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Media Watch 2003

23 September 2003
Source: Cyprus Mail
Author: Alex Mita
Comment: The following article appeared in the Cyprus Mail of Nicosia on 23 September 2003.
Three arrested as donkey protest turns sour

A BICOMMUNAL protest against the need to show passports to cross to the occupied areas turned sour yesterday when three people – including a pensioner – were arrested by Turkish Cypriot ‘police’ after trying to take a donkey across the Green Line.

The owner of the donkey, Savvas Christodoulou, 73, from Dhali, taxi driver Andis Kyriakides, and Turkish Cypriot Salih Taskin, were all detained at the Ledra Palace checkpoint – as was the donkey, called Shelidona.

The donkey crossing was the focus of a demonstration against the showing of passports. It was inspired by a comment from Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash that the only real Cypriots in Cyprus were donkeys, and was part of a series of bi-communal events leading up to the annual Cyprus peace day on September 30.
The organisers had prepared a passport for the donkey issued by the ‘Federal Republic of Donkeys’, and the organisers’ intention was to lead the animal to the Turkish Cypriot checkpoint, make a joint statement and then head back.

But Christodoulou was urged by other demonstrators to show the fake donkey passport to the Turkish Cypriot ‘police officers’ and attempt to cross over to the other side.

The man was cheered all the way to the passport control office, where after refusing to show his own passport, he showed the donkey passport and asked to be allowed to travel to Karpasia.

He was told he could go ahead, but as soon as he stepped past the barrier, he was bundled by plainclothes officers into a car.

His donkey, the heavily pregnant Shelidona, was led off to the nearest ‘police’ station to be put in quarantine.

Two other protesters, Kyriakides and Taskin, were also arrested.
None of the demonstrators, who included DISY deputy Kate Clerides, attempted to dissuade Christodoulou from crossing over, and the organiser of the event, Nicos Anastasiou, quickly shuffled back towards the Greek Cypriot checkpoint as a tearful Christodoulou pleaded with journalists to do something to help him.
“Where are the organisers?” he asked.

“Please do something, I have to go back and milk my goats.”

Speaking to the Cyprus Mail after the arrests, Clerides said she had been too far away to intervene, and accused the media of egging Christodoulou to cross over.
“I was further back. I didn’t see what happened, it was a mistake to cross over, but we will do everything possible to get the Turkish Cypriot authorities to release the men,” she said.

“It seems Mr Denktash doesn’t have a good sense of humour.”
Anastasiou was unable to explain why the demonstration had got out of hand.
“It’s unacceptable, what right did they have to arrest the man?” he said.
“We will sort this out soon, we are talking to the UN and hopefully they will be released. We had no intention of actually crossing over,” he said.
Turkish Cypriot officers were furious with the presentation of the donkey passport, saying it was an offensive gesture.

“You shouldn’t be doing these kinds of things,” one said.
“It’s not proper.”

Anastasiou said later last night that the United Nations and Turkish Cypriot opposition were doing everything possible for the release of the three men arrested.
He said he had been informed that the prisoners were in good health and were being treated fairly.

“The three will be detained overnight and will appear before court on Tuesday morning on charges disturbing the peace.”

He added they were expected to be released on payment of a fine."