I do not like the word ‘Diaspora’. Its dictionary definition is “the dispersion or spread of any people from their original homeland”. This evokes feelings of temporariness and permanent homesickness. For third, fourth generation Cypriots these feelings are meaningless. Their original homeland is Britain. These to me are negative feelings which put barriers in front of integration.
Having said all this, I fully understand and endorse the attempts of ethnic minorities living in Britain to maintain their cultural identity. Especially when they still face racism and discrimination despite more than half a century of presence in this country.
The good news is both can be achieved at the same time. It is possible to fully integrate in the country, benefitting from what it offers and contributing to it, while holding on to your own identity and culture.
Identity and culture is dynamic, not static. It is changable. One can carry multiple identities and cultures, in harmony with each other. In the global village that our World is fast becomming, this is what we need to teach our young people.
I attended the Gala night of the CTCA (Council of Turkish Cypriot Associations). It was billed as ‘an evening of recognition and promotion’. A brilliantly appropriate title for the evening.
The purpose of the evening was to reward the hard work of people who have contributed to the CTCA, as well as introduce those Turkish Cypriots who are not so known among the community, even though they are well established and successful in the UK. CTCA did well to marry the two aims together.
It is a very honourable, noble thing to recognise the hard work and achievements of people who have sacrificied their private lives in the course of developing their communities. We all need to be recognised and rewarded. It is an essential human need. We feel motivated, appreciated, acknowledged.
It brought tears to the eyes of guests as we saw 91-year-old Akile Işın collect her Lifetime Achievement Award. It was good to see the generosity and years of hard work of people like Tevfik Zekai, Arife Retvan, Türker Çakıcı, and Kemal Soyer recognised.
I would have loved to have seen Fikret Derviş to receive the male Lifetime Achievement award instead of its recipient on the night. More than any CTCA Chairs, it was Fikret who tried to bring people of different political views together. He very nearly succeeded, but the distractive efforts of dinosaurs both in Cyprus and here in Britain won the day.
Notable, but lesser known members of our community were introduced on the night and rewarded for their efforts to promote Turkish Cypriots and their culture in the UK. People like businessman Touker Suleyman, chef Selin Kiazim, bestselling author Sibel Hodge, brilliant dancer, choreographer, director Özgen Özgeç, 19 year old Judo champion Acelya Toprak who is likely to represent Team GB at the next Olympics, and Kemal Çetinay, the winner of ITV’s Love Island (I hadn’t heard about this show at all) that was watched by millions of viewers of the summer, were all introduced and awarded.
Touker Suleyman’s inspirational speech was one of the highlights of the night. It is important to award people for success. People like those mentioned above are seen as role models by the community, especially young people. However they can be more active in inspiring young people by getting closer to the community, supporting community organisations. I hope people who were awarded will do just that. They will be watched!
Just as I was getting desperate, trying to find things to criticise, an opportunity presented itself in the person who was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award for a male (wrongly in my opinion, as I explained above).
Dr. Özkan Hıfsı managed to bring politics into his speech by making nationalistic remarks, which were against the spirit of the night. He and likeminded individuals are the chief reasons why previous CTCA committees have failed to bring people of different views together.
It is reassuring to see that most people in the present Konsey do not go along with dinosaurs.
Well done CTCA. Congratulations for adding to the success of the June Festival. These are very encouraging and positive steps, but they are only the beginning: may they all continue.
Main photo top: 91-year-old Akile Işın helped to her feet as she receives CTCA Lifetime-Achievement Award 2017. Photo © Olgun Sadik
About Ertanch Hidayettin
T-VINE columnist Ertanch Hidayettin is a Cypriot Turk of African heritage who came to the UK in 1970. A qualified teacher he chose to pursue a career in local government, working for local authorities in a variety of posts including as an Equality Officer for Islington Council, before retiring in 2007.
Since then he has worked with the National Resource Centre for Supplementary Education (NRCSE). He is a community activist and a commentator in Turkish and Cypriot media.