Queer Cyprus is showing solidarity with Vois Cyprus who made public statement on Racism in the northern part of Cyprus. Here is the full statement:
VOIS CYPRUS PUBLIC STATEMENT ON RACISM IN THE ‘NORTHERN PART OF CYPRUS’
The unfortunate murder of George Floyd by a white police officer in the United States has once more reminded us of the pervasiveness and brutality of racism and calls for the need for us as a society to reflect on how we treat black people and people of colour within our communities. As an organization which represents foreign students in the northern part of Cyprus and whose membership is diverse and includes black people, we want to seize this moment to stand in solidarity with all black people the world over, particularly the black members of our community here in the northern part of Cyprus.
First off, Black Lives Matter! It takes a superhuman amount of self-control for black people to act normal in societies where everything is stacked up against them. Racism isn’t just an American problem, it is an everywhere problem and the northern part of Cyprus is not exempt.
Racism and discrimination has become so normalized within our community in the northern part of Cyprus. So pervasive that one can hardly take a break. Before you continue claims and reproduce stereotypes that Africans or especially black students act or are a certain way, have you perhaps wondered how it could be a lot different if they were treated humanely? Charity ought to begin at home.
Permit us to highlight just a few normalized racial patterns here;
There are some local markets whose owners brazenly say that they do not ‘sell to blacks’, as though their money is somehow tainted by the colour of their skin. Some landlords and agents proudly and with no iota of shame say that do not rent out to black people, as though they do not also have an equal right to shelter. Even in some of those that do, black residents are only permitted to live on the ground floor, underserving of using the elevators or living on other floors. In others, they are placed in the most run-down of accommodations for which they are charged exorbitantly, places that local citizens would never even opt to stay in in the first place.
In a meeting between VOIS members and a public institution, a government employee actually said to our black members present that they should be grateful for the opportunity to study here since they are “poor Africans”. This same official also claimed that beautiful young black women sleep with old Cypriot men, because they are just too poor, so what else could they do? While, in the same breath saying that black men are just here casually raping Cypriot girls.
Even more recently, in the midst of a pandemic whose effects have touched EVERYONE, the ‘prime minister’ in the northern part of Cyprus referred to African students specifically as the ones who are unregistered and tried to use that as a basis for refusing aid? Is this not the same country where a newspaper named “Afrika” exists, depicting a monkey in its logo as though the insinuation is not as clear as it is disgusting?
It is even more disappointing that all of this is happening in a society that has itself spent the bulk of its contemporary existence, decrying oppression from a larger community but turns around to do the same. Racism exists here and it is time to talk about it.
Just because it is not as visible as you’ve been led to believe or not as televised as in the US and other places does not mean it does not exist here. It is so ‘normal’ that many locals often discriminate brazenly knowing they can get away with it, and why not? When society has told them that they will always be prioritized over foreigners, especially those foreigners who are black. Ask your black friends about their stories.
The universities here in North Cyprus, the sole reason for many of us being here, have been incredibly deafening in their silence. Perhaps because many of them know that they have been complicit in perpetuating racial biases either directly or indirectly. We hear your silence, and we are taking note. It is sad that you will only break this silence when it is time to attract more black students and their money, which is the only aspect that nobody seems to have a problem with.
We will no longer stand in silence, as you persistently discriminate against the black members of our community. We are all human, and how someone looks or the colour of one’s skin should not matter.
We ask the authorities; the government and the universities to start taking actions to redress this situation.
To the universities, we demand the following;
1. Have anti-discrimination laws and expectations for the university which all staff and students are aware of and expected to uphold.
2. Have pastoral care staff dedicated to international students, find good affordable housing and support students in finding acceptable working conditions and informing them honestly of work conditions and pay.
3. Fund cultural activities and events which promote diversity.
4. Provide high quality internships
5. Provide general support services, particularly mental health support.
6. Have a student union which is representative and with a strong voice.
7. Have a representative of the international students on the university senate.
8. Permit students to walk in protest on Wednesday 10th between 18:00-20:00pm within their school campuses in solidarity against racism.
From the government we demand;
1. The establishment of an independent public accountability office where cases of discrimination and racism can be reported. This office should be able to investigate reported cases and provide recommendations for legal action against such persons.
2. The criminalization of racism and discrimination in the penal code.
3. Establish a fair housing act and an office to monitor the implementation of such regulations as provided in the fair housing act.
We want to thank all those members of the local and foreign community who are together with us as we stand in solidarity against racism. At the same time, we call on all civil society organizations within the northern part of Cyprus to join our call for action against racism by signing this petition.