarily from North Cyprus have launched a new group for young Turkish Cypriots in the UK. Called Kibrisli Turk Gencligi Ingiltere (KTGI), the group intends to form a strong professional and social network for those studying in Britain, along with promoting their Turkish Cypriot culture and identity. It is being supported by the TRNC London Representative’s Office, cross-party politicians in the TRNC, British Turkish Cypriot councillors, community leaders, businesspeople and professionals in the UK.
Medical student Ülvan Özad and a score of other university undergraduates organised the launch event on 11 December at the Turkish Cypriot Community Centre in Harringay, North London. The TRNC’s youngest MP Zeki Çeler, TRNC London Representative Oya Tuncalı, and Dr Teoman Sırrı MBE were among the evening’s keynote speakers. The TRNC President Dr Derviş Eroğlu, the TRNC Foreign Minister Özdil Nami and many other TRNC MPs also sent messages of support for the new group.
KTGI is not only for TRNC-born students, but also intends to attract Turkish Cypriot students and young professional born in the UK, said to number over ten thousand. To date, 659 people have ‘liked’ KTGI’s Facebook page and there was a good buzz during the well-attended launch event.
Talking to T-VINE on the night were Ülvan Özad and businessman Hasan Gazi. Highly articulate and a natural leader, Özad explained the background to KTGI:
“We formed the group about three months ago. Everything’s come together really quickly and we’ve already received lots of support. We already have 500 members and our aim is totally non-political. We want to unite young people of Turkish Cypriot origin and create a strong network. Many students who come to the UK from the TRNC can struggle, so we want to offer signposts that can help, whether it’s accommodation or careers advice.”
Hasan Gazi is the owner of shipping business Euromed, and was one of the sponsors of the launch event through the Kuzey Kıbrıs’la Dayanışma Derneği (KKDD – North Cyprus Solidarity Association). Building on Özad’s comments, he said:
“This [KTGI] is the missing link. We are going to create a strong foundation for young Turkish Cypriots, supported by the Turkish Cypriot business community here in the UK. There are over 50 businesspeople [through the Kuzey Kıbrıs’la Dayanışma Derneği] which are supporting this new initiative. It’s very much a 2-way approach: not only will they [students] benefit, but so will us employers, as we will have a pool of well-qualified young people to recruit from.”
Özad added, “We intend to hold regular events in the New Year, including Careers Fairs. It will be spread across London, not just here in the North.”
While the new group was universally praised, one local politician offered some sound advice to the KTGI committee to ensure they reach the maximum number of young Turkish Cypriots in Britain. Pointing to the sole use of Turkish at the launch event, Enfield Councillor Erin Celebi said: “I can speak Turkish, but I can’t articulate myself as easily as I can in English. My children, one of whom is studying with Ülvan [Özad], would struggle even more if everything is in Turkish. If the group is serious about recruiting young Turkish Cypriots from the UK, they must ensure all their events and communications cater for both English and Turkish speakers.”
Following the inaugural event, KTGI has been in touch with other British Turkish Cypriot groups including the Young Turkish Cypriot Professionals Association.
Check out KTGI’s Facebook page for more info about the group.
Main photo: TRNC London Representative Oya Tuncalı, MP Zeki Çeler, & Dr Teoman Sırrı all backing the new student group