Trade unionist and media commentator Fevzi Hussein was elected chair of Embargoed! at the group’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) held in central London on Sunday. It is the second time Mr Hussein has held this post for the human rights group, having previously been chair between 2007 and 2011. He is joined by Mustafa Bozkus, a procurement manager for one of the world’s largest banks, who will serve as Treasurer, and Suzan Nuri, a journalist and the former editor of London Turkish Gazette who is the group’s new Secretary. The AGM guest speaker was Alp Mehmet, a former British ambassador and the first of foreign birth to hold such a post for Britain. In his acceptance speech, Mr Hussein said, “Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither was Embargoed!’s reputation. We continue to chip away at the unjust embargoes, helping to transform the landscape with our campaign over these past nine years.”
Over a third of all UK-based Embargoed! members turned out for the AGM, which took place in the private room at Tas Restaurant in Bloomsbury. The group elected a new committee to take over from Emel Djevdet, Fahri Zihni (Acting Chair) and Selen Guneser. The nominations for Chair, Treasurer, and Secretary were unopposed. In addition to electing a new committee, reports covering the group’s activities and finances during the 2011-2013 period were submitted and approved by the members. Operating on a slender budget of just £10,000 per annum, the volunteer-led group continued to be as active as ever.
In 2012, Embargoed! ran a major campaign about the exclusion of Turkish Cypriots from the Olympics, which forced comments from both the IOC and Greek Cypriot leader Demetris Christofias. Various actions were undertaken during the Greek Cypriot EU Presidency, including co-ordinating a letter signed by British notables about Turkish Cypriot rights, which was published in the Daily Telegraph. Embargoed! has spearheaded the EU hellim/halloumi campaign, and exposed and challenged anti-Turkish politicians in Britain, such as Enfield-Southgate MP David Burrowes and Enfield councillor Chris Joannides. The group also helped drive the historic moment when the Scottish Trade Union Congress (STUC) Black Workers Conference unanimously passed a motion in 2011 calling for an end to the embargoes on North Cyprus.
Along with campaigning and lobbying, the group has issued quarterly newsletters to its 4,000-strong global support base and produced several topical videos. These include the Turkish Cypriot Olympic Project, interviewing people such as Dr Tommie Smith and Olympic gold medallist Tessa Sanderson, and the London Elections, urging British Turks living in London to get politically active. The group also regularly shares key news from and about the TRNC with its supporters and stakeholders to ensure the embargo issue is never out of the public spotlight.
Highlighting his plans for Embargoed! during the year ahead Mr Hussein said: “The Turkish Cypriot Olympic Project and the 50th anniversary of the start of the embargoes will be very significant for our group.” He added that, “Combating bigotry against Turks in Cyprus will also be one of the main priorities”, pointing to the recent experiences at the Cyprus Wine Festival held at Alexandra Palace where British Turkish Cypriots were deeply offended through the overwhelming amount of anti-Turkish propaganda being distributed at the event. More fundraising, doubling the group’s membership and better engagement with other Turkish Cypriot associations will also form part of Embargoed!’s aims for the next 12 months.
The AGM, chaired by Ergin Balli, started by paying tribute to Bengu Shail who died last week. The 34-year old Turkish Cypriot had campaigned tirelessly to get British Turks and Cypriots to sign up to the Bone Marrow Registry. Those unable to attend the AGM sent their apologies and good wishes, including Billy Hayes, General Secretary of the 200,000 strong Communication Workers Union, Danny Lynch from football anti-racism body Kick It Out, and Baroness Meral Ece-Hussein. Following guest speaker Alp Mehmet, Embargoed! member Esat Mustafa also gave a brief introduction to his forthcoming book in Turkish called Kıbrıis Tarihinde Yağmuralan (Vroisha in Cyprus History).
Photo by Nefise Hussein of (from L-R): Alp Mehmet, Fevzi Hussein & Mustafa Bozkus