As we reach the end of the 2022, we look back at some of our biggest stories of the year, reflecting the highs and the lows of the British Turkish community.
For many mainstream media in Britain, the defining moments of 2022 will include the death of Queen Elizabeth II, the Ukraine War, the climate crisis, the World Cup, and the political turmoil of the Conservative Party that saw the UK have three different Prime Ministers in as many months.
Depressing and tragic news also feature large in T-VINE’s most popular reads of 2022. Yet readers were also attracted to uplifting stories about community events and personalities. They were curious about Spotify’s list of most streamed Turkish hit songs this summer, and loved the positive developments about North Cyprus. It was also a year of standing up to anti-Turkish racism, whether it came from the Met Police or The Guardian.
Below are T-VINE’s top 15 stories of the year. Click on the headers to read the whole article.
In October, T-VINE broke the dreadful news that Koray Alpergin, also known as Bizim Koray after the Turkish pirate radio station he helped establish, had been found killed in woodland in Loughton after being abducted from outside his North London home two days earlier.
The shocking news about the murder of the popular DJ and broadcaster spread far beyond the community, and it became T-VINE’s top story by some margin. Our ongoing coverage about Koray’s death, including about the men charged with Koray’s murder, their appearance at the Old Bailey, and Koray’s funeral, were among the most read news of 2022.
Any positive developments involving the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus is always well received by T-VINE readers, and so when we broke the news about Turkish budget airline AnadoluJet becoming the first airline to resume touchdown flights between the UK and Ercan Airport in the TRNC, the news quickly went viral.
The decision meant that Ercan-bound passengers from London would no longer need to get off the plane for a fresh security check when it lands in Turkiye, overcoming a major hurdle created by the British government in 2017 when it brought in the disembarkation rule.
This extended piece in February, twenty-four hours after Halil Falyalı and his driver Murat Demirtaş were brutally killed in an armed ambush in Çatalköy, Girne, allowed us to cover the shooting and arrests of the men believed to be behind the professional hit. The story includes details about who Falyalı was, Girne’s underworld, and Falyalı’s own murky past, including the sensational allegations made about him by Turkish mobster Sedat Peker.
The community mourned the death of 33-year beautician Yağmur Özden, who was killed when the Range Rover she was travelling in ended up on a West London railway track. Yağmur, who was a mother to a 12-year-old daughter, was a back seat passenger in the A40 horror crash, when the driver, Rida Al Mousawi, travelling at high speed lost control of the vehicle near Park Royal station in August. Both Mousawi and another passenger, Zamarod Arif, survived.
Although the opening of the new terminal building has been delayed to 2023, the mere prospect of a new Ercan propelled this news to number 5 in our ‘most read stories of the year’. Prior to the pandemic, the airport handled some 4 million passengers a year. The new construction, a private-public partnership with T&T Havalimanı İşletmeciliği, will see Ercan grow to six times its current size and double its passenger capacity, while offering the latest security and operational features of a modern airport.
The climate crisis was far more in evidence in the UK in 2022 than ever before, with record-breaking temperatures recorded across the country in July, resulting in multiple fires, including at Aksular – one North London’s best known Turkish restaurants. Ten fire engines and around 70 firefighters were sent to tackle the blaze on Green Lanes, Palmers Green, but Aksular could not be saved. The restaurant was one of 41 properties destroyed by fire in London on the hottest day of the year, with the London Fire Brigade dealing with over 1,100 fire-related incidents in a single day.
7. “Prosecute them” says businessman after “drunk” UN troops damage his jet skis and “punch” him at Glapsides Beach
There was uproar in North Cyprus in August when two United Nations peacekeepers were accused of trashing a pair of jet skis while under the influence of alcohol at a beach in Mağusa / Famagusta. One of the UN soldiers was also accused of assaulting the owner of the jet skis, Ali Cenk Akay, before driving off erratically, damaging a parked car in the process, while narrowly avoiding a major accident as he and the other UN troops fled across the Green Line border.
The details were given to T-VINE by Mr Akay in a telephone interview. The incident prompted the TRNC Presidency to intervene and the UN to release a statement about the need for its peacekeepers “to maintain the highest standards of conduct at all times”.
