A UK-based woman of mixed British and Turkish Cypriot origin says she plans to sue the Guardian of Turkish Cypriot properties over what she says is gross mismanagement of hundreds of donums of her family’s land in Nisou.
Vedia Izzet, 40, says she will take legal action against the Guardian – the Interior Ministry – because a portion of her family’s property was parcelled off and given to property developers to build luxury homes. Other parts of the 300-donum site have allegedly been used accommodate warehouses, a garden centre and a number of business outlets.
“The Guardian is not looking after the properties of Turkish Cypriots in the interests of the owners, as it claims to do. This is not protection; this is a protection racket,” Izzet told the Cyprus Mail. She added that although the Guardian was meant to collect rents on behalf of absent Turkish Cypriot owners, she had been told by the Guardian that no rent had in fact been collected. Other parts of her family’s land have also been expropriated by the government and now lie under the Nicosia-Larnaca highway. Her family has never received compensation for the expropriation, Izzet says.
“I have been told the money for this was paid into a fund. However we have seen no evidence that it has been paid or that the fund actually exists”.
Izzet spoke to the Mail on behalf of her British mother who lives in the UK. She, Izzet says, inherited around 100 donums of family land when her husband former Cypriot judge Ahmed Izzet died in 1993. A further 200 donums belong to two of Izzet’s aunts.
“When my father died and left the land to my mother, it effectively became British land because my mother is British,” Izzet said, casting doubt over whether the Guardian of Turkish Cypriot properties still held the right to handle the land. She also says if she has to take on the Guardian in court, she will do so as a UK citizen, and not as a Turkish Cypriot.
“I’m British. I have never been Cypriot,” she said.
After four years of battling with Cypriot bureaucracy to have the land put in her mother’s name, Izzet says she has spent the last year being “fobbed off” by the Guardian of Turkish Cypriot properties.
“Each time we go to see the Guardian, there is another excuse for delays,” she said, adding that she had been advised by the Guardian that the only viable course of action would be to sue.
Izzet’s family connection to the land goes back to Ottoman times. Her great grandfather was the Kaymakam or District Officer of the area and is said to have lowered the Ottoman flag in Nicosia when the British took over in 1878. She says her case will hinge on the fact that in this case the Cyprus government has not, as it claims to, looked after the interest of the Turkish Cypriot landowners.
Another dimension to Izzet’s case is that although her family had lands in the southern part of the island, they did not live there in 1974.
In an effort to settle her property claim without resorting to the courts, Izzet said she offered to sell the government a portion of her family’s lands on which refugee housing had been built.
“I think they didn’t accept the offer because they want to keep their refugees as refugees,” she said.
This is not the first time work of the Guardian of Turkish Cypriot Properties has come under fire. In 2005, a Turkish Cypriot claimed ownership of land on which the old Larnaca airport was built. More recently, a Turkish Cypriot claimed his land was being used as part of an oil refinery project.