The “true” conquest of Cyprus

Turkey is currently embroiled in a conflict in Libya. And as news of mass casualties comes from its other front in Syria, there is yet another development attracting less attention: Turkey is preparing to launch a second front in Cyprus. 

But this new drive has as its aim the Islamic conquest of Cyprus in the “truest sense” of the word.

Apparently, Islamists ruling Turkey do not want the political and social status quo in northern Cyprus that has been ongoing there since the early 20th century to continue.

In the jargon of the Islamist movement, the meaning of “the truest sense” goes like this: “The situation is not what I want it to be. Therefore, I will destroy it and remake it based upon how I think it ought to be.”

So why does the Islamist Turkish government want to make a change in northern Cyprus?

First, the Islamist movement thinks that northern Cyprus has an Islamisation problem. This movement has always aimed to expose northern Cyprus to an Islamisation process based on a fundamentalist perception of Islam.

Islamic life in northern Cyprus, due to its assumption of advanced urban characteristics, has never exhibited an acceptable level of piety for the Islamic movement originating from Anatolia. In the eyes of Anatolian Turks, Turkish Cypriots look like “kafirs” or infidels.

Secondly, Turkish foreign policy now fights conventional wars. Moreover, problems related to strategic issues such as natural gas around Cyprus have been added to these struggles. From this perspective, it seems that Ankara demands total obedience from the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC). Ankara, which is trying to "reshape the world", does not have time to deal with the whims of the TRNC.

Thirdly, Turkey will never allow a Turkish or pro-Turkish structure that is run autonomously to have an independent and powerful profile anywhere else in the world.

For this reason, while various Arab communities with half a million members are represented by well recognized, respected leaders throughout America, there are no notable, prominent leaders of the Turkish community either in Germany or the USA.

In the eyes of Ankara, charismatic, autonomous community leaders – even if they are supporters of Turkey – are unacceptable. For that reason, Turkey prefers everyone – from the Turkmens in Iraq to the Turkish Cypriots – to have submissive, low-profile leaders.

Mustafa Akıncı, the head of the TRNC, does not fit this profile as Ankara  wants a lower profile, obedient leader in northern Cyprus.

So how will Ankara carry out an acceptable re-structuring in northern Cyprus compatible with the worldview of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its ally, the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) – in other words, the Islamist/nationalist ideologies that they have consolidated in Turkey?

Up to now, Turkey has implemented two methods to smoothly impose its "sovereignty" on northern Cyprus: The first is to ensure that leaders who are compatible with Turkey rule politics in the northern part of the island. According to this principle, when northern Cyprus has a problem with Ankara, what is expected from northern Cyprus is to stop or step back.

The second way is to use the financial power of the Turkish Embassy, the only embassy on that part of the island.

While acknowledging that these two traditional methods will be retained for use when needed, Ankara also wants to pursue a more complex strategy this time. It is of the opinion that the two traditional methods do not always produce the desired results. Therefore, a more comprehensive method must be devised.

To make some predictions about this issue, it is necessary to look at the social structure of northern Cyprus.

 Turkish Cypriots consist of two large communities: The first are the Turkish Cypriots that have been living on the island for centuries.

The second are the Turks who settled there in the aftermath of Turkey’s military intervention in 1974.

When we analyse the situation carefully, it is immediately obvious that these two groups are vastly divergent, culturally speaking. Indeed, it can be said that they live as two separate "nations”.

Professor Sibel Arkonaç, a prominent researcher in the field of social psychology, and her colleagues have published a scientific article in the Journal of Psychological Studies after they conducted surveys with various groups in northern Cyprus. In their research, they reached the following conclusion:

"Turkish Cypriots and Turks who migrated to Cyprus from Turkey are unable to reach a mutual understanding while discussing the Cyprus issue and, in a way, they live parallel lives.”

As the research supports, there are two societies in northern Cyprus that essentially have walls between them – walls that are not physical, but cultural and intellectual.

As far as I understand it, Ankara wants to create a new and submissive  group drawn from the Turkish Cypriot community  to impose a more permanent domination model in Northern Cyprus.

According to this method, Ankara will find and train representatives from the community that has been living on the island for centuries - individuals whose politics lean towards the new Turkey, that is to say, Islamists.

In a way, this is a radical solution. To comprehend this model, it is significant to see that the AKP government is successfully implementing a similar model in Turkey.

For example, most of the current leaders of the Turkish media and finance sectors originally had a Western and even Kemalist lifestyles. However, they have evolved and turned into AKP supporters, entering into a type of partnership with the government.

It is possible to say that there are "secular-Islamists" in Turkey, although the term is a kind of an oxymoron. Many people whose education and lifestyle are secular are nevertheless politically linked with Islamists and play a major part in legitimising their ideas.

The AKP will likely implement a similar model in northern Cyprus. Those who are members of the Turkish Cypriot community, who have the traditional Cypriot lifestyle and education but politically agree with Islamists in Turkey could become key actors in the new politics of the island.

That is how the fortress will be conquered from within and the “conquest” of Cyprus completed in the “truest sense” of the word. And it is not difficult to see the first signs of this already in practice.