The Mediterranean island nation of Cyprus is a complex modern-day geopolitical concern with factional strife ongoing since the second half of the last century. Recently, human rights in Cyprus has become a more significant issue. Here are 10 facts that explain how the country evolved to its present situation and what is being done to combat its human rights issues today.
- Cyprus is one country with two de facto autonomous regions. The southern half of Cyprus is governed by the internationally recognized Cypriot government, and the northern half is governed by the Turkish-Cypriot community.
- A violent separation occurred in 1974. The United Nations currently has a peacekeeping force maintaining a buffer zone between the two regions.
- Peace talks between the two sides occurred as recently as July 2017 but failed to make any substantial progress. A main issue of contention is the presence of Turkish troops on the northern side of the island.
- While the presence of a foreign military is certainly a worry to the international human rights community, human rights issues are present in other areas of Cyprus. A State Department report found that Cypriot police were using physical abuse, particularly toward foreigners and migrants. There were also reports of the police blackmailing illegal migrants.
- The U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) expressed concern in a report about the recent rise of right-wing extremist groups in Cyprus. CERD also criticized the Cypriot government for ineffectively handling hate speech in the media.
- As migrant rights become more prevalent in discussions of human rights in Cyprus, CERD is urging Cyprus to ratify the Convention for the protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families.
- CERD further encouraged the Cypriot government to ensure human rights for domestic workers. Currently, migrant domestic workers cannot hold long-term residence status in Cyprus.
- Due to the increasing diversity in Cyprus, the nongovernmental organization Kisa was created in 1998. Kisa works to promote multiculturalism and end racism, xenophobia and discrimination in Cyprus.
- Kisa has had great success in promoting its vision through litigation and campaigns. However, a 2010 Kisa peace festival was disrupted by right-wing protestors who injured festival participants. The police arrested festival attendees.
- Current problems of human rights in Cyprus may be exacerbated by the recent finding that 244,000 Cypriots are at risk of poverty or social exclusion. That amounts to almost one-third of Cyprus’ population.
Human rights in Cyprus is a complicated issue. Nevertheless, the international community and groups in Cyprus remain committed to finding a peaceful solution to the issues that are present on the island.
– Sean Newhouse