Lawyers take on beach hijacking
By Kyriacos Kiliaris
Kyrenia residents are not being allowed access to most of the beaches in their region. The reason behind this is that many hotels built on the coast have sectioned off access to the shore in their vicinity and allow entry only to their guests or paying visitors.
Earlier this summer, the Cyprus Weekly had spoken to a group organised through Facebook calling itself “Let’s go to the beach for free: beaches belong to the people”, which is challenging these constraints.
Meanwhile, the group is not alone in its struggle. Two lawyers, Ozgu Ozkul Ozyigit and Ahmet Said Sayin, have taken on the task of suing the various hotels demanding payment from beach-goers, in order to allow would-be bathers access to the town’s public beaches.
The two lawyers say their motivation is the prevailing state of injustice and that they are demanding the application of regulations in the north.
“We demand that the authorities do their job – from the municipalities to the highest authority in the north.” The two advocates feel that legality has been hijacked. “If beaches are declared public by the regulations, how can people not have free access to them?” queried Sayin.
Ozyigit said his involvement has its roots in 2010, when he went to a beach in Kyrenia and was not allowed access when he refused to pay the “entry fee” of 20 Turkish Lira and because he was not escorted by a woman. “I wanted to go to the beach and they cared whether I was escorted or not?” challenged the lawyer.
He said he and his fellow advocate had turned to the regulation book’s pages and found hotels had no right to do such a thing and filed lawsuits against four such establishments in 2011, which were concluded in 2014. The courts ruled no one can demand payment from people wanting to access public beaches.
Also in 2014, the two lawyers proceeded to move against the Kyrenia-based Acapulco Hotel. During the trial, the hotel appealed to the high court to rule on whether the establishment had the right to use its property in any way it deemed correct, invoking article 38.
The high court ruled that “even if a person or a legal entity possesses a title deed, or has leased the area for a long-term project, people’s access to beaches cannot be prevented in any way”.
But the lawyers’ battle against injustice did not end with the high court decision, as the two lawyers tried to enter the beach in the vicinity of the Acapulco Hotel, only to be stopped by security guards.
“We were told that while they couldn’t ask us for money, they nevertheless could still not allow us entry as we were not being accompanied by women!” exclaimed Sayin.
“Using the high court’s ruling back in 2014, we have filed a lawsuit of sexist discrimination on the part of the hotel, with the initial hearing taking place on August 18,” Sayin noted.
For his part, Ozyigit said they were satisfied with the results of their campaign, as more people have become aware of their right to access public beaches in the north free of charge. “The matter was also discussed by the bicommunal technical committees and a study was conducted on the matter,” said Ozyigit.