Friday 28 February 2014

North Cyprus: a perfect LGBT holiday destination?


Cyprus is known in Greek mythology as the island of love and it is fair to say that Aphrodite had no qualms about individual sexual persuasion. She may have had a personal preference for men but the Olympic Gods, according to this link would have affairs with both men and women.

Fast forward to 2014 and today Cyprus is an established and idyllic holiday destination. The South of the island, which is better known and far more ‘touristy’, was effectively forced to come in line with EU anti-discrimination laws prior to joining the EU in 2004. At the end of January this year, the north of the island, which is primarily a secular Muslim state populated and run by Turkish Cypriots, repealed the relevant sections of Chapter 154 of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus Penal Code thus decriminalising same sex relationships. The news that this piece of homophobic legislation had been finally overturned was welcomed by LGBT campaigners all over the world.

I always found it odd that the Turkish Cypriots had this law in place as, whether you are in the hustle and bustle of the more populated cities or the ‘sleepy’ villages, I always found a reasonable degree of openness and tolerance to people who were known to be gay or bi-sexual. Indeed I knew many men who, on the face of it, were brimming with testosterone in terms of [trying to] attract partners of the opposite sex and yet once some alcohol had been consumed they would disappear with the known and ‘out’ gay in the village for some casual sex.

However, there was another reality for many gay men and women in North Cyprus. Forced or ‘aggressively arranged’ marriages became the norm for Turkish Cypriot homosexuals who capitulated to family pressure and married a heterosexual due to wider social intolerance. Historically, a significant number also left the island so they were free to be who they want to be. Others still have sadly verged down a more tragic route, taking their own lives, unable to cope with the pressure and unhappiness of hiding their true selves.

Many Turkish Cypriot men and women have had children and then divorced in later life to find real happiness in a same-sex relationship. I guess this is the same in many walks of life.

Derya Dogusa new, outspoken MP and long-standing campaigner of LGBT rights in North Cyprus, was quoted at the time as saying:We decriminalized homosexuality but we also changed that whole section (of the code) to modernize laws protecting human rights.”

The International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA) has recently reported that specialist holidays have increased by over 100% and I really think that North Cyprus can become a quality holiday spot for the LGBT community; whether or not North Cyprus cottons on to the idea and respects the Pink Pound only time will tell.

As someone who is from North Cyprus, I would love to see the public welcome the currently small gay scene there, helping it to grow. The benefits will be a total win-win as the economy and tourism trade will receive a huge boost and LGBT people can witness one of the best kept secrets in the holiday sector, visiting one of the jewels of the Mediterranean.

The Cream Bar in Kyrenia is the premier (and only) openly gay venue in North Cyprus and has been a favourite haunt of gays since 2005. Its proud owner Rasim told me: “Of course we are proud of the reputation that Cream’s built over the last few years. The gay community can come here and have a fabulous time in our bespoke three level bar/club. Cream has a great reputation in the Cypriot LGBT community and it would be wonderful to see North Cyprus embrace this in a similar way, particular on the back of the legislative change.”

Part of my research has also uncovered a very healthy ‘cruising’ culture enjoyed by Cypriot gays. In Dereboyu Park, Lefkosa, there will regularly be gay men looking to meet a another man and if you enter the Greek Cypriot south of the island via the Ledra Crossing, the municipality park in Nicosia is, I am advised, even more well known for ‘cruising’.

Island-wide, Cyprus will be holding its first-ever LGBT Pride event on 31st May 2014. I am pleased to see this is being celebrated as a bi-communal event and the Turkish Cypriot LGBT community has been invited to help organise this historic day. If our gays and lesbians can come together and show respect and dignity, there is hope yet for the heterosexuals.

Finally, for visitors planning the relatively short flight to North Cyprus, the cost of the pound against the Turkish lira will also see your money going much further than other holiday destinations – in the last 12 months alone Sterling exchange rates have increased by more than 33%.

Go ahead and google North Cyprus and see for yourself the beauty which is just a few hours away. Direct Traveller and Cyprus Premier are two of the leading travel agents supplying excellent deals to North Cyprus and beyond.

T-VINE columnist Fevzi Hussein can be followed on Twitter @fevzihussein

Thursday 27 February 2014

Council funding for Cambridge women to take part in Turkish bellydance project

Women at a Kush workshop last year at London's prestigious Sadler's Wells


Cambridge City Council is helping local women to take part in Kush: a unique series of workshops that aim to “inform, invigorate and empower” them through the power of bellydance. The council is funding the five-week course created by top Turkish dancer Melisa Yavaş, which she will run in Cambridge in conjunction with Balik Arts, a respected multi-cultural arts foundation. The weekly Kush sessions will start on Wednesday 5th March, and are open to women of all ages and backgrounds who want to have some fun and keep fit, while enjoying new cultural experiences with other women in the local community.

