Address by the General Secretary of AKEL A. Kyprianou to the POGO event on International Women’s Day
AKEL C.C. Press Office, 8th March 2019, Nicosia
On behalf of the C.C. of AKEL, I address a warm greeting to everyone. I especially welcome the militants of the women’s movement; women who are at the forefront of political and social struggles and struggling for women, in Cyprus and all over the whole world.
Our action, solidarity and support does not embrace just to those women who are present tonight, nor only to those women with whom we are struggling together for their demands. It embraces all women struggling to emancipate themselves; women working endless hours outside and inside their homes and who don’t even want to go home because they will suffer physical or psychological violence; women whose home is a tent in a refugee camp; women whose home is the prison of human traffickers; women whose home is just a few square meters of space as a migrant and a photo of their beloved persons at the other end of the world.
Women were and are double victims of the capitalist system. They suffer double exploitation due to their gender, but also class position. This fact led the women’s movement to join its forces with the worker’s movement; to link its own goals to their own goals.
Our Party is proud because it brought women to the fore. In 1926, when for a woman to be anywhere else than the kitchen and the bedroom was considered as scandalous, the Communist Party of Cyprus-AKEL guided women to the forefront of struggles. Subsequently, the organized left women’s movement, namely POGO, gave Cypriot women an autonomous role in society to struggle in order to take their fate in their own hands. It combated in practice backward mentalities and perceptions surrounding the position of women in society by opening up avenues of assertion and emancipation.
The progressive women’s movement of POGO contributed, together with AKEL and the wider mass organisations of the Left, to winning popular gains. The abolition of dowry, the revision of family law, the adoption of the Equality and Equal Pay Act, equal access to work, better legislation on maternity protection, increased maternity leave and parental leave, and the prevention of violence in the family, all bear the indelible mark of POGO.
However, the path of struggle does not end here. Unfortunately, we live in an era where women have to struggle for the self-evident. The numbers are shocking. These do not just concern underdeveloped or developing countries. They also concern the European Union itself. Today, fifty women are murdered every week by their current or former partner. Gender violence, and in particular domestic violence, has become the cause of women across Europe, the first cause of disability and death, in fact more than road accidents or cancer. One in three women over 15 years of age have suffered violence, while 55% have been sexually assaulted at least once in their lives.
We live in an era when the policies of the ruling dominant forces are also shocking. The Court in Ireland ruled that a woman’s lace underwear is linked to a consensus on rape. The Court of Justice of the European Union has ruled that dismissal of pregnant women is permitted within the context of group redundancies. A resolution on the multiple discrimination suffered by women and the measures that can tackle them has been discussed in the European Parliament. Unfortunately, many MEP’s in the European People’s Party, which DISY is a member of, voted against it.
We live in an era where women have to struggle for the self-evident. In this struggle, women can be certain that they will have AKEL on their side. AKEL has always been a supporter of their demands, at the very forefront of their assertions.
In cooperation with POGO, we have and are raising, both inside and outside the House of Representatives, all the issues women are currently confronted with. We have and are asserting for women the position they deserve in society at all levels.
The legislative enactment of minimum binding terms of employment, such as a minimum recruitment wage, 13th month salary payment, overtime allowance and compulsory holidays for those working people not covered by a collective agreement, represent our long-standing positions and proposals that for sure concern women too. Unfortunately, these positions and proposals do not seem to be shared by other parties and, more importantly, by the Government.
Its needless to recall the struggles we waged in the House of Representatives on shop employee’s working hours, our successive appeals and proposals for the elaboration of government plans to provide support and care for infants and children – especially for families on low incomes. We have tabled a bill to provide increased protection for working people who are absent from their work because of disability and especially for serious health reasons, for improving childcare legislation and the legislation on Minimum Guaranteed Income. We have taken continuous initiatives to put pressure on the Government to at long last move on the right track with regards the huge chapter on the public health system.
In an era when we are forced to discuss the self-evident, we dared raise in the House of Representatives the need for the respect of the right of every woman to decide about her own body. On our initiative, a draft bill was discussed that modernized the provisions of the Penal Code concerning abortion. On AKEL’s initiative, the issue of human trafficking, the need to protect victims of violence and address the phenomenon of female genital mutilation in Cyprus, the functioning of the institution of open adoption in other countries and its applicability in Cyprus were discussed, as well as many other issues affecting women and society as a whole were all discussed in the House of Representatives.
As AKEL, we have chosen which side we are on.
We are on the side of women in their struggles for their recognition in society; with the women of work, manual and intellectual labour, fighting against injustice and exploitation.
We are with the resolve and will of Rosa Luxemburg for the final victory; with the flame in the words of Clara Zetkin, the determined decision of Rosa Parks, who refused to yield to racism.
