Two United Nations peacekeepers have been accused of trashing a pair of jet skis while under the influence of alcohol at a beach in Mağusa / Famagusta, in the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus.
One UN soldier is also accused of assaulting the owner of the jet skis, 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 allegations were made by the owner of Aslan Akay Su Sporlari, Ali Cenk Akay, who gave T-VINE Magazine a candid explanation of the events that unfolded on Friday afternoon in a telephone interview earlier today.
Mr Akay said one of his jet skis is a “write-off” and the total outlay for the damage alone is “in excess of €13,000”.
He said he was “punched by one of the UN men” as he tried to stop him and the other UN troops from getting into their vehicles and fleeing the scene as he tried without success to get their contact details.
Mr Akay further stated that as he and TRNC police pursued the two UN vehicles, a mini bus and pick-up truck, the UN drivers showed barely any consideration for the other road users, miraculously avoiding hitting other vehicles before they disappeared across the border at the Akyar/Strovilia crossing that backs on to the British Sovereign Base Areas (SBA) in the east of Cyprus.
The Turkish Cypriot businessman demanded that the TRNC “prosecute” the UN soldiers, wanting them to “face the consequences” of their lawless actions.
“The TRNC must prosecute these men. Every country has its own laws and whoever we are, we have to abide by them. These men damaged my jet skis, my livelihood. I understand they don’t carry thousands of pounds on them to pay for the damage, but they had a responsibility to give me their contact details and then deal with the matter at court if necessary. Instead they ran away, assaulting me and damaging my car in the process. They must face the consequences of their careless and illegal actions.
“These men are clearly troublemakers. If they are allowed to get away with damaging my property and running away like this, the next time they could rape one of our wives or daughters, or attack and murder one of us. Then what?” asked Mr Akay.
He explained that a large group of UN peacekeepers had turned up at Glapsides Beach where he runs a water sports business on Friday, 26 August.
“My father Nihat, a very respected man and retired teacher, was helping me on Friday. He was dealing with customers outside, while I was inside [my hut] issuing jet skis and giving guidance on how to use them,” said Mr Akay.
“A group of around 15 UN soldiers arrived at the beach and came to hire our jet skis. Normally we take their identity cards, but my dad doesn’t speak good English and none of the UN troops spoke Turkish, so he just took their money and sent them in to see me.
“If they are allowed to get away with damaging my property and running away like this, the next time they could rape one of our wives or daughters, or attack and murder one of us. Then what?”
“I didn’t realise we didn’t have their IDs. I gave them the kit and explained the rules and tips on how to use [the jet skis]. Everything seemed normal.
“The first group of guys were fine and used the jet skis without any problems. It was the second set who caused all the trouble.
“Despite me telling the guys to ensure there was about 100 metre distance between the two skis to stop splashback in their eyes, which could affect their control of the skis, they did the opposite.
“They kept getting close to one another and ended up crashing the skis. I called them over and warned them and they agreed to stick to the rules. Next thing we see, they’ve had an even bigger crash and sunk the skis.
“I could not believe it. In 10 minutes, one of my brand new jet skis was a write-off and the other one badly damaged. This could bankrupt me,” stated Mr Akay, who explained that he helped the men out of the water and recovered the jet skis, and told them they would have to pay for the damage.
“We could smell alcohol on them. Bar staff at the beach later confirmed they’d all been drinking cocktails”
“They didn’t seem to care. They refused to give me their contact details, so I told them I was going to call the police because they could not just walk off like this, but that’s exactly what they did, telling us we could not touch them as they are UN,” Mr Akay explained.
“We could smell alcohol on them. Bar staff at the beach later confirmed they’d all been drinking cocktails. I was upset they had used the jet skis under the influence of alcohol. Glapsides is a popular beach and there were lots of other people in the sea at the time. On top of damaging my jet skis they could have seriously injured someone,” Mr Akay continued.
“The men went to their vehicles in the car park. A pick-up truck and a mini bus, numbered 505 and 512. I tried to stop them. I told them they should wait for the police. One of the car doors was open so I held on to it, but one of the men came towards me and punched me. I punched him back,” Mr Akay stated.
“A crowd had gathered and I told them whatever happens to me, not to get involved. Even if the UN troops beat me up, not to retaliate. Instead the UN men got in their vehicles and in their haste to get away, the 505 vehicle, being driven by the man who assaulted me, also hit and damaged my car that was parked in the car park” Mr Akay said, adding, “It’s all witnessed and we have filmed the incident and have photos.”
The businessman said he could not believe his eyes as the UN soldiers literally fled the scene. He asked the TRNC police to help him pursue them, to try and stop them escaping across the border.
“We were shocked how they were driving, right down the middle of the road in between the two lanes. It was like when you see an ambulance driving in an emergency, swerving in and out to get past the traffic. It was so dangerous. It’s a miracle they did not hit another vehicle.
“They got to the Akyar crossing and we asked the SBA police to stop them, but the SBA said they could not stop them as they were UN, so they crossed over to South [Cyprus],” Mr Akay stated.
“We were shocked how they were driving. It was like when you see an ambulance driving in an emergency, swerving in and out to get past the traffic. It was so dangerous. It’s a miracle they did not hit another vehicle”
He said he and his father have lodged a formal complaint with the UN and also shared details of the incident with TRNC officials.
Mr Akay has since been told that some of the UN men in the group of 15 have a bad reputation: “Apparently, they are already under investigation for another incident at Agia Napa.”
Following Friday’s events, the businessman has uploaded photos and videos of the unsavoury incident on to social media, which have been shared extensively. The story hit the headlines in the TRNC on Sunday, causing a massive public outcry.
President Tatar has called for an “urgent investigation”, while his Special Representative Ergün Olgun told T-VINE:
“We are closely following up on developments regarding the incident at Glapsides Beach on Friday and have invited UNFICYP to co-operate fully with the Turkish Cypriot authorities, so we may establish all the facts surrounding this case.
“We will await the conclusion of the investigation by UNFICYP and the TRNC Police before we make any further comment. This incident, however, underlines the need to formalise the mode of operation between the TRNC and UNFICYP,” Mr Olgun stated.
The PR team for UN in Cyprus were invited to share their side of the story, but told us “no one was available for interview”. Instead, a spokesperson shared this statement, also used on their social media accounts:
“We are investigating this incident. All UN peacekeepers are expected to maintain the highest standards of conduct at all times. We need the investigation to be completed before making any conclusions. All peacekeepers are accountable for their conduct.”
This story was updated at 11.53 on 30/08/2022 with a new main photo of the jet ski allegedly damaged by UN peacekeepers, as the previous one used was not from this incident. Two other photos of the damaged jet ski, supplied by Mr Akay, have also been added to the story.