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Sign On San diego SDSU Program Deepens Division on Cyprus 12/21/06

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Hellenic Electronic Center (HEC)

A Non-Profit Organization Registered in the US
Representing 35,000 Hellenes and
36 Hellenic associations in the US and abroad

December 21, 2006

"SDSU Cyprus program draws fire” (Dec 18) fails to note that Cyprus is an independent sovereign Republic, its government the only internationally recognized legitimate government on the island.

The article also fails to note that opposition to the SDSU exchange program is wide-ranging and not just confined to what you refer to as the so-called "Greek lobby," whereas support for the program only emanates from the Turkish lobby and the people involved with the program itself. Americans and California citizens including Senator Barbara Boxer and Congressman Gary Miller, California Senate Majority Whip Richard Alarcon, California State Senate Majority Leader Gloria Romero, California Stare Senator Elaine Alquist, California Assembly Member Judy Chu, Stuart E. Eizenstat, a former high-level Clinton administration official and President Carter's chief domestic advisor, and the Armenian National Committee of America have all voiced opposition to the program and joined in demands for the suspension or termination of the program at issue because association with a university in the part of Cyprus occupied by the Turkish military, lends legitimacy to the rump regime.

The so-called β€œgovernment” of the occupied area, an illegal secessionist entity, is considered outlaw not only by Greek Americans and the Republic of Cyprus , but by the United States government and Congress, the European Union and the entire world except for Turkey . It has been condemned in countless UN Resolutions, notably UN resolutions 541 and 550 which state "the attempt to create a ' Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus ,' is invalid." Further, the UN calls on all member States "to respect the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity, unity and non-alignment of the Republic of Cyprus" and "Reiterates the call upon all States not to recognize the purported state of the 'Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus' set up by secessionist acts and calls upon them not to facilitate or in any way assist the aforesaid secessionist entity."

" Eastern Mediterranean University " operates on property illegally confiscated from its Greek Cypriot owners by the Turkish military and the occupying regime. Participation in this program makes students party not only to the ongoing violation of the rights of the legitimate Greek Cypriot property owners, who have demanded that the SDSU program be ended, but also places them in violation of the laws of the Republic of Cyprus, risking charges of criminal trespass, punishable by up to two years imprisonment and a fine of up to β‚5000 (Cypriot pounds) equal to nearly 11,400 US dollars and enforceable in the United States.

The rights of the pre-1974 property owners who hold title to 90% of the property in occupied Cyprus, have been affirmed in numerous decisions which still hold Turkey in violation of international law with the continuing occupation and colonization of the occupied area as well as of human rights of Greek Cypriots, both the nearly 200,000 (one out of three) Greek Cypriots ethnically cleansed from and the few enclaved Greek Cypriots remaining in the occupied area. While the Fourth Geneva Convention expressly prohibits colonization of territory seized during war, in occupied Cyprus the 150,000 colonists from mainland Turkey outnumber Turkish Cypriots 2:1.

The harsh policies and severe conditions accompanying ethnic cleansing in the occupied north have resulted in the cold-blooded murder of innocent Greek Cypriot protesters and the destruction of more than 500 Greek Orthodox Churches and Monasteries, many well known to Byzantine scholars, historians and art experts by the occupiers. Many have been turned into mosques, museums, reception halls, bars, hotels, or even stables in an attempt to erase any evidence of the Christian civilization which thrived prior to the Turkish invasion.

While SDSU claims Matthew Bryza’s endorsement of the program, it is necessary to note the position of his superior, Assistant Secretary of State Mr. Dan Fried who recently affirmed, β€œAnd let me stress to you unequivocally: we do not and will not recognize any government other than the Republic of Cyprus on the island of Cyprus. We are clear about this--none of our policies are aimed at or imply "creeping recognition" of any other political entity. Cyprus is one country. We have, and will have, only one embassy, one Ambassador.”

It is not the place of Universities to attempt to forge or implement foreign policy nor for faculty and students to meddle in the politics of other nations. By signing an agreement with Eastern Mediterranean University without consulting the Cyprus government or obtaining its consent, SDSU did just that. The program which is being vigorously defended by student participants flouts international laws and conventions and, far from seeking to resolve conflict it provokes it by taking sides with the aggressor and encouraging students to disregard the law, even break it. Its lesson is that β€œmight makes right” and that if one is an American it is permissible to violate the law with impunity. That a University should give our young people this message is reprehensible. It is time for the California State University system to restore its integrity and suspend the program with Eastern Mediterranean University .

