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KISA – Action for Equality, Support, Antiracism condemns and denounces the racist incident of expulsion of a pupil, refugee of Syrian background, by the Headmaster of Apostolos Varnavas lyceum for wearing a headscarf, as well as for hate speech with references to “nuns and Taliban”.

Apart from the violations of the legislation on racism and hate speech, the said headmaster also violated the regulations of the Ministry of Education which, according to the Director of Secondary Education, do not refer to headscarves. What is of critical significance, however, is the fact that these racist attitudes and practices take place in a school environment and shape the character and the whole being of the particularly vulnerable population group of children and youth.

KISA notes that this racist incident does not come out of the blue. It is reminded that the Minister of Education, soon after his appointment in 2018, actually visited the neo-nazi ELAM but also stated that the Ministry and he personally “share ELAM’s values and principles”. In the last years there is an upsurge of nationalism, chauvinism and intolerance in the education system, which challenge the orientation and content of the education provided to the youth in Cyprus. 

These disturbing developments in the area of education are not irrelevant to the shift both of the government and the governing party after the failure of the negotiations on the Cyprus question. This shift was reflected most evidently in the views and positions of public figures, including top figures and European Parliament candidates of the governing party but also of the President of the Republic himself in the recent European elections.

The particular headmaster has repeatedly caused concern to pupils and the Ministry with his extreme right and authoritarian views as well as his extreme nationalist deliriums. Once again, it is demonstrated that impunity leads to abuse and insolence.

KISA would like to congratulate the pupils for their decisive and direct response to the incident and for their solidarity with their fellow pupil.

KISA calls on the Ministry of Education to proceed to the swift completion of the investigation procedure and the exemplary punishment of the headmaster, as well as to the adoption of measures for the effective support and comprehensive integration of children with migrant and refugee background in the school environment.

KISA is of the opinion that the headmaster’s statement that “we don’t want Taliban in our schools” in order to justify his behaviour, constitutes hate speech which is prohibited by law as it instigates hate both towards the particular pupil as well as all Muslim women wearing a headscarf  and it identifies them with the Taliban and terrorism.

To this end, KISA calls on the prosecuting authorities and the Attorney General, for the full implementation of the relevant legislation penalising racism and hate speech, to investigate the perpetration of these offences and to bring the said headmaster to justice – for the sake of our children and youth, for the sake of education that will not separate or segregate pupils on the basis of religion, nationality or any other diversity.  

Steering Committee

06.08.2019

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