Kush (derived from the Turkish word for “bird”) was launched last year by Melisa Yavaş at the prestigious Sadler’s Wells. Informed by her work and psychotherapy studies, Melisa aims to help women to seek their own freedom and inner peace through dance and complementary activities such as yoga and sound therapy.

Kush founder Melisa Yavaş
Melisa said: “It’s great the council is supporting this innovative project. Bellydancing is no longer the preserve of those living in Turkey and the Middle East. Its popularity is growing worldwide. It celebrates womanhood: we dance, laugh, and live in the ‘here and now. Any women wanting to make new friends and enjoy new cultural experiences should definitely come along – you will leave on a natural high.”

She will lead each of the Kush workshops in Cambridge, accompanied by renowned percussionist Sallam Al-Sheikh who will provide live rhythms, while local teacher Rosanna Gordon will run the meditation and yoga part of the workshops.

The workshops each have different themes. The Cambridge series start and end with Relationship, with Acceptance, Womb and Naturally Balanced Female in between. These home in on a different aspect of the feminine being; women leave sessions feeling more enlightened, invigorated and empowered through their improved understanding of, and relationship with, their minds, bodies and each other.

Each session starts with a group circle and introductions followed by a warm-up, then high-energy Oriental dancing related to the theme, before concluding with a cool down through meditation and yoga.

London-based Balik Arts has a strong track record working with the Britain’s Turkish and Kurdish communities through a range of arts projects, especially film. Director Yesim Guzelpinar said: “We’ve been expanding our activities into Cambridge over the last year, and felt that Kush is a fantastic project to reach women of different backgrounds.”

The workshops all take place at the Mill Road Baptist Church in the city centre. They start at 5pm and each session lasts for 1.5 hours. There is a maximum of fifteen people in any one workshop. There is a £3 charge per workshop or £10 for all five. Advance booking is highly recommended. No previous experience of bellydancing, yoga or meditation is required, but attendees should be in relatively good health. For more information, visit the Kush Project website or email  

Wednesday 26 February 2014

Martyrs Day remembrance service to be held at Brookwood cemetery in March


British Turks are invited to attend a remembrance service for fallen Turkish soldiers as part of Martyrs Day, commemorated in Turkey and the wider Diaspora. The service will take place at 11.30am on Tuesday 18 March 2014 at the Turkish Air Force Burial Ground, situated in Brookwood Cemetery in Woking, where 14 Turkish servicemen killed during World War 2 are buried. The site is next to Plot 1, which forms part of a much larger military burial area where the remains of soldiers from multiple nationalities are buried.

All members of the British Turkish community are welcome to attend prayers by the gravesides of the fallen soldiers, while recalling those who have fallen in Turkey and elsewhere. A statement issued by the Turkish Embassy said: “Remembrance days, like national holidays, help to forge national unity and togetherness, strengthen community resolve, and educate and empower our youth”.

The address is Brookwood Cemetery, Cemetery Pales, Brookwood, Woking, Surrey, GU24 0BL. Those who would like to attend but are unable to make their own way to the cemetery should contact Turkuas UK for assistance. Email them at:

More details of the site is available here: Brookwood Cemetery Turkish Air Force

Monday 24 February 2014

A first: North and South Cyprus side-by-side in Dubai trade fair


Cypriot businesses showed politicians how to overcome the obstacles on the island as they exhibit side-by-side for the first time at a major trade fair in the United Arab Emirates. Businesses from both North and South Cyprus were present on their respective stands for Gulfair 2014, which opened in Dubai yesterday and will run until 27 February. The TRNC stand is branded North Cyprus, while South Cyprus appears as Cyprus and includes the Republic of Cyprus flag.

Gulfair was launched over 25 years, and this year boasts over 4,500 exhibitors and 20,000 brands, making it one of the largest trade fairs in the region. It gives unparalleled access to businesses and governments involved in the food chain in Africa, South Asia, the Middle and Far East

North Cyprus’ stand has been organised by the Turkish Cypriot Chamber of Industry (KIBSO), supported by the TRNC’s Representative Office in Abu Dhabi. Turkish Cypriot brands that are exhibiting at Gulfair 2014 include: Helvasan, Meriç Dairy Products, Kırnı Piliçleri, Özlem, Reha, Buluç Milk, Koop Süt, Akgöl and Girne Con Coffee.

According to KIBSO spokesperson Hüseyin Ezgin, having a stand next to Greek Cypriots is a marked difference to what they experienced when North Cyprus first applied to exhibit eight years ago. At that time, Greek Cypriots lobbied Gulfair hard for Turkish Cypriots not to be present. Now, they can be seen to be cultivating business side-by-side, giving a positive signal about the prospects of peace in Cyprus. Ezgin described it as: “A pretty interesting opportunity”.

“i” for intelligence?


By Ossie Mustafa

In 2009 BMW showed off a new line of car, one which looked as if it had been transported from the future with the promise of high performance and planet-saving credentials: a hybrid with stunning looks and stats to match. Fast forward four years and this car has a name – the all new “i8” due out at the end of this year – along with a price tag of around £100K.

