Coffee Cup Conversations
Have you ever found yourself saying, “I never knew that about so and so”? Sometimes you can be pleasantly surprised by certain things you learn about a friend or acquaintance. I have known Zeki Çeler for many years and always thought of him as a man solely interested in Cypriot culture – in particular folk dancing. However, his relatively recent entry into politics was a surprise to me, but that was before I heard from his own mouth that he actually has a degree in political science and public administration. That’s what I didn’t know about him – but I do now – and when all things are considered it makes a lot of sense.
Zeki is a popular and well respected member of the Turkish Cypriot community, especially in his home town of Girne. Since his childhood he has spent many years dancing and then teaching a numerous number of folk dance groups. His parents encouraged him to join his school’s folk dancing group when he was at primary school, and he has never looked back. Traditional folk dancing is a prominent part of Turkish Cypriot culture and almost every festival in North Cyprus includes a performance by a local group in its schedule of events. Most significantly Zeki has coached the young members of the Girne municipality folk dance group. Their most important performances have included two major shows depicting the cultures and traditions of Cypriot village life via a routine of well choreographed dances combined with hand made authentic costumes. The free of charge shows held in front of the Girne municipality building were well attended by tourists and locals alike. In fact some elderly members of the audience were moved to tears after seeing these young talented dancers wear the clothes of their ancestors; bringing back memories of how life used to be on this small and beautiful island in the sun.
Zeki’s popularity and his sturdy educational background have given him a solid base from which to start a fruitful career in politics. In the year 2010 he tried his luck for the first time by entering the elections for the position of mayor of Girne. He got a small yet significant percentage of the public vote; a positive result regarding his young age and the fact that he was an independent candidate. Last year Zeki set his sights higher and entered the general elections, this time with the support of the Social Democratic Party (TDP). His campaign was successful and he is now the youngest member of Parliament sitting at the National Assembly. He is only thirty-four years old.
When speaking about his ideals as a young parliamentarian his eyes light up and he tells me that he has many projects that he and his colleagues want to complete in the near future. His first year in office has been an exciting one for him. He proudly exclaims “Whilst learning from our elders we (the younger generation) have also made a difference in implementing small yet key changes in certain laws”. Zeki has a special interest in issues related to the environment, health, art and culture. He believes that those in a position of power in North Cyprus should visit and observe how things work in other, more developed countries. “It’s not enough to just say things are better elsewhere, we must make changes here in our country to improve the standard of life in the TRNC”, he adds.
When I said to Zeki that I missed his folk dancing shows he told me that he has only put the dance group on hold, they are still very much together. Zeki announces, “I believe that folk dancing should be available all the time, not just at festivals. Hotels should provide tourists with the opportunity of watching these performances whilst holidaying on our island. In fact the local municipalities need to stage regular folk dancing events in the centre of the town, but all this needs money and support from the relevant authorities”.
Zeki’s future in politics will hopefully be a very long and bright one. Happy to meet members of the public, Zeki can be found at the party headquarters located on the main road leading into the heart of Girne as you come from Lefkoşa. He is also active on Facebook and other social media sites. You’ve maybe heard his name here for the first time, but I assure you it won’t be the last time you hear the name Zeki Çeler!