An Australian MP of Greek Cypriot heritage has got herself into hot water after making divisive and deeply offensive comments about Cyprus.
Kat Theophanous (pictured top), the Northcote MP for the Victoria Labour Party, was suspended by her party after giving a speech in Parliament on the anniversary of the Cyprus War in 1974 where she described Turkiye’s lawful intervention as an “invasion” and the homeland of Turkish Cypriots as an “illegal occupation”.
Stating she is “proudly Cypriot Australian”, Theophanous, whose mother hails from Ashia / Paşaköy, in Famagusta, North Cyprus, claimed that Turkish troops had “rounded up the Greek civilians, executed them and dumped their bodies into mass graves” in 1974. She also likened the presence of Turkish troops in the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus to current events in Ukraine.
The MP’s highly distorted and inflammatory presentation of Cyprus’ recent tragic history infuriated Australians of Turkish Cypriot heritage, who view Turkiye as their saviour after the Guarantor Power intervened in Cyprus in 1974 to end a decade of brutal oppression they endured at the hands of Greek Cypriots.
Theophanous’ inaccurate account of the events of 1974 airbrushed out the attempted genocide of Turkish Cypriots, which included the execution by Greek Cypriot terror group EOKA-B of 126 women, children and the elderly from three villages, Atlılar, Muratağa. Sandallar, and 85 civilians from another village, Tochni, who were all later found in mass graves. Former Greek Cypriot Foreign Minister Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis apologised for these mass murders in 2016, describing them as “horrific crimes” on her Facebook page.
Natalie Suleyman, a fellow Victoria Labour politician and senior minister of Turkish Cypriot heritage, led the outcry against Theophanous. She was backed by fellow minister Melissa Horne, who introduced a motion to suspend the Northcote MP for failing to consult with her colleagues ahead of making such a divisive speech. Theophanous now faces an indefinite suspension.
While Australians of Greek and Greek Cypriot heritage have rallied around one of their own MPs, Australia’s Turkish community have continued to condemn her.
Digital news platform The Ozzy Turks said the MP’s speech was “scandalous”, while the Australian Turkish Advocacy Alliance urged Theophanous “to remember she is not the member for Athens or Larnaca.”
The Ozzy Turks claimed Theophanous’ speech “delivered the message of WHIPA”, adding that the World Hellenic Inter-Parliamentary Association (WHIPA) is “an initiative of the Greek government, using elected representatives with Greek heritage in the West to deliver its foreign policy goals.”
In the same post, The Ozzy Turks stated that Theophanous had broken “the bi-partisan tradition of Victorian politicians staying away from contentious foreign policy issues” and that the MP had “caused fury within the party” for her “unilateral and unsanctioned action”.