News that an
councillor who made offensive remarks about his constituents, Turks and
Muslims, has been welcomed back into the Tory fold and is preparing to stand
again in the May local elections has generated widespread criticism. Enfield
News that an
Conservative councillor Chris Joannides hit the headlines last year over a series of comments he made via social media, prompting several formal complaints. His offensive remarks included claiming: ‘terrorist groups like Hamas use children as propaganda tools’ underneath a picture of a Palestinian woman cradling an injured or dead child. On other occasions, he posted comments about how his constituents were ‘eating into his social time’ even though he is paid to meet the needs of his constituents.
Joannides, of Greek Cypriot heritage, also made a number of anti-Turkish comments. These ranged from using ‘Tourkosporos’ (seed of Turk), a derogatory term, to insult others and one-sided, inaccurate commentary about the
conflict aimed at demonising Turks, who he claimed: "killed 6,000, raped 1,000 women, children and disabled".
He labelled Cyprus North Cyprus "the racist so-called TRNC".
As a councillor in a borough with a huge ethnic Turkish community – Turkish is
second most commonly spoken language – his efforts to pass his offensive comments
off as “banter” was deemed
unacceptable by many. Enfield
Initial complainant said: "no shame in exposing a member of your own community...By keeping quiet, you are just as bad as person who committed wrongdoing.”
The initial complaint against Joannides was made last year by a local constituent of Greek Cypriot extraction. She chose to remain anonymous after receiving threats from nationalists in her community. At the time, she told Weekly Zaman, “There is no place for xenophobia anywhere. There is no shame in exposing or revealing a member of your own community if that person has done wrong. By keeping quiet, you are just as bad as the person who has committed the wrongdoing.”
Fevzi Hussein, chair of human rights group Embargoed! which has been at the forefront of combating racism against Turks, said: “We believe in zero tolerance for racists and religious bigots. We have seen the comments Mr Joannides allegedly made online. If true, he has to go.”
Following the complaints, Joannides was suspended by his party. A police investigation found he had not broken any laws to justify a prosecution. As a result, Joannides’ local Conservative Party decided to restore the party whip.
An article in last week’s London Turkish Gazette stated that Joannides had also been selected to stand in the local elections this May, infuriating British Turks.
Online petition calling for Joannides' candidacy to be suspended signed by dozens within days of launch. Turkish Tories also complain about councillor's reinstatement.
An online petition launched by Yasar Duyal calls on the authorities to suspend his candidacy and has been signed by dozens of people within days of going live. The petition has been logged with Enfield Council who are monitoring the support it receives.
The controversial councillor still has to face Enfield Council’s cross-party disciplinary panel, which will assess what action, if any, to take following his comments, which were deleted last year. The Conservative Party’s national board can also intervene.
T-VINE has been informed by reliable sources that Turkish Tories in
North London have made internal complaints to their party
about Joannides’ reinstatement. Many do not wish to be associated with him and
they are demanding he is barred from standing in the May elections to prevent an
anti-Tory backlash from voters offended by his comments.
North London councillor
exposed: T-VINE article, 1 March 2013