The withdrawal of a book from Cyprus high school classes over a disputed reference to modern Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk on Thursday triggered a war of words between Turkey and Cyprus’ Education Ministry.
The Education Ministry this week pulled the book used to teach Grade 11 English because it said it was too effusive in its praise of Ataturk, saying his legacy was marred by “crimes against entire peoples.”
The book was formally ordered withdrawn after English teachers were hastily told the “rip the page” with the reference to Ataturk from the book. That stirred a flurry of denouncements on social media and elsewhere criticizing the ministry of censorship.
The ministry defended its decision, insisting that the book is freely available in Cyprus but that doesn’t mean it should be used for teaching English.
“It’s not possible for books being used for instruction in our schools to portray Kemal Ataturk as a paradigm of an moral leader who ‘benefited the people’,” the ministry said in a statement Thursday. “Because, as it’s well known, Ataturk and the Young Turks are responsible for crimes against people like the Armenian Genocide, of the Pontian Greeks, the Assyrians.”
The Turkish Foreign Ministry said the book’s withdrawal “reveals the radical level of the distorted mentality of the Greek Cypriot Administration towards Turkey” and that Greek Cypriots “do not have the tolerance” to live together with Turkish Cypriots in the occupied north of the island.
Breakaway Turkish Cypriots called the decision “a new example of the racist stance of the Greek Cypriot administration” and a “reflection of the increasingly hostile behavior” of the Greek Cypriot side which “cannot tolerate the Turkish existence on the island and cannot digest the glorious history of the Turkish nation.” [AP]