Home / History / Cenk Uygur and the Cyprus conflict – 250 words of lies

Cenk Uygur and the Cyprus conflict – 250 words of lies

It’s not only the Armenian genocide that Cenk Uygur from The Young Turks got wrong when he denied it happened (and later made an awkward “apology” stating ignorance on the issue, still without admitting the historical truth)[1]; he once tackled with the Cyprus issue, getting the facts wrong once more.

In 2014, his channel uploaded a video named “Heated Israel-Palestine Discussion Erupts Into Passion & Honesty” (clickbait gold right here) in which his panel –still including Dave Rubin at the time- talks about the Israel-Palestine conflict and the inability of all sides coming up with a solution. So, Cenk offers an insight. He says:

“…so I would go to the Turkish solution, which by the way a whole lot of people, it’s controversial, and a lot of people don’t agree with it. The Turkish solution in Cyprus was, ok, the Greeks at the time -understand that this is the Turkish perspective, ok?-, but Greeks at the time, in a mixed island with Greeks and Turks, Greeks were running the island, and they started killing Turks, so the Turkish government said…we can’t accept that, they invade Cyprus, the world is angry that they invaded Cyprus, but the world was angry originally at the government for killing Turks, so both sides are at fault, right? They invade, they take the whole island incredibly quickly and then they go: “well, we’re 40% of the population you’re 60% of the population, you take 60% of the land, we’re gonna take 40% of the land, everybody that’s on that side that’s Turkish, sorry you lost your home, you’re gonna have to come on this side, everybody that’s Greek on this side, sorry you lost your homes you’re gonna hate me forever but you’re going to that side, and then we’re gonna build a giant god-damned wall”, and they did and everybody’s criticized them since. The number of deaths since that wall was built is zero, ok? They separated the two sides, built a giant wall and the Greeks know: if you cross that wall, it’s not gonna wind up well for you, right?”

[he goes on to suggest Israel could have built their wall in 1967 and settle the issue in a similar manner]

Cenk Uygur 'turksplaining' to Dave Rubin
Cenk Uygur ‘turksplaining’ to Dave Rubin

It’s hard to know where to begin with all this mess. One would find it difficult to locate one correct piece of information in this statement. In fact, everything Cenk says here is wrong.

The most obvious mistake is the one number he mentions, and that’s the percentage of the Turkish minority on the island. In reality, the Turks constituted 18% of the general population, not 40% as Cenk says (Greek Cypriots were 78% and the rest were Latins, Maronites and Armenians)[2]. That’s a whole lot of less Turks; so much less, in fact, that his whole point completely falls apart.

So, supposedly the Turks conquered the entire island and then receded to a borderline which separated it according to population sizes. But they didn’t. It’s true that the Turkish part is 40% of the land of Cyprus (it’s actually 34% but close enough) but that does not correspond to the Turkish minority’s size at the time. Should it, even? Would that be fair, really? People don’t live equally scattered among themselves in any piece of land, and no country is a homogenous area to be divided according to percentages. People live in concentrated areas forming villages, towns and cities, and some parts of a geographic area are more desired than others. In fact, the Turkish side of the borders is generally more fertile than the Greek part, making the division twice unjust. 18% of the population violently obtained 40% of Cyprus’ land and left its mostly rocky part to the 78% of Greeks –a people that has thousands of years of history on the island (a reminder of the Greek myth that Aphrodite rose from the waters of this island gives a hint on how far back we can trace the Greek history of the land, almost half of which was grabbed by force in 1974).

The north, fertile part is the Turkish side, as shown below (photo)
The north, fertile part is the Turkish side, as shown on the map (photo)

Moreover, the Turkish army didn’t actually conquer the entire island during the attacks. The Turks invaded and kept advancing until a ceasefire was decided. So, in reality, they just stopped where they were, on the line that still wounds the country dichotomizing it (the green crayon used by a British officer to mark the frontline at the time gave the borders their name, “the green line”). There was no decision from the Turkish side to retreat at all, supposedly in order to give the Greek Cypriots’ their land back because that would be fair. It’s utterly mindboggling how Cenk came up with this. Other than, perhaps, him wanting to present his home country being a wise and nobble arbiter of justice.

