Sunday, January 31, 2016

The unhappiness of Turkish Cypriots…

Sevgul Uludag

Tel: 99 966518

One of my good friends, Mine Yucel who is the owner of Prologue Consultancy, has been doing research about the Turkish Cypriots living in the northern part of Cyprus and one of her reports recently made headlines where she pointed out that Turkish Cypriots are in fact very unhappy… I want to share excerpts from her recent report called `Policy Recommendations for North Cyprus`… I am sharing this so that our readers have a perspective about how Turkish Cypriots are feeling… Here are some highlights from her report:
"… there is a group who believe that Turkish Cypriot identity is under threat. Departing from the conceptual framework we used to define identity as 'a tent which includes all individuals living on a common land', we discovered holes on the Turkish Cypriot identity tent resulted from unrecognition, past and recent traumas and also from not having confidence either on themselves or the institutions to the extent of unhappiness and social depression. Seeing these holes, this common tent now is not adequately covering everyone insomuch that the presence of the tent is now being questioned. Additionally, individuals living inside the tent are suffering from 'unhappiness' in their daily lives for not feeling they 'belong' there.
It is necessary to investigate this finding further and to put forth the reasons why. In Identity report, we referred to mistrust in institutions existing widespread in the country while in Human Rights and Crime reports we emphasized the legal gaps and/or inefficiency of existing regulations resulting from the lack of inspection and insufficient implementation. It is possible to speak of 'hypocrisy' of authorities on this land and also of an increasing gap between legality and 'legitimacy'. This increasing gap also gradually fuels the confusion of Turkish Cypriots about their 'identity'.
If Turkish Cypriot identity is defined as 'people living in this country', it would be expectable to observe pride, happiness and satisfaction of individuals for having such an identity. Individuals want to be proud of the social groups they feel they belong to…
There is an increasing 'distance between legality and legitimacy' in our country. This gradual increase results with new traumas among citizens and excludes them from the democratic structure.
'Gambling is prohibited for Turkish Cypriots…' 'It is illegal to live off prostitution…' 'Human trafficking is a crime and nobody committed to this crime in this country until today…' Individuals are stuck in the difference between these 'facts' and their own 'facts' they face every day. In this sense, 'hypocrisy' became a reality in the governance of the country as a fundamental factor of the identity crisis of Turkish Cypriots.
Human beings are social creatures who seek to be proud of and satisfied from 'belonging' to an identity/group/community. For Turkish Cypriots, there are less and less reasons to be 'proud' and 'satisfied' for living in the northern part of the island and having Turkish Cypriot identity. It is necessary to form a social model in order for individuals to reembrace their identity. Otherwise, it will be highly possible to observe a rise in social activities which aim 'individual satisfaction', a rapid social mobility in the way defined by consumption, differentiated interests and short-term satisfaction…
Additionally, there is a common belief that the decisions taken by the authorities do not prioritise 'democracy and social interest'. In order to re-establish this belief, it is necessary for elected authorities to govern the country with the principles of accountability and transparency. It is a common belief among Turkish Cypriots that these two fundamental components of democracy are lacking in the northern part of Cyprus.
Though violence is increasingly becoming a way of life in this country, individuals cannot perceive the circumstances of this country as a form of violence which signals a lack of consciousness also on this subject…
There is an apparent lack of democratic culture in the country. Citizens believe that their 'impact' on political system could be made through 'partisanship' in an environment where accountability and transparency in implementation practices are lacking, independence of judiciary system from the government is questionable and trust in legislative system is very low. Within such a system, it is possible to argue that, there is a lack of democratic culture and therefore "individual interests" override "social interests"…
We observed that the victims of human rights violations do not demand their rights either from the (authorities) or organizations and even when they do, they cannot timely or fully benefit from these rights due to either the slow pace of the legal process or the legal gaps. Moreover, those who appeal to relevant authorities regarding such violations encounter 'degrading', 're-victimising' treatment of the officials as a result of lack of consciousness in such institutions. Institutions such as the police, medical services, judiciary, social services and the media which are central to complaints about discrimination, violence, human trafficking, drug addiction etc., often 're-victimise' the victims as a result of not knowing their problems, needs and how to communicate with them…
There is a belief that organized crime is on the rise in the country. It can be argued that inefficiency of relevant institutions in tackling such crimes negatively influences the trust in institutions and also increases the visibility and the role of criminals who are members of crime organizations within the society. If organized crime is not prevented, members of the society will gradually feel less secure, committing a crime will become a 'norm' and therefore individual crimes will drastically increase…
