In this episode, I am hosting Tegiye Birey.
We will discuss the effects of the British colonization on sexuality and gender in Cyprus. We will also talk about how the current occupation of Northern Cyprus by Turkey has shaped not just sexuality and gender but also feminist and queer movements.
Tegiye has a BA in Women's Studies and Political Science with a minor in French Studies from the University of New Hampshire, and an MSc in Gender and Social Policy from the London School of Economics and Political Science with a particular focus on the gendered discourses on sex-trafficking. After her studies, she worked in the field of refugee rights and engaged in gender research and training. She has been part of feminist, queer, anti-militarist and anti-racist activist networks in Cyprus and transnationally. Tegiye's current research examines the gendered politics of migrants' and solidarity networks in Malmö, and her research interests are migration, postcolonial/decolonial feminisms and politics of resistance.
Tegiye was a part of a research project called "how to introduce gender in history teaching in Cyprus" analyzing the course books of primary schools to find different ways in which gender can become part of history teaching in Cyprus. In other words, Tegiye was a part of an important initiative that aims to remedy the silencing of women in history. Tegiye also has been actively involved with the feminist and queer movements in Cyprus.
Today she will speak to us from the position of a researcher as well as an activist.
Tegiye will raise two important issues in relation to sexuality and gender in Cyprus. The first one is the fact that it was the colonial laws of the British Empire that establish homosexuality as "a crime of unnatural sex". These laws were in place well into the twentieth-first century, and thus their legacies could be heavily felt on the queer as well as feminist movement in different ways. Tegiye mentions a nostalgic remembering of British colonial times that forgets or neglects to mention such laws under British colonization but instead argues that being a former British colony means having gender equality. But of course, gender inequality was believed to be not a problem only among the natives of the islands. Gender inequality was also attributed to being a problem related to migrants coming from Turkey.
The Turkish invasion and occupation of the Northern part of the island have prevented direct relations between the divided parts of the island. This lack of relationships also included feminist and LGBT movements on both sides, thus also making solidarity links very hard to establish. This division became clearer as Southern Cyprus became a part of the EU while Northern Cyprus remained an unrecognized state. This had a curious effect on NGOization processes of the civil society in Northern Cyprus, which Tegiye will discuss now.
For a short history of Cyprus, please take a listen to episode six.