SEVERAL protesters, including a 17-year-old girl who was hit on the head by a police baton, were injured yesterday during a demonstration over the sale of a school in Famagusta to a Turkish educational conglomerate.
The 17-year-old was said to be recovering in hospital yesterday afternoon. Four protesters were also arrested and taken into custody.
Shouting “This country is not for sale!” and “No to privatisation!” hundreds of teachers, parents and students converged on the Eastern Mediterranean University’s (EMU) rector’s office yesterday morning to protest the planned selloff of the schools, which are attached to the ‘state’-run university.
Protesters however found themselves barred from the building by riot police, and scuffles then broke out, apparently as protesters realised their identities were being recorded by other members of the university’s staff.
“We found ourselves face to face with hundreds of police in full riot gear. They were acting as if we planned to storm the building,” head of DAU-SEN teachers’ union Huseyin Ozkaramanli told the Cyprus Mail, adding that the aim had been to hold a face to face meeting with the rector.
Following the failed attempt to communicate with EMU’s rector, the demonstrators headed to the primary and secondary schools, located within EMU’s campus.
Ozkaramanli said police then stormed demonstrators as they tried to enter the school building, and later succeeded in removing protesters who had got into the building earlier to drape it in a banner reading, “This building has been taken over by the people!” It was at this point that some of the protesters were injured.
Arguments have been raging over the selloff of the schools attached to the ‘state’-run EMU. Unions say the school’s selloff is a precursor to a planned selloff of the university, which currently caters for around 20,000 students.
“This was not a privatisation. There were no tenders offered, and the deal was done behind closed doors,” head of teachers union KTOS Sener Elcil said yesterday. He added his belief that the deal between EMU and the Turkish Doga College had been signed for “political reasons”.
“Turkey is seeking to take over Turkish Cypriot assets as a way of securing its hold on north Cyprus,” he said, adding that the police had been “ordered by the military to use force” against the demonstrators.
“There were four bus loads of police, each with 30 to 40 police in riot gear,” he said.
Yesterday protesters pledged to continue their action aimed at forcing the Turkish Cypriot authorities to pull out of the agreement. A tent protest was to be set up outside the school last night, as well as a protest by union representatives outside the Turkish ‘embassy’ in Nicosia.