If you don’t have a spare £100K to spend on BMW’s idea of future performance driving, then you can go for its little brother the i3 for a snip at £25,000, which will be available even sooner. Yes it is slower and yes it is a five-door hatchback, but there are a few plus points, the most obvious being that the i3 has zero emissions with a fully-electric drive train built from the ground up. Designed from scratch, this car has benefited from lots of clever tricks to achieve its decent range of 100 miles per charge (180 if you opt to have the hybrid engine fitted); carbon fibre body parts and a lightweight lithium-ion battery pack to mention but two.

Now let us talk about some of the other numbers related to the i3. A higher voltage battery pack means that BMW can sell the i3 with 170hp, not quite the 1001hp you get with a Veyron, but more than double that of the new VW Golf Blue motion. The 0-60 time in 7.5 seconds is also faster than even the 1.4 TSI VW, largely achieved by a kerb weight that is below 1.2 tons. However, 7.5 seconds is not groundbreaking and that’s where the balance tilts back to the VW. The BMW i3 is advertised with having five doors, but in fact the rear doors are half the size of the competition, making it more like a three-and-a-half-door hatchback. BMW has also decided to give the rear passengers more seat space by doing away with the middle seat and slotting a rather ugly pair of cup holders. Given that the i3 is some £8K more expensive than the VW, it rapidly starts to lose some of its charm.

Overall the i3 is more about the direction BMW is taking its cars regarding the real changes faced by everyone in the automobile industry; in the near future, you can expect some drawbacks. As time goes on and the price of the new technology goes down, these cars will get better and cheaper, but the sporty direction BMW seems to be heading towards with their “i” range is good news. 

Sunday 23 February 2014

TRNC’s Dr Sibel Siber addresses international conference in Iran


The TRNC took part in the 9th OIC Parliamentary Union Conference, held in Tehran from 14-19 February 2014. The annual event brings together the political representatives of Islamic countries to discuss and disseminate the core principles relating to the faith and humanism based on the Islamic civilization. It also provides an important framework for “comprehensive and fruitful cooperation and coordination among parliaments of OIC members in a range of international fora and organisations”.

The TRNC has Observer Status at the OIC (Organization of Islamic Conference) and this year’s delegation to the PU Conference in Iran was led by Dr Sibel Siber, the Speaker of the Turkish Cypriot Parliament. She was accompanied by three MPs: DP-UG MP Fikri Ataoğlu, CTP-BG MP Dr.Hüseyin Erçal and UBP MP İzlem Gürçağ.

In her speech to the general assembly, Dr Siber reminded delegates about the ongoing international isolation of Turkish Cypriots and the great importance they therefore put on the OIC, which gave them an opportunity to have an international voice. She explained that even though they faced a number of injustices, the Turkish Cypriot people had created a full democratic structure to govern themselves, and were keen to develop and deepen relations with OIC member states. She ended her speech by highlighting that a new round of Cyprus talks has commenced recently, and that she hoped it would result in a permanent peace so the two sides can live harmoniously together.

 North Cyprus' Dr Sibel Siber named as 'one of Europe's eight most influential women'

Dr Siber was acknowledged at the conference as one of eight women holding the most senior political roles in Europe. In a news site on the Care 2 website, which is regularly read widely by some 24 million people in Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America, Dr Siber was named alongside Angela Merkel, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, Helle Thorning-Schmidt as one of the most influential women in Europe. The Care 2 article can be read here.

Brazil’s carnival spirit heading to Cyprus


The last week of February means Carnival Time. For those who can’t make it to Rio, head down to the Nicosia Buffer Zone on Friday 28th instead to enjoy Myriam Gerokosta's Brazilian Carnival Party. Guests are invited to come in fancy dress, where they will be entertained by the amazing Oli Rizo and her Samba group, along with DJ Magic G spinning high energy carnival tunes, and many more special acts and surprises.

The party will take place at the stunning Chateau Status, located opposite Ledra Palace, and is supported by the Brazilian Embassy. Tickets are priced €10 Euros and include a Caipirinha Cocktail. Advance booking is highly recommended as they expect a sell-out on the night.

Event date: Friday 28 February 2014  
Venue address: Chateau Status, Ledra Palace Buffer Zone, Nicosia, Cyprus
Tickets: €10
Doors open: 8.30pm.
For tickets & info, call event organiser Myriam Gerokosta  97 85 41 71 or visit Chateua Status Facebook page:

Friday 21 February 2014

Ambience restaurant – worthy of a trek to Wimbledon


By John Oakes

There is plenty of Turkish life "souf of the river". One gem is Ambience, a 10-minute walk away from Wimbledon tube (or short hop of two stops along the 156 bus route), where you'll be met by a warm and friendly welcome at this modern family-run Turkish Cypriot restaurant.

Tanser (R) & his cousin Ersan Ozdemir

The only Turkish eatery in the area, they have become a firm local favourite since opening their doors two years ago. Manager Tanser Ozdemir, his wife, cousin and parents pride themselves that everything they serve is prepared freshly on the premises, rather than 
being bought in pre-prepared from outside suppliers.

