As reported earlier on Embargoed! Waltham Forest Council – no doubt under pressure from Greek Cypriot and Greek lobby groups – not only lowered the flag of the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus, but also announced that it was permanently banned and went so far as to apologise – not once, but twice – for the apparent “offence caused”. Any offence caused to the Turkish Cypriot community in Waltham Forest was apparently much less of a concern.
It is important to state that the raising of the flag – just like the raising of flags of ethnic and other minority groups in the area – took place in an approved ceremony. And just as when the flag of Tibet was raised in acknowledgement of the local Tibetan community, this was not an act of recognition of the Turkish Cypriot state. It was instead a simple and long overdue acknowledgement of the 10,000 strong Turkish Cypriot community in Waltham Forest. A chance for them to be recognised as being both Turkish AND Cypriot. Not exclusively one nor the other, but a distinct ethnic group who had expected nothing more than the same recognition afforded to any other group. It remains deeply troubling that such a simple expectation – equality – should be taken to be an “offence” by anyone at all.
With the above in mind a formal protest took place at the Town Hall on December 9th under the umbrella of the Council of Turkish Cypriot Associations UK (CTCA). As has unfortunately come to be expected whenever the Cyprus issue is raised, the Turkish Cypriot complaints were brushed aside. Once more the perception was that we simply do not exist. The councillors in question disregarded the view of an important number of their own constituents and rather than take the opportunity to revisit their erroneous decision and seek to right a clear wrong, they refused to acknowledge any mistake and refused also to issue any form of apology. Impartiality is clearly not their strongpoint. Despite this, an important point was made and it was heart-warming to see the Turkish Cypriot community come together in defence of their rights.
The story could have ended there, but for one impressive couple the protest continues with a weekly vigil on the steps of the Town Hall.
If you have visited Waltham Forest Town Hall since April 22 you may have happened upon 2 of our most ardent supporters. Once a week you will see a couple who refuse to bow to the inevitable and instead continue to protest the council. Their demand is very simple; “Equal Rights for Turkish Cypriots”. It seems incredible that we should have to be asking for equal rights for any group, but this is the unfortunate reality of the Turkish Cypriots both at home and abroad. Proof that the embargoes we fight against are not limited to Cyprus itself. We remain ‘illegal’ when we are abroad too. And we should fight for that to change.
So while we should all applaud the work of this defiant couple, we should also support it. If you would like to join them on the steps, come and applaud them or simply bring them a coffee, please do. This wonderful couple are literally flying the flag for us. Perhaps you can too.