Thursday, 19 February 2015

Anger at London School of Economics after bullies force public to be locked out of the TRNC Foreign Minister's conference


By John Oakes

The London School of Economics is under fire from Turkish Cypriots who were refused entry to a public meeting addressed by the TRNC Foreign Minister Özdil Nami. University officials claimed they were compelled to take severe safety measures because of “threats" received.

The Foreign Minister was invited to speak at the LSE about the current state of the Cyprus talks, during his visit to London where he was expected to meet with top-level officials from the British government. The event was advertised as open to the public.

LSE officials changed the venue at the last minute and restricted access to the talk to students and staff from London University. They also changed the event title to refer to Mr Nami as ‘A representative of the Turkish Cypriot community’.

A member of staff at LSE told T-VINE it was their “duty to protect members of the public” because an organisation had made "a credible threat” to disrupt the meeting. The police had not been informed.

It appears that a university organisation – believed to be the Hellenic Society – had objected to Mr Nami being referred to as "H.E. [His Excellency], the Foreign Minister of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus". Greek nationalists – it is not clear if they are students or external to the university – also threatened to disrupt the meeting if it went ahead for these same reasons.

As a result, some 20 prominent members of the British Turkish Cypriot community were forced to cool their heels for an hour in the entrance lobby, while Greek Cypriot students subjected Minster Nami to stiff questioning during the closed meeting.
Cetin Ramadan (R) with Konsey head Aysın Yılmaz outside Downing Street last November
Cetin Ramadan, vice-chair of Konsey (UK Council of Turkish Cypriot Associations) summed up the anger in the Turkish Cypriot camp: "It is totally unacceptable for the London University to lock us out of a meeting advertised as being public. Some of us have come from as far afield as Cambridge specially to be here."

"Students have a right to protest and demonstrate – but not to interfere with the free and democratic circulation of knowledge. What happened on Tuesday night at the LSE is a prime example of the tail wagging the academic dog. The university should be teaching the values of free and fair discussion – not suspend them arbitrarily."

"If the London University is not willing to stand up to such bullies and equally, is content with disrespecting democratically elected members of the TRNC Government by refusing to call them by their proper titles, then we will urge the TRNC [authorities] to work with other organisers and venues for these political discussions about the Cyprus problem. The only loser will be London University's Contemporary Turkish Studies department, the current sponsor.”


TRNC Foreign Minister Özdil Nami to give a conference on Cyprus talks in London next week, 14 Feb. 2015

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