Freedom in the World
Northern Cyprus *
Freedom Rating (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Civil Liberties (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Political Rights (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Derviş Eroğlu, leader of the National Unity Party, won the April 2010 presidential election, replacing Mehmet Ali Talat of the Republican Turkish Party. Eroğlu, who was known to support a two-state solution to the island’s de facto division, met with Greek Cypriot president Demetris Christofias for a new round of negotiations in September.
Cyprus gained independence from Britain in 1960 after a five-year guerrilla campaign by partisans demanding union with Greece. In July 1974, Greek Cypriot National Guard members, backed by the military junta that ruled Greece, staged an unsuccessful coup aimed at accomplishing the union. Five days later, Turkey invaded from the north, seized control of 37 percent of the island, and expelled 200,000 Greek Cypriots from the portion it occupied. Today, the Greek and Turkish communities are almost completely separated in the south and north, respectively.
A buffer zone called the Green Line has divided Cyprus, including the capital city of Nicosia, since 1974. UN resolutions stipulate that Cyprus is a single country of which the northern third is illegally occupied. In 1983, Turkish-controlled Cyprus declared its independence as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), an entity recognized only by Turkey.
Reunification talks accelerated after a more receptive Turkish government was elected in 2002, and under added pressure for an agreement from the European Union (EU), the United States, and the United Nations. A pro-unification TRNC government led by Prime Minister Mehmet Ali Talat was elected in late 2003.
In April 2004, a reunification plan proposed by then UN secretary general Kofi Annan was put to a vote in simultaneous, separate referendums on both sides of the island. Amid accusations that the proposal favored the Turkish side, 76 percent of Greek Cypriots voted against the plan, while 65 percent of Turkish Cypriots voted in favor. With the island still divided, only Greek Cyprus joined the EU as planned in May 2004. The EU had used the prospect of membership as a bargaining tool to push for reunification, and after EU membership was granted, a new plan became more difficult to achieve.
Talat’s Republican Turkish Party (CTP) retained power at the head of a coalition government after winning February 2005 legislative elections, with the antiunification National Unity Party (UBP) placing second. Rauf Denktaş, who had held the presidency since the TRNC declared independence, did not seek a new term in the April 2005 presidential election. Instead, Talat emerged as the victor in a field of seven candidates, defeating UBP leader Derviş Eroğlu, 56 percent to 23 percent.
The UBP won legislative elections in April 2009, capturing 26 of 50 seats. Polls indicated that voters turned against the CTP, which secured just 15 seats, due to its failure to achieve reunification and because of an economic downturn that began in 2008. The Democratic Party, headed by Serdar Denktaş, son of the former president, won five seats, while the Free Party and the Communal Democracy Party each captured two. Eroğlu became prime minister, having previously held the post from 1985 to 1994 and 1996 to 2004.
In April 2010, Eroğlu defeated Talat in a presidential election, capturing more than 50 percent of the vote and bringing his antiunification views to negotiations with the Greek Cypriot government. Eroğlu and Greek Cypriot president Demetris Christofias held a new round of intensive talks in September. Practical progress was made in October when the two sides opened a seventh border crossing near the northwestern town of Limnitis.
Economic opportunities in the north are more limited than in the south. The economy depends heavily on the government of Turkey, and the public sector provides most jobs. State salaries have been frozen in the past due to budgetary austerity measures imposed by Turkey, while the cost of living has increased.Unemployment stands at about 13 percent. In 2009, the Greek Cypriot government approved a €259 million ($345 million) EU aid package for the Turkish Cypriot community after years of delay. However, direct trade between the North and the EU, which had been promised after the 2004 referendum, was once again rejected by the European Parliament in October 2010.
Political Rights and Civil Liberties:
Elections in the TRNC are generally free and fair. The president and the 50-seat Assembly are elected to five-year terms. The prime minister is head of government. The main parties are the ruling UBP, which has opposed unification, and the opposition CTP, which has supported it.
The TRNC’s roughly 1,000 Greek and Maronite Christian residents are disenfranchised, but many vote in elections in the southern Republic of Cyprus. Minorities are not represented, and women are underrepresented, in the TRNC Assembly.
The government has made efforts to combat corruption in recent years, but graft and lack of transparency remain problems. After the 2009 elections, Democratic Party leader Serdar Denktaş asserted that all TRNC political parties had bought votes, and admitted to distributing €10,000 ($13,300) himself. The TRNC is not listed separately on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index.
Freedom of the press is generally respected, though some problems persist. The criminal code allows authorities to jail journalists for what they write, and the government has been hostileto the independent press.The government does not restrict access to the internet.
A 1975 agreement with Greek Cypriot authorities provides for freedom of worship, which is generally respected. The government does not restrict academic freedom. In 2004, Turkish Cypriot schools began teaching a less partisan account of Cypriot history, in accordance with Council of Europe recommendations.
The rights of freedom of assembly and association are typically upheld. Civic groups and nongovernmental organizations generally operate without restrictions. Workers may form independent unions, bargain collectively, and strike, though unionmembers have been subject to harassment. The International Trade Union Confederation and the European Trade Union Confederation condemned the August 2010 arrest of 24 trade unionists while they were demonstrating against austerity and privatization measures.
The judiciary is independent, and trials generally meet international standards of fairness. Turkish Cypriot police, under the control of the Turkish military, sometimes fail to respect due process rights, and there have been allegations of abuse of detainees.
Census results released in 2007 showed that about half of the TRNC’s population consisted of indigenous Turkish Cypriots. The rest included people of mainland Turkish origin and many foreign workers, as well as Greek Cypriots and Maronites.The latter three groups face discrimination, difficulties at Green Line checkpoints, and alleged surveillance by the Turkish Cypriot authorities. Male homosexuality is punishable with jail time, and while this is rarely enforced, homosexuals do face discrimination.
There are no direct flights between the TRNC and the rest of the world due to Greek Cypriot resistance and international regulations that restrict the operation of the north’s ports and airports. However, trade between the two sides of the island has continued to increase since restrictions were loosened in 2004. In addition, all EU citizens, including Greek Cypriots, can now travel to the north by presenting identity cards and no longer require passports or visas. Most governments do not recognize TRNC travel documents, so thousands of Turkish Cypriots have obtained Republic of Cyprus passports since the option became available in 2004. However, in 2008, Turkey began forbidding Turkish Cypriots from leaving the country through Turkey without TRNC passports.
In 2005, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that the TRNC must take more effective steps to address the restitution of Greek Cypriots who had owned property in the north before the island’s division. In 2006, the Turkish Cypriot authorities formed a property commission to adjudicate complaints. The commission, which the Greek Cypriot government does not recognize,had resolved 202 cases out of 840 applications by December2010, although critics claimed that the compensation amounts were far below the value of the property. The standing of the property commission was firmly established in March 2010, when the ECHR recognized it as an adequate authority for the resolution of property disputes between the TRNC and displaced Greek Cypriots. New compensation claims must now be adjudicated by the commission and a local appeals process before they can be appealed to the ECHR. Since the ECHR decision, applications have increased from around 10 per month to up to 36 per month.
Legal provisions for equal pay for women are not always enforced, especially in blue-collar jobs. A 2007 survey found that three-quarters of women were victims of violence at least once in their lives, with most attacks occurring at home. Police have proven unwilling to intervene, and many women choose not to report the crimes. The TRNC is a destination for trafficking in women, and little effort has been made to address this problem.