'The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting '
Here in Australia, we take our freedoms and protections, our 'human rights' so to speak, for granted. Imagine for one moment, not being able to go home tonight. Imagine trying to make your way down your street and it being occupied by foreign soldiers, armed with guns and refusing to let you into your house. This was and continues to be, reality for many in the Northern part of Cyprus, illegally occupied by Turkey.
One woman was courageous enough to fight against this and succeeded. Back in 1989 a Cypriot woman, Titina Loizidou brought a court case against the Turkish government in the hopes that she might, one day, be able to return to her home in Kyrenia, Northern Cyprus. Little did she know that the case would take almost ten years to settle and that it would be an important step in the battle for individual human rights in Cyprus.
It was the case of Loizidou v Turkey fought in the European Court of Human Rights.
The battle started in 1989, when Turkish military forces, (which currently occupy 38% of Cypriot land), disallowed Ms. Loizidou, a Greek Cypriot citizen, from entering land which was legally hers.
The battle ended with a final decision of the Court ordering Turkey to pay over $800,000 US to Ms Loidizou for the loss of enjoyment of land that was rightfully hers.
This is a landmark case, the first of its kind in Cyprus and has set the precedent for similar actions to be brought against the Turkish government.
The case is exciting for Cypriots living in the diaspora because it means that one of the highest courts of human rights has recognised that what Turkey is doing is illegal; a violation of people's fundamental human right to enjoy their property.
At the moment, there are 200,000 Greek Cypriot refugees who could be entitled to compensation because they can't access their land in Northern Cyprus.
There is a drawback however. The issue of most concern is how enforceable the court's decision is. Turkey still refuses to pay Ms Loizidou her compensation. The Council of Europe Committee of Ministers have intervened and in a recent judgement have stated that the committee will try with all of the means they have to ensure Turkey complies with the judgement. They also called upon the other Euopean States in particular to take whatever action they see appropriate towards making Turkey honour its obligations.
So the idea is that if all Greek-Cypriots lodge claims with the European Court, eventually the Turkish government would be in severe debt as a result of the rulings and other countries would look less favorably on loaning Turkey money. The spin off is that Turkey's economy will be unable to survive and out of necessity, they would have to yield and withdraw from Northern Cyprus. Of course, the cost of fighting a case at the European Court of Human Rights is tremendous. In that respect, PASEKA and other such organisations are able to assist in finding appropriate legal council and sometimes, in raising funds towards court costs.
As the SAE President, Kostas Vertzayias has said, ultimately, both as Cypriots and people concerned with the fundamental human rights of those from the Northern part of Cyprus, we are hoping for the fulfillment of the three Rs:
1) removal of all Turkish Troops from occupied Cyprus;
2) Repatriation of all Colonists;
3) Return of all Refugees to their homes.
Ms Loizidou's courage and determination to fight for justice have taken us one step closer. She is an inspirational woman and I look forward to meeting her when she comes to Perth.
as presented by Marie Botsis to the
Cypriot Community of Western Australia
29 July 2001