"People marry to reproduce. You must have many children. Therefore, women must respond to their husband's invitation to fulfill their marital duties. A woman must be pure and obey her husband."
According to the Turkish Affairs Branch of the GTP, these are just a few of the admonitions of Ahmet Unsal, the "head of the religious affairs department" in the occupied territories, made in a speech in occupied Famagusta, which caused a lot of reactions and brought the issue of the Islamization effort back to the news of the Turkish Cypriot community and the occupied area of Cyprus by Turkey. It is a coordinated effort that is strengthened by the presence of religious orders, which, according to the press, are strongly active in the occupied territories.
"Organized by the Turkish embassy" - Storm of reactions
Unsal's speech was given at a seminar organized at the Polat Pasha Mosque in Famagusta by the "Hala Sultan Family and Youth Center" (HAGEM) of the "Religious Services Office" of the Turkish "Embassy" in occupied Nicosia, on the topic: "The rights and obligations of marriage in Islam".
In his speech, Unsall referred, among other things, to a woman's obligations in marriage and said that the purpose of marriage is only to have children, that a woman should have many children, not divorce, obey her husband and be Agnes. Young girls also attended the seminar.
Unsal's statements caused a storm of reactions in the occupied territories, from female "MPs", politicians and women's organizations.
It is worth noting that no member of the "ruling" National Unity Party (UBP) and the so-called government made any statement on the matter, except the so-called minister of transport and works, settler Erhan Arikli, who claimed that Unsal's statements they must be treated with maturity in the context of the right of opinion and expression and that it is not right to punish him for his opinions.
Unsal Answer: "Views of Islam and not my views"
Moreover, in an interview with Yeni Düzen newspaper after the uproar, Unsal stated that the views he expressed at the seminar were not his, but those of Islam.
“I have been studying Islamic law for 29 years. The recipient of this question is Allah, not the mufti,” he said. He also claimed that his views were distorted and that the "presidency of religious affairs" does not carry out any educational activity.
Appointed by Turkey – Actions to strengthen Islamic identity
Unsal was appointed as the head of the "presidency of religious affairs" in the occupied territories in July 2021, a political position stemming from Mustafa Kemal's reforms in Turkey. He is Turkish, a professor specializing in Islamic Law.
His tenure has already been marked by backlash. One of his first actions was the suspension of Syakir Alemdar, imam of Tekke Hala Sultan in Larnaca and representative in the Republic-controlled areas of Cyprus.
Alemdar had reacted to his suspension by arguing that the ultimate goal of the decision was to make Tekkes inactive and then bring members of the Ismail Aga community with EU passports, such as in Germany and Western Thrace.
Increase in the budget
It is worth noting that an additional fund of 23 million Turkish Lira (TL) was approved in the last four months of 2022 for the "management of religious affairs" in the occupied territories, the budget of which amounted to 102,220,320 Turkish Lira (TL) from 79,000.000 TL after a decision of the "Council of Ministers".
The additional fund of 23,220,320 TL concerns issues such as the payment of electricity for mosques, the maintenance and repair of mosques, charities and the provision of social and cultural assistance, the construction of a new mosque, the costs of hospitality, ceremonies, exhibitions and events.
Building complex from the Ottoman past
It is also recalled the construction of the building complex (Külliye) in the occupied Agios Dometios, which is being carried out following a relevant announcement by the Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and is financed by Turkey. The complex will include a mosque, a new "presidential palace" and a "parliament" building.
"Külliye" is a complex consisting of various buildings of public benefit, but also of political action and arose with the development of the founding law system of Islamic society and the concept of charity. The building of the complex caused a huge reaction from organized groups of the Turkish Cypriot community who denounced that it is a foreign body both for the mentality of the Turkish Cypriots and for their secular character.
The Colonization and Islamization Press
Besides, columnist Aziz Shah wrote in Avrupa that the target of Unsal's efforts are not the Turkish Cypriots but the settlers. Shah specifically noted the following: "[…] The imam settler did not address the Cypriot women. The imam addressed the population of which Kutlu Andali had said that 'the population has turned into Anatolia with incredible speed'. There is no counter argument that you say that we have reached the point of denying the reality of the settler population with its guilds, political parties and civic organizations. You can't talk about the population we don't know its demographic structure. Settler colonialism uses the population as a weapon. For this reason, even the birth-death rates are secret in the occupied area of Cyprus. [...]".
Increase in the number of imams and mosques
Moreover, reports state that the occupied territories of Cyprus have turned into a haven for the employment of imams from Turkey and that mosques in the occupied territories have been overstaffed, with imams coming from Turkey through the "presidency of religious affairs". It is even noted that in some mosques there are three or four imams. The press puts the number of mosques in the occupied territories at 213 and the total staff of the "religious affairs department" at 240, noting that 120 of them are imams.
Islamic orders in the occupied territories
The press also refers to Islamic organizations active in the occupied territories and attempting to Islamize the Turkish Cypriot community.
Article from online newspaper Özgür Gazete, which caused a great reaction notes the presence of the "Association of Love and Brotherhood" (SEVKAD), which takes actions such as reaching out to children under 18, holding gatherings in various offices and apartments and providing them with "education" , the distribution of leaflets and advertisements, the hanging of banners with the word "Jihad" in mosques and the promise of housing for students coming to the occupied territories.
Besides, Avrupa columnist Aziz Shah writes that SEVKAD is the "changed form of ESKAD" which is related to the Turkish "embassy" in occupied Nicosia and has been in the occupied territories since 1996. He adds that the RABITA organization had previously come to the occupied territories, to which Rauf Denktash had "opened the door".
Turkish Press: Turkey's policy is the Islamization of the occupied territories
A reference to Turkey's policy for the Islamization of occupied Cyprus is also made in the Turkish newspaper Birgün in an article by columnist Gızde Bendeloglou, who, commenting on Unsal's statements, points out that Turkey's policy in Cyprus, especially since 1974, aims to make the Turkish Cypriot community more "Turkish" and more "Muslim".
"Turkey's nationalist-right-wing governments," the columnist continues, "have always functioned like a parent who insists on adapting his own standard to his 'shoots', not hesitating to belittle the language and beliefs of the Turkish Cypriot community."
It is clear that especially since the rise of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) to power in Turkey, an attempt is being made to impose Islamic morals on the occupied territories. This effort has been intensified in recent years both by the "presidency of religious affairs", as well as by the action of the various Islamic factions active in the occupied territories, and also by the "Turkish embassy".
These actions take place with the tolerance of the so-called government and the "Ministry of Education", which always but especially in this period, are controlled and more dependent than ever by the government of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and Turkey.
These actions cause the strong reaction of the most liberal part of the Turkish Cypriot community, which has a non-religious and secular character. The reaction of the majority, however, is limited mainly against the "government" and its representatives and not against Turkey itself, which implements the policy of Islamization of occupied Cyprus, as well as any other policy related to the Turkish Cypriot community and the occupied area of the island.
Despite the fact that some believe that the Islamic infiltration is mainly aimed at the settler population, which has outnumbered the Turkish Cypriot population and is more religiously inclined, this development is particularly worrying because the Islamic influence is underground and unchecked, while its effects will slowly begin to become more apparent in the entire population living in the occupied territories.
The alteration of the secular character of the Turkish Cypriot community, or at least those Turkish Cypriots who have remained or will remain in the occupied Cypriot territories after a certain period of time, can only have adverse consequences for the efforts to resolve the Cypriot issue, within the framework of a federal state in which the two main ethnic communities of the island.