Calls for MP Burrowes to step down for his anti-Turkish, anti-Muslim bias

British MP David BurrowesTurkish Cypriot human rights group Embargoed! have written to British MP David Burrowes asking him to resign as chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Cyprus. The group claim he is using his role to “demonise the Turks of Cyprus”, which is alienating the two Cypriot communities. Embargoed! argue the Conservative MP, a devout Christian, has over-stepped the mark with his plans to lead a group of British MPs to visit and clean desecrated churches in North Cyprus in May – the second such trip in five months – but not desecrated mosques and Islamic sites in South Cyprus. He is also accused of bias in his handling of APPG meetings, giving a platform to Greek Cypriot speakers and interests only, while consistently resisting efforts by Turkish Cypriot groups such as Embargoed! to present to its British parliamentary members.

In his four page letter to Mr Burrowes dated 8 April, Embargoed! Treasurer Fahri Zihni highlights repeated anti-Turkish and Muslim bias the MP exhibits as chair of the Cyprus APPG. Mr Zihni states:

–         Instead of supporting the work of the Bi-Communal Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage (BCTCCH) in Cyprus, set up by the UN in 2008, the MP prefers to work with the head of the Greek Orthodox Church, Archbishop Chrisostomos II, who is on record as saying he “would rather see Apostolos Andreas collapse” than allow the Turkish Cypriot religious trust Evkaf to administer urgently-needed repairs.

–         During his November 2011 trip to Cyprus, the British MP ignored the obliteration of Islamic sites in South Cyprus, such as the razing to the ground of the Paphos Grand Mosque to create a car park, yet was highly critical of the Turks’ destruction of Christian sites in the South. Conversely he heaped praise on Greek Cypriots for restoring some mosques, while ignoring Turkish Cypriot efforts, for example restoring St. Barnabas Monastery.

–         In an announcement in March, Mr Burrowes said he was leading a group of British MPs ‘to clean a total of 18 desecrated churches and cemeteries’ in North Cyprus, with the May mission funded by the Greek Cypriot Orthodox Church. With only two days, 10-11 May, allocated for ‘cleaning’ Embargoed! question whether so many sites can actually be cleaned or whether this is merely another anti-Turkish stunt?

–         Following an outcry by Turkish Cypriots to his March announcement, Mr Burrowes subsequently claimed he would visit to Turkish Muslim sites, but not to clean them. Mr Zihni asks “If you are cleaning churches in the North, why are you not cleaning Mosques in the South? Why do you consider Islamic relics to be of less significance?”

In the letter, Embargoed! ask Mr Burrowes to cancel his May trip because it is nothing more than “another attempt to vilify the Turkish Cypriot community” and call the venture “ill-prepared, ill-advised, patronising, biased on racial and religious grounds, and a waste of resources”

The group claim the Turkish Cypriot community has little confidence in him. Since becoming chair of the Cyprus APPG in 2010, they say Mr Burrowes has “not invited a single Turkish Cypriot organisation or official to present issues of importance to the group”. Mr Zihni points out how London based Embargoed! have already made a presentation on the embargoes issue to interested members at the European Parliament, yet Mr Burrowes has ‘consistently ignored the group’s requests to do the same at the APPG’.

Embargoed! have called on Mr Burrowes to resign, asserting he has failed in his basic duties as chair to be even-handed and inclusive, and that under his leadership the Cyprus APPG is “a total failure”. The human rights group accuse him of creating obstacles between the two sides and constantly demonising Turkish people, which they say “is difficult to describe in any terms other than ‘racist’”.

The Turkish Cypriot group want the Cyprus APPG to appoint a ‘neutral’ person to ensure the parliamentary interest group is more “fair, balanced, informative and, most importantly, productive.”

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