We are with the woman’s fist that stood alone in front of neo-Nazis in Sweden, with the wrath and militancy of the redundant working woman, the warmth and optimism of the teacher who wants to change people’s consciousness in order to change the world, with the mother’s despair in Yemen and the hope of the girl in the refugee detention centre.
Women of Cyprus in particular know very well what fascism, uprooting of people and refugees, war, blood, missing persons and death all mean. That’s why they learnt very well what battle and struggle against imperialism and fascism mean; what battle and struggle for the liberation and reunification of our country mean. There is not a single demonstration for rapprochement and peace, an anti-fascist and anti-war march that the women’s movement is absent from. For more than four decades, women in Cyprus have been in the frontline of the anti-occupation struggle.
As AKEL, we have always been pointing out that the solution to the Cyprus problem is a matter of life or death for our people. The survival of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots on the land that gave birth to them is now being more visibly threatened by the permanent nightmare of partition. If Mr. Anastasiades does not realize it, if he doesn’t take continuous initiatives to resume substantive negotiations, he will bear severe responsibilities for the negative developments that will follow.
We all know that Turkey is a difficult and assertive opponent; that it will seek to achieve its maximum goals in Cyprus. The question is not what Turkey is seeking.
The question is what do we want? How do we assert it? How do we make things difficult for Turkey?
Mr. Anastasiades spends his time accusing Turkey and the leadership of the Turkish Cypriot community and cultivating the notion in society that they don’t want a solution, that they want to control the whole of Cyprus. He is trying to discredit the UN and its representatives in the procedure in order to convey the message to public opinion that nothing substantive can be done on the Cyprus problem.
This approach, even if it were absolutely correct, is a dead-end. It does not lead anywhere other than to the consolidation of the fait accompli; a consolidation that will gradually be sliding towards the final partition of Cyprus. The situation is unfortunately not going to remain as it is today.
Those forces and circles who say openly or suggest that it is better for things to remain as they are today, with the barbed wire of division in the middle instead of the reunification of our country and people, should have the courage to speak honestly to the people; to tell the people that that things aren’t going to stay the way they are and that we will inevitably be sliding to partition.
Partition means that we would be surrendering a piece of our homeland to Turkey.
Partition means that we will have a border with Turkey within our very own homeland.
Partition means that we will be living in our own country next to a formation that will be arming itself and colonising the occupied areas uncontrollably.
We will be coexisting with a permanent and lasting threat that will be stemming from the dangers arising, not just from our Exclusive Economic Zone.
We must have no doubt that the exploitation of hydrocarbons without a solution to the Cyprus problem will be a very difficult matter. Besides this, Turkey will try to provoke tensions with incalculable negative consequences for our country and people.
AKEL will never compromise with such a catastrophic development for our country. We will insist on the agreed framework for the solution of the Cyprus problem. We will be at the forefront of rapprochement and the mobilization of our people, forging a broad front for reunification and peace.
Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots will only be able to count on the future if it is ensured that they will live this future together, as part of a solution that will end the occupation and colonisation.
A solution that will restore the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and unity of the Republic of Cyprus.
A solution that will be based on the United Nations resolutions, High-Level Agreements, International and European Law.
A solution that will demilitarize Cyprus and exclude any guarantees or intervention rights in our country’s internal affairs by foreign powers.
A solution that will reunite the land, the people, the institutions and the economy within the framework of a bicommunal, bizonal federation with political equality as described in the United Nations.
A solution that will lead to one state, a continuation of the Republic of Cyprus.
We have struggles to wage ahead of us. We are living in a turbulent era; an era that is trying to deny us perhaps the most precious thing of all – hope. However, we cannot and must not permit that to happen. We must keep the hope for tomorrow, for the future of our children, alive at all costs.
This is our duty to our generation, but also to those generations that will follow.
A large section of society believes that only AKEL can take on the burden of the vindication of Cyprus; that only AKEL can be the strong and serious pillar of resistance to the government’s anti-social policies; that only AKEL has the patriotism, consistency, seriousness and steadfastness that the critical and enormous problems facing our homeland demand. We must meet the expectations of this section of the people. We must overcome weaknesses and problems and respond to history’s need.
It is crucial for AKEL to emerge strong from the upcoming European elections and for the people to have a voice in the European Parliament, but also to send out a strong message to the Anastasiades-DISY Government.
For the people to give a powerful reply to them that their authoritarianism and arrogance will not pass; to tell them that we’ve had enough of austerity, meagre wages and high rents.
That we’ve had enough with their obsessions that are filling the pockets of the privileged few and emptying the pockets of many; enough of their cronyism and nepotism; enough of their interwoven interests and corruption; enough of the leveling of institutions.
We need to send out the message that enough is enough!
The alternative voice will be heard now: the voice of the many in Cyprus and in Europe.
So let’s move forward.
Let’s all work together, hard and selflessly so that our voice will be heard loudly in May.
For our people.
For a better life for us, our children and grandchildren.