One should note that we do not object to dialogue between the communities or to bi-communal activities, but they should take place with permission of the legitimate government of Cyprus at a university accredited by the Cyprus Ministry of Education. We are certain SDSU can find such a university in the Republic of Cyprus , allowing the creation of a legitimate conflict resolution program which operates in accordance with international law. In this manner, students and their families will not be put in the unfortunate position of having to violate the laws of a sovereign nation.

Finally, it is necessary to note that the problem Cyprus  faces is one of illegal invasion and ethnic cleansing by Turkey , and the ensuing occupation and colonization of the territory of an independent state which is a member of the European Union and United Nations. The conflict which needs to be resolved is one between Turkey and the international community, not one between Greek and Turkish Cypriots.


Georgia Stavropoulos, M.A., M.Phil.
California Representative, Hellenic Electronic Center

SDSU Cyprus program draws fire

By Lisa Petrillo
December 18, 2006
NANCEE E. LEWIS / Union-Tribune
Stacey Goto (left) and Kim Lambros spent part of the summer in Cyprus studying conflict resolution with other San Diego State University students. Opponents of the island's government want the fledgling program stopped.
San Diego State University senior Gary Hirsch got a rare front-row seat in an international conflict.
By studying this summer in the geopolitical hot spot of Cyprus, Hirsch became part of the first – and potentially the last – SDSU study abroad program on the island south of Turkey.
A network of Greek-Americans, including a trustee of the California State University board, is demanding CSU shut down the fledgling program, contending it amounts to state-supported aid for what it considers the outlaw Turkish Cypriot government in northern Cyprus. (About two-thirds of the island is home to Greek Cypriots.)
CSU officials argue that they have the support of the U.S. State Department for a study abroad program in Cyprus.
Studying conflict resolution while living there was a life-changing experience for Hirsch, president of SDSU's International Security and Conflict Resolution student association.
The ex-Marine wants to become a professional peacemaker so nothing beats front-line knowledge like he and 26 classmates experienced. He told the CSU Board of Trustees, β€œOne cannot strive to solve the problems of the global community by simply sitting in a classroom.”
Hirsch returned to college in his mid-20s to learn β€œthe big picture” view of the world he once traveled as part of the Marine Corps guard of the presidential helicopter.
β€œThe Cyprus program is a perfect situation for learning,” he said. β€œYou see the personal stories and the effects of war and occupation in a place where there's no security concerns.”
Earlier this month, a CSU board subcommittee debated the fate of the Cyprus program, which also includes participation from state universities in Long Beach, San Bernardino and Dominguez Hills. The seven-person subcommittee endorsed CSU's study abroad programs, with the exception of trustee Kyriakos Tsakopoulos, who delivered the sole β€œno” vote. Tsakopoulas, a Northern California developer, is also a trustee of the American Hellenic Institute Advisory Committee.
The CSU board delayed making the decision last month on whether to end the Cyprus program after an emotional two-hour debate that ranged from the history of the island to the still-burning anger of the Hellenic community over the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. (The 1960 constitution in Cyprus apportioned power between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities based on their relative populations, but continuing conflicts led to the creation of the Turkish Republic.)
While CSU officials say they do not interfere with academic abroad programs, they have suspended study in the past of regions due to safety concerns, including most recently Israel and Fiji.
The full CSU board expects to make a final decision about the program in Cyprus at its January meeting.
Bigger issues are at stake once students and researchers start getting banned from entering conflicted regions, said Dipak Gupta, director of SDSU's conflict resolution study program.
β€œHow can we bring peace when we don't talk to one another?” asked Gupta.
It's dangerous territory to stop intellectual connections with other nations based on the theory that you can't talk to those who don't agree with you politically, according to Madeleine Green of the American Council on Education, a higher-education advocacy group in Washington, D.C.
Studying conflict resolution in conflicted regions is essential, said Green, β€œso maybe we don't destroy the world. So maybe in their (students) professional lives maybe they'll avoid causing wars and all its attendant horrors.”
Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, SDSUstudents have flocked to the conflict resolution program and to the university's new degree in homeland security. About 200 major in conflict resolution despite requirements like second language fluency and the study abroad program in a country the student chooses. SDSU has about 190 study abroad programs.
SDSU senior Kim Lambros, a former Navy corpsman who served in the Middle East, participated in the study abroad program in Cyprus. She said she was impressed that being in the classroom with students from all over the world helped break down cultural barriers.
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