In the 21st century, a member state of the United Nations and the European Union continues to be colonized and occupied by a NATO and UN member and EU hopeful. The colonizer is Turkey and the victim is Cyprus.
The northern part of the Republic of Cyprus — about 37% of the island’s territory — has been under Turkish military occupation since 1974. The so-called “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” (TRNC) is recognized only by Turkey.
Since invading Cyprus, Turkey has instituted a campaign of ethnic cleansing in the northern part of the island. It has expelled around 170,000 Greek Cypriots and replaced them with thousands of settlers, as well as 40,000 of its own soldiers.
Documenting the occupation’s toll of murder and rape of many Greek Cypriots including pregnant women and children, the European Commission of Human Rights reported the “wholesale and repeated rapes of women of all ages from 12-71, sometimes to such an extent that the victims suffered hemorrhages or became mental wrecks.”
Cypriot families are still searching for the remains of their loved ones. Hundreds of Greek Cypriots, both soldiers and civilians, were arrested by Turkish troops and are still missing.
Never until 1974 was the northern part of the island home to a Turkish majority. But the murderous actions of Turkish troops terrorized the indigenous Greek inhabitants who, until then, did constitute the majority and forced them to flee to the free, southern part of the island. Turkey thus forcibly changed the demographic of the northern part of Cyprus, distorting the population balance between Turks and Greeks on the island.
Nonetheless, Turkey and the TRNC demand that the Turkish regime in northern Cyprus be recognized as an independent country or reach a “settlement” with the Republic of Cyprus to establish a “bicommunal, bizonal federation” (BBF) with “political equality.”
Acceding to these demands would “legalize” the kleptocratic actions of Turkey in Cyprus, including but not limited to the destruction of priceless cultural and religious sites, the plundering of private property, as well as wholesale ethnic cleansing and segregation.
Turkey has no legal or moral right to establish an independent Turkish state in northern Cyprus or change the political system of Cyprus as a result of its illegal occupation. But the “BBF” model, if implemented and enforced correctly, could very well offer a solution to the suffering of persecuted minorities across the Muslim world.
According to the Christian watchdog group Open Doors‘ 2018 report titled “The Top 50 Countries Where It’s Most Dangerous to Follow Jesus,” Christians in Egypt and Turkey have suffered an “unprecedented” spike in persecution. So why not establish BBF systems between Christians and Muslims in Egypt as well as in Turkey?
The same can be said for Jordan, Libya, Iraq, Iran and Yemen, all Muslim countries that Open Doors found to be persecuting Christian minorities.
Hundreds of Iraqi Yazidi girls and women have been murdered and are still abused as sex slaves at the hands Islamic State (ISIS) terrorists. Assyrian Christians, also known as Syriacs and Chaldeans, have also been massacred by Muslims several times throughout history.
Hence, to end the persecution of Assyrian Christians and Yazidis, perhaps the answer lies in establishing a bizonal, bicommunal federation in their ancient homeland in Iraq in which these minorities can achieve their right to self-rule and live in dignity.
And then there’s Pakistan. A thousand Christian and Hindu girls in Pakistan, most underage, are kidnapped by Muslims from their families each year, forcibly converted to Islam, and married off to Muslim men, according to a recent report cited by The New York Times. Do the persecuted Hindus and Christians in Pakistan not deserve a safe region based on a BFF system?
Why is the West silent and ineffectual in the face of the persecution and even genocide against non-Muslims in the Middle East, South Asia and North Africa? Do the lives of non-Muslim natives in what are today Muslim-majority countries not matter?
The habitation of non-Muslims in those lands predates Islam by centuries; the original inhabitants of those lands, they became second-class citizens exposed to attacks and humiliation on a daily basis.
Islamists should finally be reminded that this is the 21st century, a fact recognized in much of the rest of the world. The Islamic mentality that non-Muslims are eternally inferior must end. If political Islam imposes a second-class status on non-Muslims, then the West should help non-Muslims in Muslim countries establish real “protected” zones within bizonal-bicommunal federations — a system that Turkey so unjustly imposes on Cyprus, but paradoxically would be perfectly just for the dying and indigenous minorities throughout the Muslim world.
Uzay Bulut is a journalist and political analyst from Turkey and a contributor to the news and public policy group Haym Salomon Center.