Schools in the Greek Cypriot-run Republic of Cyprus were instructed Wednesday to remove a textbook from the curriculum because of its praise for modern Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, Agence France-Presse reported.
The education ministry had earlier told secondary school teachers in an email to “tear out page 36 before handing it to the students”, an instruction that was leaked on social media.
After public criticism over the instruction for the page referring to Atatürk as “Turkey’s greatest hero”, the ministry decided to withdraw the English-language textbook outright.
The ministry defended its decision on the grounds that Atatürk was not a leader who should be lauded.
“Therefore, it is not possible to accept textbooks that promote or even praise his personality and ‘leadership’,” the ministry said in a statement.
“Atatürk’s name is directly connected with crimes against humanity such as the Armenian genocide, which is unequivocally condemned by our country and by the United States, France and many others,” it added.
Modern education, argued the ministry, is based on “respect for human rights and does not compromise with attempts to embellish such historical crimes.”
Cypriot MEP Niyazi Kızılyürek, the only Turkish Cypriot member of the European parliament, condemned the move as the sort of decision “which we only find in totalitarian regimes.
“We have recently seen the Turkish government intervene in the teaching of history in Turkish Cypriot schools,” said the MEP.
“Unfortunately, in both communities, the education sector is anachronistic, and with these interventions, it becomes even worse,” added Kızılyürek.
Turkish troops seized the northern third of Cyprus in 1974 in response to an aborted coup in Nicosia aiming at uniting the island with Greece.
The Republic of Cyprus, whose overwhelming majority is Greek Cypriot and has been a European Union member since 2004, has effective control over the southern two-thirds of the island.
Only Ankara recognizes the breakaway self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC).