Turk Cypriot journalist pledges to continue writing the truth about Afrin 

An editor of a small Turkish Cypriot paper targeted by an angry mob for denouncing Turkey’s cross-border offensive against the Syrian district of Afrin, said nothing would stop him publishing what he believed, the Guardian newspaper reported.

Şener Levent narrowly escaped being beaten by a group of ultra-nationalists who attacked the offices of his newspaper, Afrika, in January, after it criticised the Turkish operation to drive Syrian Kurdish forces out of Afrin.

“The Turkish army went into Syria and the Kurdish enclave of Afrin to commit a massacre and occupy the country, just as they did here,” the newspaper said, referring to Turkey’s invasion of the north of Cyprus in 1974. 

Turkey is alone in recognising a Turkish Cypriot administration in northern Cyprus, where tens of thousands of its troops are still stationed, while the rest of the world recognises the Greek Cypriot government in the south as having sovereignty over the whole island.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan denounced the newspaper as “cheap and nasty” and Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım appealed to his Turkish Cypriot counterpart, Tufan Erhürman, to control what he called “unpleasant voices” in northern Cyprus.

The Turkish government has a zero-tolerance policy towards criticism of its ongoing military operation in Syria. Turkish police arrested more than 300 civilians within weeks of the start of the operation that began on Jan. 20 for criticising it on social media.

“It is even a crime to say no to war in Turkey. No country is my enemy, but I am absolutely against Erdoğan and his Islamofascist regime. Why did he start this war? Because he needs this war to consolidate his power,” the Guardian quoted Levent as saying.

One of 20 dailies produced in northern Cyprus, Afrika has a circulation of about 2,000. 

“It is crazy that such a powerful man should be afraid of such a small newspaper,” Levent said, who many Turkish Cypriots rallied around in support.

“I am very proud that we are the only Turkish-language newspaper writing about what is really happening in Afrin.”

Following the attack on Afrika, six of the attackers were sentenced to jail terms ranging between two and six months. Another nine, however, remain at large, the Guardian said.

Levent said he was not afraid. “A person lives once and dies once. If you are to die, at least die with honour.”