EX-REV IN BID TO RETURN TO TRNC
AN INTERNATIONAL campaign to allow Wendy Hough, the former chaplain of St Andrew’s Church Kyrenia, to return to the TRNC following her deportation has sparked a wave of reactions among the expat community.
Ms Hough was removed from North Cyprus in December 2020, as reported by this paper earlier this year, for failing to have a valid residency permit.
An online petition launched by Ms Hough at Change.org, signed so far by more than 800 people, calls for the “immediate reversal of the unjust deportation”.
She claimed that British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has raised her situation with the TRNC authorities and the Grand Müftü – Talip Atalay – who she said has “supported” the petition.
A British High Commission spokesperson, asked by Cyprus Today to confirm if Mr Raab is involved in Ms Hough’s case, said: “We are aware of a case involving a deported British National and we have provided consular assistance.”
Grand Müftü Atalay told Cyprus Today that he had “no idea” about the petition or the issues faced by Ms Hough.
“I have not had any dialogue with her since prior to the start of the pandemic,” he said. “This is the first time I have heard anything about [the matter]. We do not wish to be involved with any of the issues and we respect all religions and identities.”
The petition, which is addressed to Prime Minister Ersan Saner and the “ministers of the Turkish Cypriot Cabinet” says: “On December 11, two immigration officers arrived at Wendy’s home. She was taken from everything she owns, thrown in a rancid cell during the global pandemic and separated from her family.
“For five months she has been stranded at the border in the Republic of Cyprus (RoC). She bought her only home, investing all that she has into it.
“She has no other home to go to, has only survived financially with the support from a global group of friends and is experiencing emotional distress.”
The petition states that Ms Hough was told by immigration officers that she had “overstayed a three-day visa, about which she knew nothing, two weeks prior to the start of lockdown in February 2020 whilst at the time she was applying for residency”.
It adds that Ms Hough is a “respected member of the community in the TRNC” and that she “stepped back” from her position as the “priest of the English church in Kyrenia” in 2018 to “better serve the Turkish Cypriot community”.
In separate comments to this paper on Thursday, Ms Hough said that the petition will be “presented to the Prime Minister and Cabinet next week.”
“I also have access to a CD [diplomatic] passport which I am currently renewing,” she said. “If they [TRNC ministers] do not allow me to return to my only home in the world where everything I own is there with the welcome I’ve always known, I will use the diplomatic passport, when they cannot refuse me entry.”
Ms Hough added that she has “published several articles defending the TRNC over the years so this treatment is shocking”.
As well as the petition, an online fundraising appeal to “Help Revd Wendy” has been set up at GoFundMe, which has so far raised around £3,500 of a £4,000 target.
The appeal, organised by Simon Stevens, quoted Ms Hughes as saying that she was “overwhelmed with the level of support”.
“Dominic Raab is not allowed to sign these petitions so he is signing a separate letter but with exactly the same wording,” she said.
“My friend, who is the Swedish Ambassador to Germany, will add his name to that but will be delivered on Monday together with this petition.”
The GoFundMe donation campaign claims that the order to deport Ms Hughes had “come from Ankara” and that Turkish police had “marked her as a ‘Christian Missionary’”.
Another part of the GoFundMe campaign states: “There is a change in the political climate, the North of Cyprus has always been relaxed and welcoming but it seems Turkey is now tightening its grip on the North.
“Such deportations, always citing vague and unsubstantiated visa issues for the removal of Christian workers, is a known practice in mainland Turkey but not in North Cyprus until now.”
The campaign adds that: “For over four months now, Wendy has had to remain [in South Cyprus] with huge unforeseen costs. She cannot travel to the UK with no residence, or to the Netherlands where her daughter lives and works, because of Covid and Brexit restrictions.
“During her time ‘in exile’ Wendy has continued to operate a Samaritans line to support victims of gender violence. She is also engaged with a doctoral programme on Muslim/Christian relations, and advocacy for displaced people – primarily focused on Palestine.”
However, the prospect of Ms Hough being allowed back into the TRNC has angered other expats who contacted Cyprus Today.
Morton Coles, former Chairman of The Society of St Andrews’, Peoples’ Warden, said the thought of Ms Hough returning was “dreadful”.
“At the time, I was involved with police and traffic violations by [Ms Hughes]. She stayed at The Hermitage [the official chaplaincy residence of St Andrew’s Church] and refused to leave for two years, which prevented the appointment of a new Chaplain by the Council. She was eventually deported because she never had a valid residency permit.”
Mr Coles said he has written to Christopher Futcher, Archdeacon of Cyprus, and Jeremy Crocker, the dean of St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral in South Nicosia, stating that “this current situation fills me with concern”.
“I am alarmed at the online petition and campaign that is also requesting UK Government ministers to lobby the TRNC for her return,” he said.
A separate email sent by a source to Jeremy Crocker on Tuesday, seen by this paper, said Ms Hough “never had residency in the TRNC” and that “when she was employed by the Diocese her address was given as the Deanery in RoC to enable legal marriages to be conducted by her”.
It adds: “Even after she ‘resigned’ from her position at the church she refused to vacate the property made available as Chaplain for a further two years.
“Not only did this stop the appointment of a new Chaplain but enabled her to leave the house virtually uninhabitable without a considerable sum being spent. . . Her reputation in and around [Girne] for other matters cast bad light on the church and her return to North Cyprus would not only have a bad effect on the Church as a whole but also on the leaders of the country for allowing her back knowing that laws regarding residency and other matters had been ignored.”
Joan Standring, a long-standing member of St Andrew’s Church who was “told to leave by Ms Hough”, said: “It was with concern that I learned of the [GoFundMe] page in the name of Ms Wendy Hough. I am in the UK at the moment but I worship at St Andrew’s Church Kyrenia and at St Paul’s church in Nicosia and have done for over 20 years.
“I have many questions regarding some of the statements Ms Hough made on this site, but I have to say I have never found my Christian worship challenged in any way by the TRNC government; in fact the opposite is true. I would challenge the view of Ms Hough that her experience is anything to do with her religion.
“Amongst her other statements she says that she had her application for residency in the TRNC refused.
“I believe that the current application for residency has to show that the applicant has a regular income of a substantial sum, plus appropriate medical insurance, which also comes at a cost.
“This then tells me that Ms Hough must have had these in place when she made her application. I believe that Ms Hough has not been on the Church payroll for many months, so assume her ‘regular income’ is from a separate source. So, what are the GoFundMe donations going to be used for?”
Carol Blackwell Gibbs, an ex-member of the church council, said: “Ms Hough has created untold problems for the Diocese of Cyprus and The Gulf from living here without residency, driving without a local licence, numerous speeding fines, issuing incorrect wedding certificates, illegally occupying a church owned property and therefore making it impossible to employ a new priest, sending out very unpleasant emails to members of the congregation.”
In January police sources confirmed to this newspaper that Ms Hough, 57, was sent to South Cyprus via the Ledra Palace checkpoint in Lefkoşa, after she was picked up from her Lapta home.
Prior to that it was reported that Ms Hough had ceased serving as a reverend in August 2018 but continued to reside at The Hermitage for months.
Cyprus Today reported in September 2018 that Wendy Hough had tendered her resignation from St Andrew’s Church on May 4 of that year and had requested a three-month notice period, which ended on August 4, 2018.
The Anglican Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf had said at the time that it was waiting for her to vacate The Hermitage in order to prepare it for her successor.
The departure of Hough, who was appointed in 2014, from her position came after questions were raised about the church’s accounting and administration procedures, sparked after wedding files went missing from the vestry in December of 2017, leading to a diocesan investigation into the matter.