Turkish officials condemned the Greek Cypriot education ministry's instructions to tear out pages mentioning Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey.
In a statement, the Foreign Ministry said the Greek Cypriot administration’s latest controversial move “exposes the radicalism of its distorted mentality” against Turkey and Turkish Cyprus.
“We strongly condemn the outdated, hostile, and unacceptable move by the Greek administration of Southern Cyprus,” said the statement.
The Greek Cypriot education ministry instructed teachers to initially rip out pages of a textbook mentioning Atatürk as "Turkey's greatest hero." The ministry then announced that the textbook has been removed from the curriculum altogether.
Noting that the Cyprus issue has been in a deadlock trapped by Greek Cyprus, the ministry said this latest move shows the Greek Cypriot administration has no intention of sharing power and property on the island, let alone coexisting with the Turkish Cypriots.
Meanwhile, Vice President Fuat Oktay also condemned the decision, saying that it is the clearest indicator of Greek Cypriots' intolerance of Turkish existence on the island.
"I'd like to remind the Greek Cypriot authorities that it is not possible to erase historical heritage by ripping pages out," Oktay said and added: "This disrespectful act against Atatürk, the founder of our Republic and in the eyes of our nation, is actually the most explicit manifestation of Greek Cypriots' intolerance of Turkish existence on the island."
The ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) spokesperson Ömer Çelik also condemned the act, calling it a "primitive approach."
"The Greek Cypriot authorities' barbaric approach also indicates that they have no tolerance regarding coexisting with Turkish Cypriots," Çelik said on Twitter.
The ruling party's spokesperson also said former Greek Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos had nominated Atatürk for the Nobel Peace Prize, as he urged Greek Cypriot authorities to remember this "historical heritage."
"Atatürk, who was a source of inspiration for oppressed nations, will not be erased from history by simply ripping textbook pages out," Çelik said.
Cyprus has been mired in a decadeslong dispute between Greek and Turkish Cypriots, despite a series of diplomatic efforts by the United Nations to achieve a comprehensive settlement.
Ethnic attacks starting in the early 1960s forced Turkish Cypriots to withdraw into enclaves for their safety.
In 1974, a Greek Cypriot coup aimed at Greece’s annexation led to Turkey’s military intervention as a guarantor power to protect Turkish Cypriots from persecution and violence. As a result, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) was founded in 1983.