We kicked off with their Mixed Hot and Cold Meze options. The delicious platter for two is ample for those after a light dinner: feta cheese börek, grilled hellim, suçuk (Turkish sausage), calamari and köfte, along with a rich mix of cold meze including cacık, pureed aubergine and humus with extra tahini, à la Cypriot style, served with plenty of warmed flatbread. 

Ambience boasts a great drinks menu, including many lovely-sounding cocktails. However, this being a mid-week dinner, we settled for a reasonably-priced Rioja from their selection of wines, and very enjoyable it was too.

We opted for two different mains: the Ambience Mixed Grill for £15.95 and sea food casserole for £13.95. Made over a mangal (charcoal grill), the grilled meat was tender and well-seasoned comprising lamb and chicken shish, şeftali kebab, chicken wings, lamb and chicken köftes, served with rice and salad. Tanser explained they choose the more expensive middle-neck of lamb cuts, and it really tells as the lamb practically melts in your mouth. The sea food casserole was less of a hit. The creaminess of the dish was a tad too much, overwhelming the delicate flavours of the prawns, mussels, salmon and squid.

The dinner was rounded off by herbal tea and two pieces of fine baklava: the filo pastry was fresh and light, the filling crunchy and sweet. We had toyed with leaving it – so full were we from the dinner – but were really glad when we tried it, as they were certainly on a par with the best baklava you’d find in North London.

Separated by a wall from its restaurant area, 
Ambience also has a regular bar, ideal for after-work drinks (they serve 2-for-1 cocktails on Sunday to Thursdays) or watching football matches. Further back is their shisha lounge. The ambience changes at the weekend, when there’s live entertainment with music, DJ and bellydancer – a real British Turkish fusion. They also have themed nights such as for Valentine’s, and have become popular with local fundraisers, such as  the  Hampton-based  Shooting  Star Trust  for  severely- handicapped  children and the Turkish Pro Cancer Research Fund.

All in all, it has a lot more social life than many other restaurants, and is thus a very versatile centre for entertainment, whether you are looking for a quick drink, a romantic night out or a family celebration. They also do deliveries. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if the Ozdemir family eventually move right into the centre of Wimbledon (or open another branch), after much nagging from their regulars.

Ambience Restaurant & Cocktail Bar & Shisha Lounge,12-14 Leopold Road, Wimbledon, London SW19 7BD

Tuesday 18 February 2014

Ask Yonca abla: Does she need bigger boobs?


Dear Yonca abla,

One of my closest girlfriends is keen to have a boob job. She has a gorgeous figure, is slim and beautiful, but feels her breasts are too small and is keen to get them enlarged. Ultimately it is up to her to do what she wants with her body, but I’m thinking it is more than likely down to the new man in her life, who has made her feel insecure. 

He is a good looking guy and they make a good match, but it seems he has a thing about ladies with large breasts – his former girlfriends all had bigger boobs. No operation is without risks, so why change your natural body shape for a guy? I can’t abide vanity, but worse still I can’t stand by and see my best friend pushed into unnecessary plastic surgery due to pressure from her boyfriend. I’ve tried to have a discussion with her, but she just closes up and tells me it’s none of my business. Should I just leave her be?


My dearest,

Your friend is very lucky to have a friend like you who is concerned for her health and wellbeing. If it was my friend, I would sit her down and talk with her to find out the real reasons.

Breast augmentation can help you feel more comfortable with your looks, but you will never have the same feeling of your own natural breasts again. There are lots of pros and cons with any operation and this type of cosmetic surgery comes with huge risks too: from excessive pain, to the rupturing of implants; more surgery could be required, especially in the long-term; and there is the considerable recovery time (several months) and costs (on average £5,000) involved.

You must tell your friend that she is beautiful as she is, but if she is adamant that she wants surgery for her own benefit then she must do a lot of research before she goes under the knife. I know many ladies who have had breast surgery and who have loved it, but I also know ladies who have regretted it! The decision can only be made by your friend.

As for her new man – I would never change my looks for any man. He should accept her for who she is as she is. If she is doing it to satisfy him then he will not just be controlling her looks, but also her life too. Good luck.

Lots of love always,

Yonca abla

Got a problem? Email and she will try to answer.

Sunday 16 February 2014

Turkey’s biggest chat show host Beyaz live in London next Sunday


There are just seven days left before Turkey’s biggest talk show host Beyaz appears live on stage at the Eventim Hammersmith Apollo in London. His guests for the gala night are pop stars Bengü, Kubat, and Murat Dalkılıç, and former Turkish-Serbian beauty queen turned TV presenter Ivana Sert. The event is produced by UK entertainment company Divaa, whose concerts regularly feature Turkish superstars.

