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I would like to share my experience with your readers about Northern Cyprus where I am currently studying on a scholarship at the Eastern Mediterranean University. Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) is an island state located in the Eastern Mediterranean 60kms from Turkey. It is a small country with only an area of 3355sq, km and a population of 210,000. However, it offers a great variety in terms of flora and fauna and topography. The official language is Turkish but English is widely spoken. The system of government in the TRNC is parliamentary democracy and it is a secular Republic.
The island of Cyprus has always been a focus for power struggles because of its location. It has been ruled by more than two-dozen nations during its long turbulent history. Its rulers have always been the strongest powers in the region whichever nation-achieved dominance over the others in this part of the world became the ruler of Cyprus as well. The Egyptians, Phoenicians, Romans, Byzantines, Lusignans, Venetians, Turks and British are among those whose rule influenced the island most with regard to religion, trade, commerce, culture, way of life and politics. As a result, a wealth of art and architecture lies on the island. Ancient theatres, fortresses, aqueducts, mosques, churches and tombs are among the many highlights. It is often said that if you scratch the soil anywhere in Cyprus you will find traces of its civilizations.
The island was part of the Ottoman Empire for almost four centuries. When the Ottoman Empire entered the World War I on the side of Germany and emerged defeated, the island became part of the British colonies.
In 1960, Cyprus became independent when the Republic of Cyprus was founded in accordance with the international treaties based on the political and sovereign equality of the two national peoples - the Turkish Cypriots and the Greek Cypriots. In 1963 the Greek Cypriots partner attacked the Turkish Cypriots partner with the aim of annexing the island to Greece (Enosis). As a result the 1960 partnership republic was destroyed. The United Nations sent in troops in an attempt to protect the Turkish Cypriots people, creating the Green Line, which effectively divided the two peoples. Between 1963-1974, the Turkish Cypriots were forced to live in enclaves and under inhuman conditions. In 1974, Greek-Greek Cypriots coup aimed at Enosis prompted Turkish intervention to restore peace and protect Turkish Cypriots population. Turkey intervened the island by exercising its rights and obligations under the 1960 treaty of Guarantee.
The Turkish Cypriot people, who resisted the Greek Cypriot ethnic cleansing campaign between 1963-74, founded the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in November 1983, in exercise of their rights to self-determination. The Turkish Cypriot people have been ruling themselves since 1963, in one form of another, and their evolution into full statehood with a democratic system of government based on the supremacy of law has been no less than remarkable. Today, the people of the TRNC enjoy a popular democratic system based on respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms and liberties.
Recently, on 11 November 2002, UN Secretary General Mr. Kofi Annan presented the two sides with a document titled “Basis for Agreement on a Comprehensive Settlement of the Cyprus problem”. President Denktas stated that the Turkish Cypriot side would study the said document extensively.
However, President Denktas also stated that extensive and unjust territorial concessions envisaged by the maps attached to this document at the expense of the Turkish Cypriot side would provide a serious stumbling block at the talks.
The Turkish Cypriot side has been for years striving to achieve a just and lasting settlement of the Cyprus question. They strongly believe that, such a just and permanent settlement should be based on the political and sovereign equality and status of the two peoples and their States at all levels.
Meanwhile, the basic human rights of the Turkish Cypriot people which were blatantly and systemically violated between 1963 and 1974, are still denied due to the continuation of inhuman Greek Cypriot embargoes in all spheres, including politics, trade, communications, culture, sports and education. Today, the Greek Cypriot side is pursuing with full vigor a campaign of hostile propaganda and defamation against the internationally recognized universities of the TRNC in an effort to further isolate the Turkish Cypriot people from the rest of the world.
However, with its five universities that are fully committed to 21st century concepts and methodologies, Northern Cyprus emerged as a major higher education center in the region. There are over 23,000 full-time students from 74 different countries, and a qualified staff from 25 countries.
I believe that all these factors make TRNC the perfect spot for tourist and a perfect choice for higher education. For the above reasons, I consider myself lucky to be studying in Northern Cyprus and at the same time enjoying the traditional hospitality of the Turkish Cypriot people and the natural beauties of the island.
Khalid Omer Arteh