Middlesex University offers “Turkish Cypriot engagement” after exclusion from Cyprus panel discussion

Complaints by human rights group Embargoed! to Middlesex University about its Law Department’s exclusion of Turkish Cypriot experts from a Cyprus human rights lecture back in March has led to an offer from the London-based university for “further engagement” and “recommendations for Turkish Cypriot speakers at future events”.

Correspondence between Embargoed!, which campaigns on the ending of the international isolation of Turkish Cypriots and their North Cyprus homeland, and Middlesex University, seen by T-VINE, in April and May of this year, shows that the university has taken the human rights group’s complaints about anti-Turkish bias seriously.

A letter from Middlesex University’s Interim Vice-Chancellor, Professor Julie Clarke, to the Turkish Cypriot group acknowledged that the 18 March event at Hendon Town Hall “was organised by Middlesex University within the context of the London Borough of Barnet’s twinning with the town of Morphou in Northern Cyprus and a visit from the Mayor of Morphou to Barnet”.

The controversial 90-minute public lecture featuring three Middlesex University law academics primarily focussed on the Greek Cypriot perspective of the Cyprus conflict.

Concerns were raised by Turkish Cypriots ahead of the event that nature of the talks were framing Turkiye as solely responsible for the tragedy in Cyprus, highlighting biased terms such as “invasion” and “occupation”, whilst only focussing on the final year of the 10-year conflict and with greater emphasis on the conflict’s Greek Cypriot victims.

One of the speakers, Dr Alice Donald, gave a talk called “The “right to truth”? The duty on Turkey to investigate and provide redress for enforced disappearances during the invasion and occupation of Cyprus in 1974,” whilst her Middlesex University colleague Professor William Schabas’s spoke about  ‘Developments in the law of occupation’.

Prof. Clarke claimed in her letter that, “Middlesex University academics were involved to provide insight and legal expertise” and that “the discussions included a diverse range of views and perspectives from all communities impacted”.

The Interim Vice-Chancellor further claimed that “Inclusivity and respect are embedded” in the university and that they are committed to both anti-racism and free speech. She ends her letter, dated 19 April, by stating that she has “asked colleagues to review our approach to organising events to ensure that where possible panels represent a range of perspectives.”

Separately, Patrick Hague, who is the university’s Policy and Public Affairs Officer, invited Embargoed! to meet with Pro-Chancellor Dr Anna Kyprianou “to discuss your further engagement with the University and hear your recommendations for Turkish Cypriot speakers at future events.”

Embargoed! said they were “very pleased” about the positive exchange with the university, but did push back on several points. The group reminded the Interim Vice-Chancellor that “man who you received was not and cannot be the Mayor of Morphou as he is himself not resident in the town and was not elected by the local electorate,” adding that the Greek Cypriot ‘Mayor of Morphou’ title “is purely a political statement to imply that the Greek Cypriot Administration are the lawful government of the whole island – despite the total lack of any Turkish Cypriot representation”, which the group argue runs counter to the Republic of Cyprus constitution.

The London-based Turkish Cypriot human rights group has offered to introduce the university to the actual Mayor of Morphou (Güzelyurt in Turkish), Mr Mahmut Özçınar.

The group also urged the higher education establishment to steer clear of propaganda surrounding the Cyprus conflict, which has polarised the two Cypriot communities for decades: “Mistruths abound on both sides of the divide, but we would expect that Middlesex University – and indeed Barnet Council – do not import that sort of divisive behaviour into the UK”.

T-VINE understands that no meeting with the university has happened to date due to the ‘relevant Middlesex University people being involved in the end of year exams process’, but that Embargoed! expects a meeting to be scheduled soon.


Main image, top, L-R: Kenan Yaman, Chair of the British Turkish Cypriot Association (BTCA), Embargoed! Exec. Committee member Nejla Clements, and former BTCA Chair Ersu Ekrem, who all attended the Middlesex University Cyprus Human Rights law lecture in Hendon.


Middlesex University responds to allegations of “bias” at its recent School of Law Cyprus lecture, 26 March 2024


Middlesex University and Barnet Council to host controversial “anti-Turkish” Cyprus talk in Hendon, 18 March 2024