The Beyaz Show is one of Turkey’s longest running talk show shows, on air since 1996, and is watched by millions of viewers in Turkey and across the Turkish Diaspora in Europe. At the end of 2013, presenter Beyazit Öztürk and guests set off from Turkey to appear in a series of live shows in Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Holland, Sweden, Austria, and the UK, with the tour set to conclude in March 2014.

The London leg takes place on Sunday 23 February at one of the capital’s most prestigious live entertainment venues: the 5,000 capacity Hammersmith Apollo, where some of the biggest names in music and comedy – the Rolling Stones, Bob Marley, Jack Dee and Ricky Gervais among them – have performed. The night will include Beyaz’s usual blend of celebrity interviews, live music and witty commentary, recorded live, with highlights broadcast on his popular Friday night Kanal D television show at a later date.

Since forming in 2009, London-based organiser Divaa has promoted a host of major concerts and theatre shows for the UK’s half-million Turkish speaking community. The Beyaz Show will join their long list of credits that include concerts featuring superstars Ajda Pekkan, Sibel Can, and Ferhat Göcer, comedy shows with Cem Yılmaz (a sell-out gig at the Hammersmith Apollo), Komedy Dükkan and Ata Demirer, and award-winning theatre shows 72. Koğuş and Benimle Delirir Misin?

Doors to The Beyaz Show, sponsored by Doğtas & Enza Home, open at 7pm and the event runs until 11pm. There are limited tickets left priced at £39, £49 and £59, which can be bought online (with added booking fee) or from various outlets across London including: Mem & Laz (Islington), Bar-ish (Stoke Newington), Fio’s Cash & Carry (Edmonton) and branches of TFC. See below for more details.

Concert date: Sunday 23 February 2014  
Venue address: HMV Hammersmith Apollo, 45 Queen Caroline Street, W6 9QH LONDONR
Doors open: 7pm.
Minimum guest age:  under 15s must be accompanied by an adult

For tickets & info, call 07547 417 863 or 07547 417 864, or visit

Why sovereignty matters


The world is awash with armchair critics: people who know ‘oh so much’ but can’t be bothered to lift a finger to do anything about the issues they raise. It is bad enough dealing with these passive types, but when they talk utter nonsense it is completely intolerable.

The views of the TRNC armchair critic are often informed by what I call “coffee shop talk”. They visit their local coffee shop and what they hear becomes “the gospel truth”. No effort is made to research and independently verify the so-called facts they are told. In fact they are too lazy to even apply some basic rational thinking to the comments they make.

On small-scale local issues, such ignorance may not matter. It becomes a concern when those higher up the influence chain (journalists, politicians, trade union and community leaders, etc) make ill-informed comments on matters of national interest.

In recent weeks the term “single sovereignty” has been bandied about by all sorts. Yet few seem to understand what ‘sovereignty’ means, let alone its implications for Cyprus.

Sovereignty refers to the supreme power or authority that governs a specific territory. In a democracy, this power rests with the country’s Parliament: the people elect representatives who are granted the right to govern within the rules laid out in the State’s constitution.

When joining with other sovereign entities, such as Britain when it entered the European Union, you cede some control to a central authority. National interests are protected through exercising one’s separate sovereign rights. In the EU context, member states have the right of veto and ultimately the right to withdraw should they want to.

So when I hear the likes of former President Mehmet Ali Talat, the current TRNC government and even some diplomats from Turkey join the Greek Cypriot bandwagon in concurring that ‘single sovereignty’ is acceptable, I ask myself if they really have a clue what they are talking about.

Sovereignty goes to the very heart of Cyprus conflict. If we, as Turkish Cypriots, did not have separate sovereign rights in Cyprus, we could not have signed the 1959 Treaties that established the independent Republic of Cyprus. Nor would the constitution have expressly stated our separate rights to govern ourselves or vote in our own MPs, neither could we exercise our right of veto via the highest Turkish Cypriot official in the Republic, the Vice-President of Cyprus.

The breakdown of these affairs in December 1963 was due to the Greek Cypriots: they seized control of the island and imposed ‘majority rule’. As they were numerically the larger community, they deemed it unfair to share power on an equal basis with Turkish Cypriots. Their unlawful monopoly of Cypriot power was broken by the 1974 War.

Turkey’s intervention on the island and the subsequent geographic division of the two main ethnic groups created the model for a new federal solution: two separate territories each comprising two majority peoples that are able to run their own affairs while coming together for matters of common interest and international representation.

This concept of a bi-communal, bi-zonal federal solution was incorporated into the 1977 and 1979 High Level Agreements, overseen by the UN and signed by both Cypriot sides; they have continued to form the basis of all political negotiations ever since. Separate sovereignty is a prerequisite to this state of affairs.

Back in 2004, President Denktas bowed out of the UN-sponsored negotiations in Birkenstock, Switzerland, where the two sides came together to finalise the Annan Peace Plan. The coast was clear for Prime Minister Talat to drive the talks for the Turkish Cypriot side, and he had no qualms in acquiescing to Tasos Papadopoulos’s demands by ditching separate sovereignty.

