Turkish Cypriots who were refused entry to a public meeting addressed by the TRNC Foreign Minister Özdil Nami for the London School of Economics have expressed their anger and frustration at being excluded from the event.
University officials responded by saying that they were compelled to take strict safety measures because of “threats” received.
Mr Nami was invited to speak at the LSE about the current state of the Cyprus talks, during the Foreign Minister’s visit to London where he was expected to meet with top-level officials from the British government. The event was advertised as open to the public.
LSE officials changed the venue at the last minute and restricted access to the talk to students and staff from London University. They also changed the event title to refer to Mr Nami as ‘A representative of the Turkish Cypriot community’.
A member of staff at LSE told T-VINE it was their “duty to protect members of the public” because an organisation had made “a credible threat” to disrupt the meeting. The police had not been informed.
It appears that a university organisation – believed to be the Hellenic Society – had objected to Özdil Nami being referred to as “H.E. [His Excellency], the Foreign Minister of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus”. Greek nationalists – it is not clear if they are students or external to the university – also threatened to disrupt the meeting if it went ahead for these same reasons.
As a result, some 20 prominent members of the British Turkish Cypriot community were obliged to wait around for an hour in the entrance lobby, while Greek Cypriot students subjected Minster Nami to stiff questioning during the closed meeting.
Cetin Ramadan, vice-chair of Konsey (UK Council of Turkish Cypriot Associations) summed up the anger in the Turkish Cypriot camp: “It is totally unacceptable for the London University to lock us out of a meeting advertised as being public. Some of us have come from as far afield as Cambridge specially to be here.”
“Students have a right to protest and demonstrate – but not to interfere with the free and democratic circulation of knowledge. What happened on Tuesday night at the LSE is a prime example of the tail wagging the academic dog. The university should be teaching the values of free and fair discussion – not suspend them arbitrarily.”
“If the London University is not willing to stand up to such bullies and equally, is content with disrespecting democratically elected members of the TRNC Government by refusing to call them by their proper titles, then we will urge the TRNC [authorities] to work with other organisers and venues for these political discussions about the Cyprus problem. The only loser will be London University’s Contemporary Turkish Studies department, the current sponsor.”
According to ‘Cyprus Mail’ Greek Cypriots were also excluded from the talk. When asked how he felt about his title, Nami said that “he was not fussed”.