- Cypriots in Britain: diaspora(s) committed to peace?
- Bertrand, Giles
This article examines the relationship between the Turkish-Cypriot and Greek Cypriot communities in London; it explores whether they are recreating the society they left behind in Cyprus in exile and whether they are one or two diaspora(s).
The author discusses the concept of diaspora, followed by an examination of the history of the Cyprus conflict and migration to Britain from the island. This history provides a context for the subsequent analysis in the piece. No details of the research methodology are given in the article. It is clear however that interviews took place in the Spring and Summer of 2002 in London. Much of the article focuses on events in London, as the majority of the Cypriot community live in Greater London, particularly the Boroughs of Enfield and Haringey.
Greek Cypriot political organisations in the UK, such as the Council for Hellenes Abroad [SAE], EKEKA [Federation of Cypriot Refugees] and POMAK [World Federation of Overseas Cypriots] are politically mainstream and back the "official" Republic of Cyprus [RoC] history that Turkish Cypriots rebelled against the RoC government in 1964. They have few contacts with Turkish Cypriot organisations. Their political activity involves lobbying the UK government; they have supported those concerned with "the Cyprus issue" in elections in London and those seen as pro-Turkish have been ousted from power. Nationalist mobilisation is less effective among Turkish Cypriots because their identity is more complex and there is little consensus over relationships with mainland Turks in London and perspectives on "the Cyprus issue". These different perspectives are illustrated by the four free Turkish-language newspapers which show different affiliations.
Support for Denktas's regime [the nationalist Democratic Party] in the Turkish Cypriot community in the UK is low. The main nationalist party, the National Unity Party claim to have 40,000 - 50,000 supporters in the UK yet there is little evidence of such support. The Turkish Cypriot left in the UK is more active and united than Denktas's supporters. The organisations on the left advocate the integration of British-born Turkish Cypriots into British society whilst trying to mobilise them at the same time. Greek Cypriots in the UK emphasise their Cypriot identity over their Greek Cypriot or Greek identity; one reason for this is the strength of the Greek Cypriot left in the UK which advocates re-unification and reconciliation.
Although social visits to each other's homes and intermarriage is still rare, inter-communal socialisation has increased over time. Two Cypriot community centres have been established in London with representation from both communities. Social activities take place there, such as language learning, and for this reason little open criticism is expressed from the nationalists. However, some nationalists say that the Haringey Cypriot Community Centre [HCCC] in Wood Green, is an AKEL political [communist] operation, as a representative of the organisation plays a crucial role in the management of the centre. There are other bi-communal organisations, but some only have a few Greek and Turkish Cypriot members. "Friends of Cyprus" consists mainly of MPs and MEPs who back UN resolutions and lobby for Cyprus's accession to the EU.
There is significant bi-communal co-operation amongst the Cypriot communities in London, that is, cooperation between Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot organisations. The interviewees revealed that the main reason for Turkish Cypriots not joining bi-communal organisations is the fear of being portrayed as traitors by Rauf Denktas and his supporters. This is only part of the story. The author purports that the language barrier plays a significant role because the young Turkish Cypriot generation do not speak Greek. Also, there is an ongoing process of rebuilding confidence between the two communities, with political developments such as AKEL [the communist party] backing mainstream nationalist policies in Cyprus.
In Britain, Cypriots are more open to express pre-conflict political affiliations rather than an exclusive nationalist identity. The author concludes that people choose three different ways to express their identity, according to Albert Hirchman's theory: some "exit" from their Cypriot identity and choose their British one; some "voice" against the status quo on the island and against nationalism; others are "loyal" to their communal leaders and advocate the legalisation of the partition.
- Resource Type
- Journal article
- Turkish Studies 5 (2)