Whether due to Talat’s naivety or his quest for immediate glory, the results were he undermined the fundamental rights of the Turkish Cypriot people. It is for this reason Denktas often said, ‘the Greek Cypriots saved us by rejecting the Annan Plan’.

Even today though President Talat and his former CTP colleagues, who are now in government, continue to pursue the same policy. TRNC Prime Minister Yorgancioglu and others in his cabinet have held meetings with Greek Cypriot politicians, followed by statements stressing they support “single sovereignty”. As a result, they undermine the efforts by TRNC President Derviş Eroğlu to correct the political mistakes of yesteryear.

Worse still, Greek Cypriot media report that members of the Turkish Foreign Office, without consulting the Turkish Cypriot side, have also passed messages to their President that Turkey is ready to accept “single sovereignty”.

Are we so desperate for a solution that anything goes? By removing ‘separate sovereignty’ from the equation, we Turkish Cypriots lose our self-determination rights, taking us back to the ‘one nation, majority rule’ scenario of 1963-1974. Why have we fought for fifty years if we are about to accept this state of affairs?

The dangers have been spelt out by Turkish think-tank the Besparmaklar Group, both in its October 2013 Review Paper and again in a recent press statement. Toparlaniyoruz’s Kudret Ozersay agrees. Is the TRNC Government heeding their warnings? Possibly.

The new and very able TRNC Foreign Minister, CTP’s Ozdil Nami (left), released two statements this week: one on the UK-Greek Cypriot deal over the British Sovereign Bases, the other about the “arrangement announced by the Greek Cypriot Administration purporting to remedy the absence of Turkish Cypriot representation in the European Parliament.” Nami slammed both developments as “unacceptable” to the Turkish Cypriot side.

In response to both developments, Nami highlighted the “separate rights” of the “Turkish Cypriot side/ people”, as set out in the 1959 Agreements and 1960 Constitution. Even with these paper rights, we are struggling to have them adhered to, so imagine if they were totally wiped…?

Yes Mr Nami, sovereignty does matter. Any lawyer worth their salt would advise that such a core principle be explicitly spelt out in any future comprehensive agreement in Cyprus. But if you’d rather listen to our coffee shop armchair critics… 

This article was first published in Cyprus Today on 8 February 2014

Main image from

Wednesday 12 February 2014

Cyprus talks begin following a joint declaration by two leaders


The two Cypriot leaders reached an agreement over the wording of a joint statement on Tuesday, paving the way for the start of a new round of peace talks to unite the island. The TRNC’s President Derviş Eroğlu met with his Greek Cypriot counterpart Nicos Anastasiades “in a friendly and cordial atmosphere” in the UN’s offices in the buffer zone in Nicosia, Cyprus, before releasing their anticipated joint declaration, given in full below.

Last week, Assoc. Prof. Kudret Özersay returned to the Turkish Cypriot negotiating team, replacing Osman Ertuğ as the chief negotiator. Widely respected and seen as a progressive, Özersay has over ten years of experience in the bi-communal talks, serving all three TRNC Presidents – Rauf Denktaş, Mehmet Ali Talat and Derviş Eroğlu – before resigning in June 2012 to head up new civil society group Toparlanıyoruz.

Özersay will have his first meeting with the Greek Cypriot negotiator Andreas Mavroyiannis later this week. Although details have yet to be announced, Özersay is also expected to travel to Greece for official meetings, while Mavroyiannis will head to Turkey in the coming weeks.

In another further important development, Alexander Downer (left), the UN Secretary General’s Special Adviser to Cyprus, is stepping down after five and a half years in his post. UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon thanked Downer for the “indispensable role” he has played in bringing the two sides closer since his appointment in 2008. Ban also said “the United Nations will continue to support the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots in their efforts to reunify the island and move on from decades of separation.”

Photo: TAK, Nov 2013 

Joint Declaration made on 11/02/2014

The two leaders had their first meeting today under the auspices of the UN Secretary General's Good Offices mission. The meeting was held in a friendly and cordial atmosphere and the two leaders have agreed to the following:

1. The status quo is unacceptable and its prolongation will have negative consequences for the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots. The leaders affirmed that a settlement would have a positive impact on the entire region, while first and foremost benefiting Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots, respecting democratic principles, human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as each other's distinct identity and integrity and ensuring their common future in a united Cyprus within the European Union.

2. The leaders expressed their determination to resume structured negotiations in a results-oriented manner. All unresolved core issues will be on the table, and will be discussed interdependently. The leaders will aim to reach a settlement as soon as possible, and hold separate simultaneous referenda thereafter.

3. The settlement will be based on a bi-communal, bi-zonal federation with political equality, as set out in the relevant Security Council Resolutions and the High Level Agreements. The united Cyprus, as a member of the United Nations and of the European Union, shall have a single international legal personality and a single sovereignty, which is defined as the sovereignty which is enjoyed by all member States of the United Nations under the UN Charter and which emanates equally from Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots. There will be a single united Cyprus citizenship, regulated by federal law. All citizens of the united Cyprus shall also be citizens of either the Greek-Cypriot constituent state or the Turkish-Cypriot constituent state. This status shall be internal and shall complement, and not substitute in any way, the united Cyprus citizenship.

