As Turkey seems to be rapidly slipping into a single-party autocracy in the wake of a failed coup, the future seems ever more uncertain for a handful of Turkish Cypriots, who are watching the developments in dismay.
Tens of thousands people have been detained and suspended, hundreds of schools are being closed, all 3 million civil servants and all academics are banned from travelling abroad, tens of media outlets have been shut down, and a state of emergency has been declared in Turkey in response to the coup attempt last Friday.
“My biggest fear is that Erdogan may become even more authoritarian,” said International Relations Professor Dr. Ahmet Sozen, who underlined there have been increasing signs of Erdogan’s illiberal and authoritarian tendencies in the last three years.
“He may use the failed coup as a justification to further curb Turkish democracy and fundamental human rights and freedoms. This would take Turkey to much worse, much darker days.”
Observers agree that the northern part of Cyprus, which is economically dependent and politically and administratively under the heavy influence of Turkey, is certain to be affected by the developments in Turkey. Exactly how, is difficult to tell just yet.
The facts that Turkish citizens are not required to possess passports to enter the northern part of Cyprus, that the Turkish Cypriot police and fire department is under the Turkish military’s control, and that the religious activities in the north have largely been unregulated make the place even more vulnerable.
So far Some 60,000 people have been detained or suspended, including 103 generals and admirals – a third of the military’s high command, judges, prosecutors, soldiers, police, civil servants and private school teachers.
Some 1,577 university deans have been asked to resign. Civil servants and academics have been banned from travelling abroad and those abroad have been told to return home.
Erdogan has also said he would consider reinstating the death penalty for the ring leaders of the failed coup, while one of his top aides suggested the government may make it easier for the civilians to obtain firearm ownership licences “to defend themselves against coup attempts”.
Regardless of what direction Turkey decides to go, developments, which are completely outside the control of Turkish Cypriots, will inevitably have a huge impact on the north.
Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci stated that the important duty awaiting Turkey now is to show the world that it fulfils the requirements of being a state where rule of law prevails. “The best response to an illegal and anti-democratic attempt would be to remain within the limits of law and democracy,” said Akinci.