The protest centres on Cllr Williams’ decision to exclude communities from its social cohesion flag raising programme which have their countries of cultural heritage from “a territory that is not recognised by the UK government”. This exclusion applies not only to UK Turkish Cypriots, but also the Kashmiri and Tibetan communities.Ayse Osman, Chair of Council of Turkish Cypriot Associations said “This is plain discrimination. Whether communities of the UK have a recognised or unrecognised country of cultural heritage has got nothing to do with their right to their cultural identity through their flag. We demand that our flag is hoisted in exactly the same way as all other flags in Fellowship Square. Many minority groups in Waltham Forest have raised their flags in similar ceremonies, including those originating from Kosovo, Albania, Tibet, Dominica and Antigua & Barbuda, as well as the LGBT and transgender communities without any issue. We demand the same treatment”.
Through the Council’s formal decision making procedures, it was agreed that the Turkish Cypriot flag would be raised on the 15th November 2021. This was a proud ceremony that was attended by 50 Turkish Cypriots, including the CTCA.
However, two hours later, following illegal interference by a foreign government, the “Republic of Cyprus”, which has not represented Turkish Cypriots since 1964, Cllr Williams took it upon herself to make this event into a political issue. Subsequently, she ordered the flag to be taken down and apologised to “anyone who is offended” for raising the flag, stating that the Turkish Cypriot community’s flag will be removed because it is not recognised by the UK government. The removal of the flag - considered sacred in Turkish culture - was carried out in a highly disrespectful and degrading manner, where it was dragged across the floor and dumped it in a council storeroom, next to a dustbin.
The first protest was organised on 9th December 2021 by the umbrella body the Council of Turkish Cypriot Associations UK (CTCA) with 30 member associations, following outrage amongst the UK's 300,000 strong Turkish Cypriot community.
Ayse Osman said “To date 3,218 people have signed a petition demanding the resignation of the Council Leader and hundreds more have written in to complain, but neither Cllr Grace Williams nor Waltham Forest Council has seen it fit to apologise for their behaviour"
“Turkish Cypriots exist and Northern Cyprus is our ethnic homeland. Like other communities, we are proud of our identity and our flag. No one has the right to discriminate against us and to racially insult us", continued Mrs Osman, adding "We've already seen how the Council Leader's behavior has incited racial hatred of Turkish Cypriots and created a hostile environment for the borough's estimated 10,000 residents of Turkish Cypriot origin. We need urgent action from the Council to remedy this, yet they have done nothing whatsoever to date".
The CTCA asked to have a meeting with the council on the 16th of November 2021, but although Cllr Williams stated that she had scheduled a meeting, no such action was taken, as confirmed by her own officers. The Council has never explained why the international status of some communities’ cultural heritage countries is relevant to raising of their flags.
We are seeking legal advice to further our case.
Due to the council’s disrespectful, humiliating and unacceptable behavior of Cllr Williams, have we scheduled our 2nd protest demonstration for March 3, 2022 between 18:00 and 20:30.
WHY WE ARE PROTESTING:
3RD MARCH 2022 - Waltham Forest Council Protest 2!
Here is why we are protesting again:
1) Grace Williams has still not apologised for the offence caused to the Turkish Cypriot people
2) The racist statement against Turkish Cypriots on the Waltham Forest Council website has still not been removed
3) A transparent investigation into the events before and after the flag raising on November 15th 2021 has still not been carried out / The report produced by the council unjustifiably absolved her of any wrong doing
4) Grace Williams and her staff have still not undergone anti-racism training, specifically anti- Turkish racism, in order to prevent such behaviour from being repeated
The last protest was a massive success with numbers reaching 400! This time we hope for even more! We will not allow the Waltham Forest Council to continue discriminating against Turkish Cypriots.