The Turkish Cypriot Martyrs’ Families and Disabled Veterans Association (KKTC Şehit Aileleri ve Malül Gaziler Derneği) lodged a formal complaint with TRNC police after two elderly Greek Cypriots confessed to killing dozens of Turkish Cypriots during the Cyprus Conflict.
The admission by octogenarians Athos Petridis and Neoptolemos Leftis during a television programme for South Cyprus channel shocked Turkish Cypriots. “We aimed to take 10 Turkish lives for each Greek Cypriot shot by the Turks,” the men said, before admitting without any remorse that they went on a killing spree that left 68 Turkish Cypriots dead.
Our readers loved the story about food presenter and writer Leyla Kazim appearing on BBC One’s hit cooking show MasterChef: The Professionals as a food critic. Having kept the news a secret for six months, Leyla took to social media to share details about her debut appearance days before the broadcast in November. She told her followers, “There’s a new MasterChef UK critic in town”, while posting a photo of herself and her fellow food writers and critics, Grace Dent and William Sitwell.
T-VINE’s culture writer Gizem Öztürk’s piece on the biggest Turkish hits of the summer struck a chord with readers. Taking her cue from a list compiled by Spotify – the world’s biggest music streaming platform – Gizem gave us a flavour of each of the featured artists and their most played songs that are listed under ‘Yaz Hitleri’ [Summer Hits] on Spotify. The Top 5 list threw up many new names for those of us above a certain age: KÖFN, Güneş, Sefo, Cakal and MERO.
In September we shared the good news that the TRNC would be hosting an international sporting tournament, the CONIFA European Championship. Twelve teams from politically non-recognised nations and territories in Europe will compete for the right to lift the trophy. The host nation, Northern Cyprus, automatically qualifies for the week-long event, which will run from 3 to 11 June 2023.
The tournament is being organised by the Confederation of Independent Football Associations, or CONIFA for short. It serves as an alternative to FIFA, which only admits the football associations of countries recognised by the United Nations.
For years, British Turks have endured racism and discrimination, and it rarely ends with the guilty party accepting the offence caused, let alone apologise for it. When we informed the community about the Metropolitan Police Service’s use of a racially and religiously offensive case study to train new police officers, describing a Turkish Muslim male as a ‘Turkish gangster, murderer, rapist, and drug-dealing racist’, with graphic details of the vile crimes he was committing, there was a massive outcry from community groups, leaders, politicians, and the Turkish Police Association.
The unprecedented decision of the Met Police to issue a public apology and invite British Turks to ‘test drive’ their future training courses garnered widespread attention.
Rishi Sunak’s campaign to become the leader of the Conservative Party became embroiled in controversy over the summer. British Turkish Cypriots were among those to criticise the former Chancellor, accusing him of “flagrant misinformation” and “anti-Turkish bias” after he appeared to take sides in the Cyprus conflict in a letter to the Conservative Friends of Cyprus (CFC) – a pro Greek Cypriot lobby group in the Conservative Party.
While his opponent Liz Truss adopted a neutral position in her letter to the same group, Sunak used language and references that not only distorted historical events in Cyprus, but also otherised Turkish Cypriots and undermined their political equality and democratic choices.
Everyone loves a festival and after a lengthy absence due to the coronavirus pandemic, many large-scale public events returned in 2022. One of the most popular annual dates in the community social calendar is the British Alevi Festival in North London.
This year, the family-friendly outdoor event moved borough, from Hackney to Enfield, and also expanded from a one-day event to a weekender, with festival goers promised three days of “live music and spoken word, great Anatolian food, live music, and arts and crafts stalls.”
Being cancelled as an author for writing about books inspired by your homeland is not what you expect to happen, especially when the article is for one of Britain’s most progressive papers. Yet that’s what occurred when Metin Murat submitted a list of his favourite Cyprus-inspired books to The Guardian, which proudly claims to be “giving a voice to the powerless”, but not, it appears, if you are a Turkish Cypriot.
Murat had recently published his debut novel, The Crescent Moon Fox, set in Cyprus. He was invited to submit an article about his favourite books for The Guardian’s weekly Top 10s book column. After initially accepting the selection, there was stream of requests from the paper’s editorial team to change certain books before the article was cancelled entirely. T-VINE decided to publish it instead.