‘We need to reverse the current general climate of tension and hostility’

VARIOUS ORGANISATIONS yesterday joined forces in an effort to tackle what they claim is the growing problem of nationalism on the island.

The groups, from both sides of the divide, include the National Focal Point Against Racism, Sociological Association, Kirlangic Cultural Association, Association of Political Scientists, New Cyprus Association and Symphiliosi.

They have spoken out on steps they feel should be taken following last week’s attack of Turkish Cypriot students at the English School by Greek Cypriots from surrounding state schools.

“What happened has brought forcefully to the forefront the discrepancy between placid pronouncements for rapprochement and the re-emergence of aggressive nationalism, both in educational institutions and in society at large. Efforts to play down the significance of this and similar events as isolated incidents and calls by the media for calm, are at best, an evasion,” they said

Yesterday they issued a joint statement praising all the efforts made by persons and organisations, particularly students and youth organisations in condemning the attacks and expressing their solidarity to the Turkish Cypriot students.

They all signed a tentative proposal on what they feel should now happen.

“We need to reverse the current general climate of tension and hostility and work towards reconciliation, understanding and peace by setting up institutions involving Greek and Turkish Cypriots and other groups,” they said. “One such institution can be the creation of a bi-communal reconciliation commission to monitor the situation and issue recommendations. We need an institution to collect data on discrimination, incidents of racial abuse and the role of education, the media and police.”

They also called for a coordinating institution to take the lead in order to develop a network think tank.

“Decisive action must be taken by the Education Ministry to finally move towards multi-cultural education. This must involve democratic participation of all ethnic groups in education, improvement of the levels of anti-racist awareness of teachers, students and parents and clear procedures for submitting complaints and investigation of incidents.”
The groups want the monitoring, support and rehabilitation of assailants and a more active student role in shaping policies, as well as textbook revision.

“Politicians and the media must make a decisive step to move out of the cold war era into a new period of building peace and friendship.”

A discussion on how nationalism is to be combated was last night held at the Goethe Institute in Nicosia.

Commenting, AKEL Deputy Takis Hadjigeorgiou said that the recent “abominable incident” must not be left to pass.

“The idea of extremism must not be imbedded into the minds of the people, who are experiencing times of disillusionment and frustration with the Cyprus problem still unresolved.”

Pavlos Pavlou, representing the platform of Greek and Turkish Cypriot teachers said he was, “afraid of a future nationalistic explosion,” describing the phenomenon as, “a childish expression of what happens in the minds of adults.”

The Director of the National Focal Point on Racism said there exists, “a serious problem of racism in Greek Cypriot society against anybody who is different,” adding that Cyprus and Hungary are the only two countries in Europe who display racism in their educational systems.”