July 1974 – July 2016: Wounds of Barbaric Turkish Invasion of Cyprus Still Unhealed

As the forty second anniversary of the abominable days of the two-phased Turkish invasion (20 July – 16 August 1974) of Cyprus is only a breath away it is our duty to recall the long lasting wounds effected on the island courtesy of … the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) Attila I and Attila II operation. It is important to remember historical facts that bear a direct impact on today’s political events; for thus we draw conclusions and guard ourselves.

As these lines are dawn the TAF are pounding Kurdish civilian areas in Turkey itself in an apparent effort to deny the right of existence to an entire people: the stateless Kurdish nation.

International peace is built upon respect of norms: charters, conventions, treaties that constitute international law. Respect of international law forms the sound foundation for peace, respect and tolerance between nations. Make no mistake: Turkey resigned to any title and right to the island of Cyprus by the Treaty of Lausanne (1923, Articles 20-21). Ankara has not respected the Treaty. Aided and abetted by Great Britain in the mid-fifties (London Conference 1955) Turkey has ever since re-entered forcefully the Cyprus frame. The core of the Cyprus problem is the denial of the unadulterated implementation of the right of self-determination of the people of Cyprus at the end of World War II, which would have meant the cession of the island to Greece in accordance with the crystal clear political will of the majority of Cypriots. (For a detailed account see the author’s book: Cyprus: The Struggle for Self-Determination in the 1940s, Peter Lang, Frankfurt, 2002). The solution of vassal state independence struck Zurich and finalized in London (February 1959) did nothing more than to exacerbate the feeling of injustice and frustration among the Greek majority on the island forming eighty per cent of the Cypriot population. More so, if it is taken into account that the Cypriots were, however indirectly, promised Enosis at the end of the anti-Nazi war effort. The Greeks of Cyprus fought heroically within the ranks of the British Imperial Army. Ten per cent of the Cypriot population were involved in the war effort. Naturally, the Cypriot war veterans felt bitterly betrayed as London refused to proceed with the cession of their island to mother country Greece. Some of them rebelled while in duty service (see above book).

The constitutional order established in the stillborn Republic of Cyprus was a recipe for disaster: the prerogatives granted to the small Turkish minority were such that rekindled the deep rooted Greek Cypriot majority feeling of injustice. The Greeks offered tombs of sacrifices in  the defeat of Nazism and in the consequent armed campaign for Enosis (1955-58), only to be denied their inalienable UN Charter endorsed right of self-determination! Makarios had little other option than propose through a political process the amendment of the unworkable constitution. The Turkish answer was the insurgency, the arming of Turkish Cypriot militants by Ankara and their hot headed drive for geographical segregation. When the freshly formed Greek National Guard engaged in self-defence purging operations to protect the Greek civilians from the indiscriminate attacks of Turkish Cypriot militants Ankara answered sending its Air Force dropping napalm bombs on Greek villages (August 1964).

We ought to submit the significant point of historical continuity in Turkish policy: there has been little if no change on Turkish war practices: war crimes committed on massive scale against unarmed civilian population. What does this practice amount to other than genocide? (Compare for instance the stubborn Turkish governments’ denial of the Greek Pontiac or the Armenian or the Kurdish genocide)

Incidentally, let us make no mistake: the only time napalm bombs were used in the annals of modern military history before the TAF dropped them in Tylliria Cyprus, was by the US Air Force in their effort to eliminate the Greek Communist guerillas (Aug 1949). Ironically, it looks fatal for the Greeks to be on the side of the winners in both World Wars only to be … ‘awarded’ the extensive destruction and loss of innocent human life caused by the impact of napalm and other cluster bombs on the population dropped by their Allies (remember also RAF’s notorious pounding of the poor neighbourhoods of Athens in the early stages of the Greek civil war: December 1944: a direct consequence of Winston Churchill’s order to the British military commander to rule Athens as an occupied city)!

What are the true immediate consequences of the Turkish invasion of 1974, the so called ‘peace operation’ that once more will be celebrated in the breakaway “TRNC”. Let us take a quick rough quantitative assessment – without an estimate the immeasurable cost of loss of human life and property:

  • 5,000 Greeks dead
  • 1500 missing – after 42 years the fate of only one about one third of this number of persons has been identified, UN sponsored process of identification stalled by refusal of Turkish authorities to grant access to TAF military archives
  • 70% of gross output lost
  • 65% of tourist accommodation
  • 87% of hotel beds under construction
  • 83% of general cargo handling
  • 56% of mining output
  • 48% of agricultural exports
  • 46% of plant production
  • 37% of the total area of the island occupied in a country where 83% of private land is Greek owned.

The 42 year-old consequences are immense and the cost of compensation to the Greeks of Cyprus easily runs into tens of billions of euros. Sadly, the current talk of Cypriot government officials is for a substantial part of the proceeds from future sale of natural gas to finance an agreed political settlement including compensation. What a great idea! The aggressor gets away, the partly recovered victim is asked to pay the damages bill …

What sort of logic is that? Is that part of a new policy of appeasement of Recep Tayyip Erdogan? Are we standing here in this 3000 year old Greek island just to appease the neo-Sultan lest he unleashes an unprecedented and ferocity blitzkrieg on the remaining Greeks of Cyprus?