He also says: “Greeks were running the island” – in fact, Cyprus was run by a Greek Cypriot president and a Turkish Cypriot vice president (Fazil Kucuk). It matters that it wasn’t “Greeks” who were running the island, as Greece at the time was under the rule of a military junta, unrelated to the democratic Cyprian government. Cenk goes on to say “[Greeks] started killing Turks”. That’s not a very careful way to speak on this issue, and since I myself am Greek and could be considered biased by a cynic, let me turn to Christopher Hitchens who does not have an obvious bias either way:

“The crisis [Hitchens refers to the invasion which led to the new borders] did not grow out of tension between them [meaning the two ethnicities], which was slowly waning. It grew out of the policies of those who did not want Cypriot harmony, and who feared that it would lead to ‘Communism’”. (The emphasis is his – excerpt taken from his book Hostage to History, page 86)

I’m not going to explain the Cyprian issue here or pretend that I can solve it in a sentence, like Cenk thinks he has (if you’re interested, I offer a general overview here). But to reduce the actual events to “Greeks started killing Turks” is rather unhelpful and, frankly, obnoxious.

He also says that the number of deaths since the wall was built is zero. Cenk forgets easily, but not all of us do. It was 22 years after the invasion when two Greek Cypriots were killed; one by the nationalist militant group Grey Wolves and the other, his cousin, a few days later by the Turkish military, for attempting to remove a Turkish flag in the United Nations Buffer Zone (more on this here and here). This makes Cenk’s last sentence particularly grotesque -“the Greeks know: if you cross that wall, it’s not gonna wind up well for you, right?” Right; and without crossing the wall, either.

Someone might think Cenk’s little speech is still salvageable. He, after all, opened with some caveats: “it’s controversial, and a lot of people don’t agree with it” and “understand that this is the Turkish perspective, ok?” Well, check again. To say something is “controversial” does not give one the license to lie, and the “Turkish perspective” cannot be to pretend the Turks made a decision that they didn’t (as far as I know it’s not “the Turks” that say anything like this, it’s only Cenk).

I’m not even going to discuss how all this (fake) narrative does not and cannot help the Israel-Palestine conflict (on which side of the wall will al-Aqsa mosque be, Cenk?) –that’s a point for another day (check here if you want my thoughts on it).

Considering that The Young Turks have regressed not only to something that cannot be called journalism, but to a platform that consistently misrepresents the views of their opponents, lies about history and facts, and is reliably biased on every subject the commentators bother to talk about (and reliably ignores some others), it seems like the only good thing that came out of this entertainment youtube channel is Dave Rubin, who, thank all the gods and goddesses, left Cenk and started The Rubin Report. So check him out. Almost 3 million subscribers of The Young Turks urgently need a wake-up call.

The video where Cenk offers us his imagined take on history is here.

The Greek Cypriots have this view to remind them of the tragedy
The Greek Cypriots have this view to remind them of the tragedy (photo)

[1] Lalo Dagach wrote a great piece explaining how wrong Cenk was on this matter. It is titled “Cenk Uygur, The Young Turks and the Denial of The Armenian Genocide”.

[2] Essentially, what Cenk says here is like saying “USA is a mixed country with Americans and Mexicans”. This is not egregious per se, but it is inaccurate.

Further reading:

Christopher HitchensHostage to History, Cyprus from the Ottomans to Kissinger (Verso, 1997, first published by Quartet Books Limited, 1984)

Christopher HitchensThe Island Stranded In Time (excellent long piece included in the book Frontiers, the book of the TV series (BBC Books, 1990, pages 116-141). You can also see the corresponding episode of the Frontiers series here.

WikipediaCyprus dispute

BritannicaCyprus

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