The powers of the federal government, and like matters that are clearly incidental to its specified powers, will be assigned by the constitution. The Federal constitution will also provide for the residual powers to be exercised by the constituent states. The constituent states will exercise fully and irrevocably all their powers, free from encroachment by the federal government. The federal laws will not encroach upon constituent state laws, within the constituent states’ area of competences, and the constituent states’ laws will not encroach upon the federal laws within the federal government’s competences. Any dispute in respect thereof will be adjudicated finally by the Federal Supreme Court. Neither side may claim authority or jurisdiction over the other.

4. The united Cyprus federation shall result from the settlement following the settlement’s approval by separate simultaneous referenda. The Federal constitution shall prescribe that the united Cyprus federation shall be composed of two constituent states of equal status. The bi-zonal, bi-communal nature of the federation and the principles upon which the EU is founded will be safeguarded and respected throughout the island. The Federal constitution shall be the supreme law of the land and will be binding on all the federation's authorities and on the constituent states. Union in whole or in part with any other country or any form of partition or secession or any other unilateral change to the state of affairs will be prohibited.

5. The negotiations are based on the principle that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.

6. The appointed representatives are fully empowered to discuss any issue at any time and should enjoy parallel access to all stakeholders and interested parties in the process, as needed. The leaders of the two communities will meet as often as needed. They retain the ultimate decision making power. Only an agreement freely reached by the leaders may be put to separate simultaneous referenda. Any kind of arbitration is excluded.

7. The sides will seek to create a positive atmosphere to ensure the talks succeed. They commit to avoiding blame games or other negative public comments on the negotiations. They also commit to efforts to implement confidence building measures that will provide a dynamic impetus to the prospect for a united Cyprus.

Saturday 8 February 2014

Jamie Oliver's magazine says Leyla Kazim "one of five bloggers to watch this year"

Well done to T-VINE's food critic Leyla Kazim, whose talents are recognised in the latest edition of Jamie Oliver's magazine. A prolific online chronicler of all things food, both on Twitter and her blog The Cutlery Chronicles, Leyla is recommended by Jamie's magazine as "one of five bloggers to watch this year". 

Sadly they got her exotic origins partly wrong in their description - she is a gorgeous mix of Mauritian and Turkish (not Greek!) Cypriot - which they have since corrected online. However they are absolutely right in saying she has a total "love of world cooking". Curious? Check out Leyla's posts on Twitter @LeyLaLaa or her blog, The Cutlery Chronicles

Photo by Ren Behan, another of the 5 bloggers recommended by Jamie's magazine

Friday 7 February 2014

A week to go before Kibariye’s special Valentine’s Day concert in London


By Boulent Mustafa

Turkish star Kibariye is the headline act for a North London concert being organised on Valentine’s Day by Efe Bay Productions. Tickets are selling fast for the dinner and dance affair that will take place at the plush Prince and Princess Banqueting Suite in Edmonton on Friday 14 February. The event is hosted by top Turkish model Yeşim Güven with talented singer Sezar as the evening’s support act.

One thousand guests are expected to attend the cabaret-style concert to see Kibariye live. The 54-year old singer became an instant hit in Turkey with her debut release in 1981 Kimbilir and has gone on to release a further 31 albums. With a distinctive smoky voice and her repertoire comprising a popular mix of Arabesque and Pop songs, she continues to enjoy a huge fan base in and outside of Turkey.

The star will be accompanied by a 10-piece band for her gala performance that will run for two hours. Expect plenty of songs for lovers! Sezar Uğur Soy, who has been in great form guesting at East London’s iconic Cyprus Meze Bar, will be warming up the crowd with his covers of popular Turkish hits.

Doors open at 6pm and the event, which is sponsored by Diamond Wines Cash and Carry, runs till late. Entrance is £49 per person, which includes a three-course fixed meal: hot and cold meze, chicken dinner (vegetarian option available), and fruit platter, with unlimited soft drinks and paying bar. Those wanting to get close to the action can indulge in VIP seats by the stage priced at £69. 

Tickets are selling fast though, so promoter Nuri Bay advises those interested in attending not to delay in buying their tickets to what promises to be a very memorable night. Nuri Bay's production company Efe Bay was behind last year's sellout Bülent Ersoy concert.

Concert date: Friday 14 February 2014  
Venue address: Prince & Princess Banqueting Suite, 4 Princes Road Edmonton, London, N18 3PR
Event times: 6pm till 1am.
Minimum guest age: 15 and over
For tickets & info, call Nuri Bay on 07872 183 442 or 07466 411 436

Wednesday 5 February 2014

Turkish B-Boy dancer Alper Nafioğlu competing to represent Britain in world streetdance festival



Street dance continues to flourish in the UK, brought into the mainstream by artists such as George Sampson and dance troupe Diversity, winners of Britain’s Got Talent in 2008 and 2009 respectively. The dance first rose to prominence on the streets of the Bronx, New York, during the 1970s as Black and Hispanic youth danced to the “break” parts of songs being spun by DJ Kool Herc. Dubbed “Breakdance”, its popularity quickly moved abroad helped by films such as Breakin’ and Beat Street, and in time various styles also evolved.

