The Association of Rizokarpasso in Britain on November 25th held its annual Charity Dinner and Dance at the Grand Palace Banqueting Suite. All age groups were represented, proud of their roots and not prepared to forget that Rizokarpasso belongs to them. The music had people from all age groups on the dance floor from the toddlers to pensioners, in what was a joyful community atmosphere where people ate a delicious meal, danced and enjoyed the company of friends and relatives.
Present amongst the guests were the High Commissioner of the Republic of Cyprus in the UK, Evripides Evriviades, The Rt. Revd. Bishop Athanasios of Tropaeou, the Member of Parliament for Enfield Southgate, Bambos Charalambous and the President of the National Federation of Cypriots in the UK, Christos Karaolis. Cousins Katina Chrysostomou and Katina Michanicou, both aged 91 and very active members of the Association, were presented with bouquets to celebrate their Names Day festival of Ayia Katerina. Both have continuously supported the Cyprus cause and attended the July Rally for Cyprus and November Picket outside the Turkish Embassy. Their advancing years have not prevented them from participating in Association events or dampened their desire to see a free united Cyprus and the return of their properties in Rizokarpasso.
Maria Karaolis, the President of the Association of Rizokarpasso thanked those present at the Charity Dinner and Dance and said: “You being here this evening together with the advertisers in our brochure and donors of raffle prizes has enabled us once again to send each enclaved school child in Rizokarpasso a €50 Christmas present in a personalised Christmas card. We have sent a Christmas present to the Rizokarpasso school children every year since 2005 when there were 61 school children. Year by year their numbers fell and by 2011 there were 35 school children. Since then they have been increasing, last year there were 41 and this year there are 45 school children. We are grateful to the Cyprus High Commission in London for arranging the delivery of the Christmas presents to the children in Rizokarpasso. Many of the students who finish the Rizokarpasso Gymnasion go on to university in Cyprus and abroad. In 2005 Demetris Kotsiekkas was in his first year in Gymnasion, in 2015 whilst studying Law at the University of Cyprus he gained the European Union ERASMUS internship and came to London at the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution. He has graduated and is now at the University of Cyprus undertaking research. We are proud of the enclaved Rizokarpassides and the successes of their children. However, we also remember the hardship and sacrifices of our enclaved friends, relatives and compatriots in Rizokarpasso, who for the last 43 years, since the 1974 Turkish invasion and continued occupation of the northern part of Cyprus, have guarded our rights to our properties whilst they, on a daily basis are denied the basic human rights and freedom that all other European citizens enjoy. They have suffered violence and intimidation, which has seen the Greek Cypriot population of Rizokarpasso reduced from around 4,000 people in 1974 to less than 250 of whom 45 are schoolchildren. Since October this year the UN Humanitarian Aid taken to the enclaved in Rizokarpasso has been subject to customs duties by the regime in occupied Cyprus and so the UN no longer takes provisions and only takes medicines to the enclaved. Furthermore, 5 teachers were refused permission to teach in the Rizokarpasso schools and had to be replaced and 8 textbooks were prohibited.”
She continued: “Turkey is considered by our Government and other Western nations to be an important NATO ally that holds the key to Western security and the control of migration. Turkey wants to join the EU yet muzzles democracy, imprisons Government critics, since July 2016 Turkey has closed down more than 180 media outlets and imprisoned 281 of its journalists. It also fails to abide by Agreements, ignores the Geneva Convention, ignores UN Resolutions, mistreats its religious and ethnic minorities; the Kurdish minority community is 25% of Turkey’s population. Turkey does not share our Western interests or European values of democracy, respect for human dignity and human rights, freedom, equality and the rule of law. Turkey says that it wants the negotiations on Cyprus to be successful yet it violates the Republic of Cyprus airspace and Exclusive Economic Zone. Turkey insists on keeping its anachronistic Guarantor Power for Cyprus. The Republic of Cyprus is an independent country and a member of the UN, the EU, the Commonwealth and is a valued, stable, reliable, democratic, ally in a very volatile region; it doesn’t need Guarantors. Let us hope that the talks will resume in a manner that can lead to a just and viable solution that will reunify the island, terminate Turkey’s illegal actions, which are a violation of the sovereign rights of the Republic of Cyprus and against international law, and allow all of the Cypriots to live together throughout the island in a peaceful and safe Republic of Cyprus. Our Association was formed immediately after the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974 and has all these years campaigned tirelessly for the rights of the enclaved, for an end to the illegal occupation of Cyprus, the withdrawal of Turkish troops and illegal settlers and for the return of all refugees to their homes and properties.”
Maria Karaolis concluded by thanking all the Presidents, Officers and Committee Members of the Association over the last 43 years for their dedication and hard work. She also thanked all members, friends, advertisers, providers of raffle prizes and those who had made donations who had supported and sustained the Association since its formation in 1975. She wished everyone a Happy Christmas and a New Year, 2018, full of happiness, prosperity and good health; a New Year that brings Freedom, Joy and Justice throughout Cyprus.