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Right to nationality in the TRNC

Between 2016-2018 Marieke Hopman together with a group of students studied the child’s right to nationality in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC). The study results were published in chapter 7 of her PhD, in a report and a quiz. Below you find the blogs and vlogs the team created to share their experiences and reflections during the research process, including their attempts to share the research results and have political impact, from the first to the latest.

22 November 2018

What does it mean to have the right to a nationality? What happens when you cannot access your nationality? Mustafa is a 25 year old and living in Northern Cyprus. He has a Cypriot mother and a Turkish father and has been waiting to get his Cypriot nationality for half his life. Watch the video to find out why and what happens when he tries to follow up on his application!

By Ambra Borne - 24 December 2018

As seen in a previous post, I am in Geneva to share the information about the human rights situation in Cyprus, in particular the situation of children living in the northern Cyprus (TRNC), at an international level. The goal has been to make sure that the delegations of all countries have this information, but more importantly, that in January 2019, during the official UN review of Cyprus, the delegations will ask about certain human rights issues that we found.

Usually countries under review will have a Pre-session, where civil society organisations can present the information directly to the delegations. However, the one specifically for Cyprus was cancelled due to a lack of speakers. Therefore, in order to distribute the information to the delegations throughout the week, I had to come up with alternative ways.

The first method was to directly approach the representatives of the delegations and explain why they needed to listen to what I had to say within 15 seconds. This usually occurred within the 10 minute window before and after other countries Pre-sessions. The representatives would have the name of their country in front of them and this would allow to know who I was speaking to and how to adapt my pitch.

In the 15 second pitch I would explain that the Cyprus Pre-Session has been cancelled so this would be one of the few chances to gather information. Usually, the representatives were interested and took the documents promising to look over them or pass them on to the appropriate person. Some were actually interested in the topic, asked questions and engaged in conversation. Only one had a problem with the topic and reports, and tried to lecture me on the political situation in Northern Cyprus and how what I was distributing was wrong!

As a whole, this method definitely put my networking skills to the test! Within 10 minute windows I had to reach as many people as possible but still make sure to make a lasting impression so that the research results were known and hopefully used at a later stage. This was exceptionally difficult since I was very conscious as to not over step my role as ‘researcher’, and cross the line into activism.

The second method used to distribute the information was to contact as many delegations as possible to request a short meeting and provide them with documents and a deeper explanation of the research results. The countries which responded positively to this were the following: the Netherlands, Australia, Slovakia, and Ireland. Each of these meetings led to very interesting and engaging conversations, which was a great way to discuss the research results in depth. One delegation commended us on the work, but most of all, all four delegations were thankful for the reports.

Most importantly, during these conversations, I was able to highlight key elements of the results as well as specific recommendations. A specific recommendation set forth was the idea of organising a bi-communal activity of research and reporting of children’s rights on the whole island of Cyprus. This proposed activity was very well received by all four delegations!

At this point, it is difficult to say which of these two methods was the most effective, but the second one clearly allowed for more depth as well as more of a personal interaction, which I think will allow for a greater impact further on in the process. In any case, regardless of the method taken, all delegations made it clear that they cannot make promises as to whether they will make such a recommendation, or a recommendation on the topic at all. But the positive response to the reports and discussions make me hopeful that perhaps one might… We will have to wait until next month to find out!

By Ambra Borne - 11 December 2018

Hello All,

On Thursday 29th and Friday 30th of November, I had the opportunity to attend and participate in the United Nations Forum on Minority Rights which took place in Geneva. The theme and focus of this forum was the issue of statelessness.

During these two days, many international delegates, organisations, NGOs, and significant UN personnel contributed and gave noteworthy speeches and recommendations in regards to how best to tackle this issue of nationality. Although I learned new elements of the topic, I did feel this was a limited approach to the issue and that there was a lot of diplomatic talk with little real action. However, it did provide a platform to present the research findings on the child’s right to nationality in the TRNC and distribute a few copies of the report.

The forum included a specific discussion on minority women and children affected by statelessness, which I felt was the most personal and honest conversation of the conference. Within this scope, I was –unexpectedly- able to speak for two minutes about what we discovered on the child’s right to nationality in the TRNC! Due to the Republic of Cyprus delegation being present in the room and it being the most tangible of the issues to explain in such a short time, I focused on the issue of children of ‘mixed marriages’ not being able to obtain the Republic of Cyprus nationality. Unfortunately, I ran out of time before presenting the two recommendations to the state, however, a full copy of the speech was electronically communicated to the forum administrators and thus will be added to the record.

The Republic of Cyprus delegate quickly responded by referencing the political conflict with Turkey and claiming the TRNC was an occupied state, and thus children born there could not be stateless. Additionally, the delegate came to speak to me personally! She reiterated what she had said, stated that she had picked up a copy of the report, and wished to have a full version of the statement presented. It must be said that some delegates sitting nearby seemed impressed and intrigued by the exchange!

To be completely honest, I could not quite believe what was happening until it was over. It was a very surreal moment to be summarising such a complicated matter to this group of people in such circumstances. As seen in the photo, it was a very formal atmosphere; there was a strict and formulaic procedure to be followed which I was not completely familiar with, and so by the end of it I was quite overwhelmed by it all.

But in any case, I am very proud to have had the opportunity to highlight some of the key points of the research and some of the nationality issues faced by people living in the TRNC, including children. It is now officially on record and, hopefully, now it cannot be ignored.

Next stop, the UPR process!

By Marieke Hopman - 25 November 2018

Please note that this message comes with a few weeks delay because unfortunately after writing this, I accidentally left my laptop at Istanbul airport, and only got it back today…

I (Marieke) am writing to you from Istanbul airport, on my way back to Maastricht. Over the past weeks we have been in Cyprus to share our research results. The most important goal was to make sure that our findings were brought to the attention of those for whom it could be of use, and to hopefully start a discussion about the rights of children living in northern Cyprus. Did we succeed? In some sense we did. In total, we had meetings at 7 different embassies and consulates, all MPs in the TRNC parliament received a copy of the report, we shared our findings with different ministries, with 3 NGOs and with the EU and the UN. The research appeared in 3 different newspapers and on the radio.

We ended our trip with two events which we organized. First, Ambra presented the research findings to a group of international students. We discussed what rights their children have, and how they can(not) access their rights. There was a very powerful discussion after the presentation. Lastly, we ended our trip with a presentation of the results in the Home for Cooperation, in the UN buffer zone. The event was very well attended and again there was a lot of discussion. It was great to notice that people attended the presentation from both sides (north and south), and that the audience was very diverse. 

Ambra presenting the research findings to international students who have children in the TRNC

Marieke presenting the research in the Home for Cooperation

The audience. It was a large group of international student-parents!

Emine Çolak: “The research gives us new glasses. To not look at the conflict first, but first at the rights of children.”       

Will it make a difference? Now, of course, it is up to the people in northern Cyprus to do something with the research. They can decide to use it to claim their rights, or to organize better care for their children. They could try and do something about the persistent discrimination happening on both sides of the island. We already saw some people sharing the report on social media and sharing what they learned. We will see whether they follow up, since now it is in their hands.

On the last day, I saw our friend Can, whom I gave the last Turkish research reports, to distribute after we left. When I was back in the car and driving away, suddenly Can showed up, carrying a bucket. “It is a Turkish Cypriot tradition,” he said, “when someone leaves on a long journey, to throw water at them, so that they may come back.” And so I drove away, with the sound of water splashing behind me in the street.


Can coming to throw a bucket of water after me

By Marieke Hopman - 11 October 2018

A very quick update, as I’m very tired and would like to stop working. However I wanted to quickly let you know how we are doing. Over the past few days me and Ambra have been running around from meeting to meeting, often splitting up so that we can do two at the same time. We’ve met with journalists, politicians, embassies, UNDP and people who participated in the research. Meanwhile we are organizing two events: one this Saturday for international students in TRNC, to discuss with them the rights of children of international students in the TRNC; the second next Monday. The latter is a public event where we hope people from two sides (north and south) will come to discuss the rights of children living in north Cyprus with us. Below some pictures!

Live on Radio Mayis to discuss our research!

Visiting the Canadian Consulate

Warmly welcomed by a very nice team at the Dutch embassy   

Visiting the German embassy – the ambassador was very happy to receive some “Stroopwafels” (Dutch cookies)!

Ambra talking about the research in a national newspaper

By Marieke Hopman - 6 October 2018

From 4-16 October Marieke and Ambra are in Cyprus to share the results of the research on the child’s right to nationality in the TRNC. On this blog, you can follow our adventures! If you haven’t yet, you can sign up in the footer to get automatic e-mails when there is a new update.

Thursday night (4 Oct) we arrived in Cyprus, with a mission to share the findings of our research with as many people as possible, and in particular those who can make a difference for children living in the TRNC (politicians, journalists, international actors). So far people are so excited about the research, we are welcomed everywhere almost as heroes! At the same time it is challenging, because everything goes “Cyprus style” (which means: take it easy, no rush, but also: you can speak to anyone, even the president, if you know someone who knows him). In addition, we’re a little anxious as to how people will react, both in the north and the south, because the topic of nationality is a VERY sensitive topic.

For example, on Friday we met with the NGO “Home for Cooperation“, who want to host an event (happening 15th of October) during which we present our research and have a discussion with the audience. We hope that people from both sides (north and south of Cyprus) will attend. During the event, will not be allowed to use “TRNC” or even “the North” but instead have to speak about “the northern part of Cyprus”.

On Saturday we picked up the printed reports. There are 350 copies in total: 250 in Turkish, 150 in English. And they look great!! After that we met with the TRNC Minister of Education. Because we found in our research that who gets (good quality) education and who does not is very much connected to the ethnicity and nationality of the child, we wanted to talk to him to share our findings. We weren’t sure whether he would be interested, but we ended up talking for almost two hours!

Later in the day we drove to Famagusta to share the reports with journalist Metin Ziya Güngör. We took some photos to go with the article (to pose professionally is still a bit of a challenge…) and he will write about the research, an article which will be sent to, and may be printed by, all newspapers in northern Cyprus. So hopefully this will spread the news.

On Monday we will publish the report online, so stay tuned for more of our adventures and to read the report…

The reports

Picking up the 350 research reports

With the TRNC Minister of Education

Taking a picture for the news article

By Marieke Hopman - 21 September 2018

Dear all, It’s time for a new update!

Exciting things are happening. I spent most of the summer writing a research proposal for the Dutch science organization NWO, for a follow-up project of 4 years to the PhD. If we get it, it will be another research on children’s rights including 4 case studies, yet this time Bigger and Better: the project includes 5 NGOs, 7 universities and 9 professors. We will get our first reviews in about two weeks, so fingers crossed!

Second, over the summer me and Ambra have been working on the report on the child’s right to nationality in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Below you see a preview of some of the pages of the English version, it will also be published in Turkish. 

You may be wondering why it looks so nice? This kind of design must be very expensive? Well, no! What happened: some time ago, I did a radio interview about my research on Dutch national radio. Rik Hurks, CEO of marketing & communications bureau Mannen van 80, heard this interview and was moved by the story. He got in touch and turned out to be very enthusiastic about the research project and wanted his company to do some social responsibility. And so for a very low wage they are designing this report so beautifully – and not just that, they are also making an online quiz! Mannen van 80 are also part of the NWO application so I hope we get to work together much more in the future.

From 4-16 October me and Ambra will be in Cyprus to share the research results. We are currently setting up a program which hopefully includes meeting with political actors (national and international), media engagement and discussion events. To be continued…!

