Despite public opposition and an attempt by Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci to intervene, the Turkish Cypriot assembly voted in favour of the agreement to establish a Youth and Sports Coordination Office in the north.
The agreement will effectively give authority over the youth and sport issues to Turkey.
Following a highly charged 16-hour session in the assembly, which began at ten in the morning on Monday and ended at two after midnight on Tuesday, the agreement was approved 27 to 17 in the 50-seat assembly.
All the deputies of the right-wing National Unity Party UBP – Democratic Party DP coalition and the four independents voted in favour of the agreement.
There is a huge public outcry over the agreement given the concern that it will lead to the assimilation, conservatism and Islamisation of the Turkish Cypriot community.
In view of the Justice and Development Party AKP’s conservative and Islamist policies in Turkey and declared goal of creating ‘a Muslim youth’, the concerns are not unfounded.
Many political parties and NGOs made statements against the agreement while hundreds of young Turkish Cypriots camped outside the assembly for three nights ahead of the vote. On the night of the vote, Akinci made a call to deputies to break the session and invited the party leaders to discuss the issue. However, the assembly went ahead with the vote anyway.
The agreement has still to be signed by Akinci before it can go into effect. Akinci now has the options of signing the agreement, not signing and sending it back to the assembly, or sending it to the constitutional court for consideration.
The public opposition is continuing, with even right-wing Turkish Cypriots reacting over social media and the issue is making the headlines almost every day, which puts pressure on Akinci, who has 15 days to take up one of these choices.
“Those who destroyed all democratic rights and freedoms in Turkey are in a hurry to assimilate Turkish Cypriots. And the UBP-DP coalition is unconditionally approving whatever comes from Turkey for the sake of seats. The destination is clear: Turkish Cypriots will be socially, culturally and religiously assimilated!” wrote journalist Sami Ozuslu in Yeniduzen.
According to the agreement, the Youth and Coordination Office will provide funds for the establishing and improvement of sports infrastructure and facilities, create youth centres, organise youth camps and educational, cultural and sporting activities for youth.
The execution of all such projects, operation of camps, housing and other facilities will be transferred to the Turkish Ministry of Youth and Sports through this office.
The office will be headed by Turkish bureaucrats, who will be given diplomatic status.
All the staff of the office and the sports facilities, youth camps, culture and arts facilities to be established, will be employed by Turkey.