One of the most popular forms today is B-Boying (‘b’ is short for break), which is all about locking (freezing) your body joints as you dance to Hip Hop, Funk and electronic beats. There’s both grace and power behind the moves, from head spins and flares (legs move in a circle without touching the floor), to fancy leg and footwork (Downrock styles). Some moves, such as hand hops and windmills, are derived from martial arts, all helping to add a ‘wow’ factor to the dance. With a global fan base and dance devotees, the best are sought out via regular local, national and international competitions.

For the past 10 years, British-born Turkish Cypriot Alper Nafioğlu has been training to be a top B-Boy dancer.  He is coached by one of the top names in the world. With a clutch of victories under his belt and a growing international reputation following his quarterfinal placing in last year’s B-Boy World Championships, the 28-year-old dancer is hoping 2014 will be a year to savour.

This Saturday, he and his dance partner from the Monsters Crew compete for the right to represent the UK at the Juste Debout World Streetdance Festival finals in Paris this March. The UK finals are taking place at the Camden Centre and the event is a sell-out.

T-VINE caught up with Alper in between his training for this weekend’s big competition to find out more.

Where’s home?
I am a London born and bred Turkish Cypriot, living in Romford.

How did you get into dancing?
My love for dance started at the age of 18. I went to a night club for the first time and although the music was amazing, I wasn’t able to express myself through dance. I felt self-conscious. Limited.  So, I made a promise to myself that I would learn to dance.

When I got home that night I jumped on the internet and began searching for information. There was no YouTube back then. The best I could find was a Microsoft Word document, with no images, explaining how to Breakdance. I printed it out and began to practice in my room and in a discrete area at college.

A classmate walking by saw me and said that someone in our class did something similar. I found him and he showed me what he could do, I was amazed and began to learn about a style called Poppin'. He told me that a group of dancers meet up outside of Pineapple Studios in Covent Garden every Saturday to dance. He took me there. I met the dancers and we are close friends to this day.

I mastered the basics of dance within a couple of months. This simple activity then became my passion.

Where has your passion for dance taken you?
After graduating from university and travelling for a short time, I decided I wanted to master this art form. I met my dance coach and mentor DJ Renegade by chance in December 2009.

DJ Renegade has an amazing track record. He is the coach for The Soul Mavericks - the National Breakdance Champions. He also coaches many other internationally known street dancers including members of [renowned British dance group] Flawless and young internet sensations Eddie and Terra, who recently appeared on the Ellen DeGeneres Show in America.

I work closely with my coach, training five times a week. In addition to this, I work full-time as an IT Engineer to pay for my travels to international competitions, competing internationally at least once a month.

What competitions have you won?
In the past three years, I’ve won many one-on-one b-boy battles, including:
• Smoke and Cyphers, Manchester
• The Monsta Project, Manchester
• The Fresh Factory (x3), Huddersfield
• What you got?! (x4), London
• Get Hype, London
• Jam!, Bristol
• South West got Rhythm, Bristol
• Eurobattle Portugal UK Qualifiers, Birmingham
• Baltic Sessions Freestyle, Estonia
Battle Sessions, Northampton
• Plague Battles (x2), London
• Bring the dance, Sheffield

As a pair, I’ve also won:
• What you got?! (x2), London
Battle Sessions, Northampton

And your biggest dance achievement to date?
Making it to the last eight in the B-Boy Championship World Finals last year.

Has much changed since last year’s B-Boy World Finals?
My popularity in the dance scene has definitely increased since the World Finals. People in the European community are beginning to recognise me and I have received a couple of invites as a guest competitor abroad. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to make them due to a lack of finances. I'm in the process of looking for some sponsors so I don’t miss out in the future.

It’s been a 10-year journey to get to this point. It’s not just about the physical and mental demands of dance: becoming a top dancer has had an all-encompassing effect on my life.

What’s on the horizon for you?
I’m currently fully focussed on Juste Debout UK. It’s an annual event and you compete as a 2 versus 2. The winner represents the UK in the grand finals in Paris. I am preparing and training very hard for that with my partner.

The next big one after that is the annual Eurobattle in Portugal this June, which I’m being flown out to as I won the qualifier in Birmingham a few months ago. It means I am one of the top 16 1 vs 1s.

We wish Alper and his dance partner well for this weekend. Follow his progress via his Monsters Crew Facebook page.

You can see Alper in action at the 2013 B-boy Championship World Finals here: Alper at 2013 B-Boy World Championships

And if you want to learn more about Breakdance moves, check out: