Letters, Jeremy Corbyn: your denial of attempted genocide of Muslim Turkish Cypriots is wholly unacceptable

Dear T-VINE,

I am a Turkish Cypriot constituent of Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn. I would appreciate it if you could publish this open letter to him about his appearance on Euro Genc TV last month on a programme about the future of Cyprus.

Dear Mr Corbyn,

I am writing to you as a constituent to express my disappointment and deep offence at your comments on the Euro Genc TV programme ‘Cyprus Talks: The View from the UK and Europe’, broadcast on Thursday 18 March 2021. Hosted by Alev Adil, you formed part of a panel that also included Prof. Niyazi Kizilyurek MEP, and Conservative MP Roger Gale.

In your opening summary, you glossed over the persecution of Turkish Cypriots by asserting that “the background is Cypriot independence. All the issues surrounding EOKA B rising, the fighting that went on in Cyprus and the large deployment of British troops. Before that the constitution was constructed around an idea of a voice for both communities in Government at all times.”

I was shocked by your next statement, which effectively white-washed the 10-year period between 1964 and 1974 when the Muslim Turkish Cypriot people were subjected to a barrage of attacks and violence, which is now widely accepted to have been a religiously motivated attempted genocide.

I use the term ‘attempted genocide’ with great care and reference the words of Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, who wrote in her letter ‘The legal meaning of genocide’ (Economist, 27 February 2021) that:

“Genocide is not a word that should be used lightly. You recognise that, as defined by the UN Convention (and indeed by international law and American law), genocide does not necessarily entail the immediate mass slaughter of a group. Destruction of the group (in whole or in part) must be the intended result, but this may be achieved in a number of ways.”

I am astounded that you would so freely and publicly express views which deny the suffering and attempted genocide of the Islamic population of Cyprus. Is it that you consider the lives of Muslim Turkish Cypriots of less importance than Greek Orthodox Christians?

Your views are wholly unacceptable, and I am struggling to see how this fits with the Labour Party’s commitment to countering all forms of discrimination.

Should you care to take the time to speak to members of the British Turkish Cypriot community, you will hear us talk about this period as an attempted holocaust because we are Muslim. Your denial has left us shocked and extremely disappointed with you and the Labour Party.

My family and my wife’s family fled Cyprus in the 1950s, when the persecution of the Muslim Turkish community started during the period known as the Cyprus Emergency. Our village and surrounding villages were subjected to relentless attacks and threats to life.

The violence against Turkish Cypriots resumed in December 1963 and continued for another decade. Yet your introduction disregards this vital period of history. Instead, you said on Euro Genc:

“Sadly, this broke apart in 1974 with the occupation of the northern part of Cyprus by Turkish forces and the partition that’s gone on ever since.”

You seem to suggest that the cause of the division was the arrival of Turkish troops in 1974, ignoring the fact that the Green Line border was drawn ten years earlier by a British general following the outbreak of the Cyprus Conflict.

You are also seemingly oblivious to the fact that Turkey intervened in order to prevent the attempted genocide of Turkish Cypriots following the Greece-backed coup in Cyprus that installed notorious mass murderer Nicos Sampson as president on 15 July 1974. Sampson had sworn to annihilate all Turks on the island.

I would also remind you that Turkey’s ‘intervention’ in 1974 was declared ‘legal’ as an intervention, and not deemed an invasion, by the Athens Court of Appeal, Case No: 2658/79, of 21 March 1979.

In the second instance, the Council of Europe adopted Resolution 573 on 29 July 1974 stating that Turkey’s intervention in Cyprus was a legitimate act emanating from the Treaty of Guarantee (1960) Part IV.

I hope you will reflect on what you said on Euro Genc and the deep offence caused to my community and the wider Muslim British population.

I will also be escalating my concerns to the Muslim Council of Britain and the Labour Party.

You are an influential political figure in the UK and therefore your words carry huge weight. Biased commentary and a deliberate distortion of the recent history of Cyprus, including erasing a decade of suffering by Turkish Cypriots, harms – not helps – Cypriots.

Yours sincerely,

Mr M Ibrahim


London N19


Main image, top, of Jeremy Corbyn MP in 2000, official portrait photo © Richard Townsend, CC by SA 4-0