British Turkish Cypriot politician suspended from Labour Party over Israel tweet

Labour Party politicians of Turkish Cypriot origin have become embroiled in row over a tweet that accused Israel of backing terrorists in Syria, it has been reported.

Veteran councillor Ayfer Orhan has been suspended from the Labour group after she shared a tweet that claimed Israel backed Al-Qaeda and ISIS, wrote Jewish News, which first broke the story. Nesil Çalışkan, the leader of Enfield Council in north London, has confirmed these developments to T-VINE.

The decision to suspend Ayfer Orhan was made after the intervention of senior staff at Labour headquarters, who alerted the local party. A statement sent to T-VINE from the Enfield Labour Group said:

“The tweet from Cllr Ayfer Orhan was brought to the attention of officers of the Enfield Labour Group by senior staff at Labour Party HQ. Cllr Orhan was asked to remove and apologise for her tweet but did not do so. The national Labour Party have confirmed that they are leading on an investigation into the matter.”

On 21 March Ms Orhan retweeted a tweet from @Partisangirl – a verified Twitter account with over 100,000 followers – that said: “#Israel hoped that destabilising #Syria by supporting ALQaeda & #ISIS would help legitimise their annexation of the #GolanHeights. The Golan has a lot of water, but they discovered it also has oil.”

The post by @Partisangirl then claims that a company called Genie Energy was set up to drill in the region and lists a number of high-profile figures as being members of its board.

In sharing the tweet with her own followers Ms Orhan, who is seen as a possible Labour parliamentary candidate for the Enfield North constituency following the defection of Joan Ryan to The Independent Group, commented: “What is this??? I have been watching the development of political interest for the #GolanHeights with some interest but this is truly shocking if true.”

The remarks sparked a debate on Twitter, with an account called @SouthgateLabour appearing to defend Ms Orhan’s stance.

“What exactly is wrong with this statement? Why does it bother you so much Miriam? What are the reliable facts? Maybe you can provide them,” it said in response to another Twitter user.

It was later agreed at an Enfield Southgate Constituency Labour Party that the @SouthgateLabour Twitter account should only be used to retweet tweets by the “Southgate MP, councillors or approved statements from the CLP executive” until the CLP can “come back with a more detailed policy”.

A statement attributed to Ms Çalışkan by the Jewish News said: “Cllr Ayfer Orhan has been suspended from the Labour Group at Enfield Council, pending investigation.

“This swift decision was taken following an anti-Semitic tweet posted by cllr Orhan, which has caused great offence.

“Labour Party values mean we oppose all forms of xenophobia and racism, [and] that includes anti-Semitism.

“It is important we challenge it and stand up against it whenever and wherever we face it, whichever political party.”

T-VINE has approached both Ms Çalışkan and Ms Orhan for further comment.

It is not the first time Ms Çalışkan, who became Enfield Council’s first female leader and the youngest in London when she was selected for the role last year, has clashed with her fellow Labour councillors.

In November she survived a vote of no-confidence over her decision to suspend Yasemin Brett, a councillor of Turkish heritage, after she refused to back a Cabinet report on waste policy.

During last May’s internal Labour selection process to choose the Enfield Council leader following local elections, Ms Orhan criticised Ms Çalışkan’s candidacy, claiming she lacked enough experience.

“I struggle to understand why a large cohort of inexperienced councillors within their first two weeks are wanting Cabinet positions having not seen how the council works or sat on scrutiny committees,” she was quoted as saying in an interview with the Morning Post at the time.


This story was last updated at 10.30 on Friday 5 April, 2018.