By Marieke Hopman - 13 July 2018

Dear all,

I am very happy and proud to share with you our first official output of our research on the child’s right to nationality in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus!

This document is a UPR shadow report to the UPR of the Republic of Cyprus. Basically, every four years, every member state of the UN has to report to the UN Human Rights Council to say how they are doing on protecting human rights in their country. To get good information on the human rights situation in states, the Council also asks NGOs to write so-called “shadow reports”. Together with the NGO Institute for Statelessness and Inclusion (ISI), yesterday we submitted a report on the rights of Turkish Cypriots to a nationality, and on subsequent (violation of) human rights resulting from whether or not someone has a certain nationality.

Please note that, because this submission is about human rights in Cyprus as related to the Republic of Cyprus, other issues with right to nationality for people living in North Cyprus are not part of this report.

Members of the research team are: Ambra, Céline, Florentina, Nikki and Raphaela. I (Marieke) have been leading the research.

By Ambra Borne - 13 June 2018

Dear All,

After much secrecy and anticipation, we are very excited to share with you a case study that we have been working on for almost a year now; the child’s right to a nationality in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC)!

Although extremely interesting, this case is far from simple and so I, Ambra, Marieke’s intern, will be walking you through the journey of this case and research project. With a team of 5 students and Marieke, this project has taken on three trips to the TRNC, a fundraising campaign, an upcoming report (and more – cannot disclose them yet!) since July 2017. Finally, we can share it with you!

The TRNC is an unrecognised state situated in the northern part of the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. Due to being only recognised by Turkey, the children’s right situation is unique, especially when it comes to the child’s right to nationality. How are children’s right protected? What does having TRNC nationality entail? What does the child’s right to nationality mean in the TRNC?

Before any of these questions can be answered, it is essential to glance at the history of the island of Cyprus. Although Cyprus has experienced many different authorities and sovereignties throughout centuries (Venetians, Ottoman, British), it has been home to two main populations: the Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots. Soon after its independence in 1960, and the creation of the Republic of Cyprus, tensions and unrest emerged between these populations which would eventually cause the island to be politically altered to this day.

With increasing nationalism and varying political ideologies, violence erupted between Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot communities which resulted in a military intervention from Turkey in 1974. Claiming to be for the protection of the Turkish Cypriots, this involvement has been, and continues to be, highly debated among the international community. Nevertheless, the TRNC state was declared itself as an independent state in 1983.

For the majority of the last 40 years, the Turkish Cypriot community has been isolated from the world due to a heavy economic embargo and only being recognised by Turkey. Peace negotiations have been attempted, and failed, many times over all these years. In 2003, the border between the TRNC and the Republic of Cyprus opened for the first time. The following year, the Republic of Cyprus became a member of the EU. This is still the current situation of the TRNC. There is still an economic embargo, the territory of northern Cyprus is still claimed by the Republic of Cyprus, the TRNC is still unrecognised.

Like many other unrecognised states, the discussion revolving around the TRNC is heavily politically charged and sensitive for many. As consequence, we decided to announce this research project once all the data had been collected, which is now! We (myself, Marieke and four other students) spent a total of nine weeks in the TRNC interviewing all different kinds of people; children, parents, teachers, politicians, international students, journalists, housewives, etc. all to answer the question: what is the meaning of the child’s right to a nationality in the TRNC?

This case study has included many ups and downs, challenges and opportunities, breakthroughs and setbacks. But, ultimately, it has provided an insight into children’s rights in an unrecognised state. More soon!

Ali (one of our translators), Marieke and I

The divided island of Cyprus

Crossing the border from the Republic of Cyprus to the TRNC

Two members of the team after a hard day at work!

Vlog 4: Fundraising campaign with countdown

By Ambra Borne - 2 November 2017

Vlog 3: Crossing into no man’s land

By Ambra Borne - 20 September 2017

Vlog 1: Welcome to our vlogs from the TRNC!

By Ambra Borne - 14 September 2017