Generally, public institutions are surrounded with the problems caused by bribe, corruption, lack of transparency and accountability. Similarly, within the context of the 'right to access information' there exist complaints of citizens who cannot obtain information from public institutions…
Human trafficking is not recognised as a crime in this country. However, there is a strong grounding to prove that this crime is being committed. The lack of required legal regulations and legal gaps within existing laws which allow the government to be indirectly involved in human trafficking and legitimise such activities found to be the most important issues in this subject…
Based on the studies carried out for a hundred years, Gallup Company prepared a 'well-being' book for a good quality of life. This book provides a prescription for personal happiness under 5 complementary titles: Career, Social, Financial, Physical and Societal Happiness.
When applied to Turkish Cypriots, the results of Gallup study are remarkable. Based on the concerns they voiced for each title, it can be argued that Turkish Cypriots need to create an environment in which primarily they feel happy in their individual lives and then in a society they feel they 'belong' to…
According to the studies we carried out, it was observed that Turkish Cypriots are trying to hold on to an identity and a sense of belonging which is constructed upon unrecognition. Such an identity structure is too fragile to hold the society together. Common values should be re-established.
Turkish Cypriots deem increasing crime rates as the most important problem of the society. This view gradually reduces the sense of security of the society and the level of trust in related institutions.
Clearly current economic structure is dysfunctional and soon public and private sectors will also become utterly dysfunctional. At this stage there is a necessity to plan a comprehensive economical development model. The economy of the country is based on sectors like college education, gambling and tourism; however, the infrastructure is not sufficient enough for these sectors. Besides the economic structure, education and health sectors are also impaired, as well as internal and external transportation and road safety issues all of which indicate the necessity for serious investment on country's infrastructure.
Turkish Cypriots are facing a sense of uncertainty and 'being in-between' caused by the deadlock of Cyprus issue. Through being at the central focus of country's agenda, Cyprus issue distracts attention from and therefore prevents the solution of all other problems present in the country. For a society of which expectations for the future are beclouded with uncertainty and hopelessness, it is inevitable to have low self-confidence level as well…
Departing from the problems presented above, it is clear that Turkish Cypriots are in need to start a social awakening movement to find solutions to these problems. This movement would start with the search of individuals, sectors, organizations and institutions for an answer to the question 'what type of society you want to live in?' through which they would determine their visions and aims for the society.
Turkish Cypriots require such a movement to fulfil their need for living in a society they feel 'proud to be a part of' again.
It is Turkish Cypriots who can establish such a movement. It can be suggested in this regard to form a committee/advisory board consisting of experts, professionals and people who know about the world order and to take steps towards and make reforms on points listed below.
1) Woman's role in society
The lack of consciousness amongst women should be dealt with in order for them to reach to that point. Raising awareness could be possible through creating an 'education and awareness package' country-wide which would provide education on several subjects such as sexuality, child care, social values, citizenship and human rights. In this awareness raising and empowerment movement, primarily Civil Society Organizations, Psychologists and the Media have crucial responsibilities.
2) Treating Past Traumas
It is necessary to initiate 'social therapy' studies in order to wash away past traumas and to treat social identity and happiness issues. In light of a model suggested by social psychology experts and with active contributions of civil society, a 'social treatment' process should be started.
3) Improving Economic Structure
North Cyprus is in need of a vision for both the solution of the Cyprus issue and also for a development model. It is necessary to carefully analyse, evaluate and if needed, re-regulate the socio-economical effects of university and gambling tourism on which the country's economy is based.
Current infrastructure regarding services/transportation/communications/education/health is insufficient to meet the requirements of the current population structure and thus requires improvement.
4) Happiness
A small country nearby India called Bhutan, based its development model on happiness. As to this model, the level of individual happiness is positively correlated with the level of development of the country. It is possible to consider such examples to define a similar development model for the northern part of Cyprus which is based on improving the level of individual happiness and quality of life.
5) Civil Society Organizations
Civil society organizations should be empowered and 'independent'. They should get rid of the 'just a sign organization' image, free themselves from 'fund addiction' and political party affiliations, establish their autonomous structures with the aim of working for society's benefit."
The report goes further to make policy recommendations on different areas… I thank Mine Yucel for sharing her report with us…


Photo: Painting by Turkish Cypriot artist Nilgun Guney called "I love you…"

(*) Article published in POLITIS newspaper on the 31st of January 2016, Sunday.

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