Angelique Chrisafis (left) had an article in yesterday’s Guardian concerning the discovery of the remains of her uncle in a mass grave 34 years after he’d gone missing during the Turkish invasion of Cyprus. Her uncle was from Komi Kebir in the Karpasia region of the island and was one of 1,619 Greeks missing since 1974. In the last two years, UN investigation teams have been excavating the remains of some of the missing and revealing that the Turkish army or Turkish Cypriot terrorists cold-bloodedly slaughtered them.
Chrisafis hints at the barbaric frenzy unleashed by the Turks in Cyprus in 1974, though in true Guardian style she is reluctant to call things by their name and instead wishes to accuse all sides of atrocities, an inevitable outcome, she says, of Greek and Turkish nationalism, which, she goes on, are alien to Cyprus and were imported to the island.
The ‘analysis’ of the Cyprus problem that blames competing nationalisms for the conflict, equates the goals and essence of Greek nationalism with Turkish nationalism, and asserts that both Greek and Turkish Cypriots suffered equally and that therefore neither side can legitimately have sole claim to justice, is increasingly prevalent in discourse on Cyprus, and is nonsense. Here are a few reasons why:
Atrocities on both sides
It is absurd to equate the losses suffered by Turkish Cypriots in the intercommunal clashes in 1963-64 and 1967 with the losses suffered by Greek Cypriots as a result of the Turkish invasion of the island in 1974.
Richard Patrick writes that in the 1963-64 clashes ‘approximately 350 Turk-Cypriots [and] about 200 Greek-Cypriots and mainland Greek [soldiers] were killed’.
Patrick also states that in this period 20,000 Turkish Cypriots were displaced, mostly from mixed villages, representing one-sixth of the Turkish Cypriot population. They fled, Patrick says, as a result of: Greek Cypriot action; fear that a Turkish invasion, regarded as imminent, would make Turkish Cypriots vulnerable to Greek reprisals; and deliberate self-isolation at the instigation of the Turkish Cypriot leadership, which wanted Turkish Cypriots to separate themselves from Greek Cypriots and gather in (armed) enclaves in preparation for partition.
In the 1967 fighting, in Kophinou/Agios Theodoros, anti-Greek British writer Nancy Crawshaw, says 27 Turks and two Greeks were killed. This fighting stopped when Turkey threatened to invade the island and only held off after US pressure and the Greek junta withdrew a contingent of 10,000 Greek soldiers from the island.
The 1967 crisis proved to the Greek Cypriot leadership that Turkey was serious about invading the island, that the Greek junta would be powerless or unwilling to stop an invasion, and that a less belligerent approach to Turkish Cypriot terrorism was necessary. As such, between 1967 and 1974, there was a significant improvement in relations between Greeks and Turks on the island, with 1,300 Turkish Cypriots returning to homes abandoned in 1963 and more preparing to do so.
As for the consequences of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974: 4,000 Greek Cypriots were killed, 1,619 were abducted, constituting the missing, who it now transpires were massacred, taking Greek losses close to 6,000.
Some 200,000 Greek Cypriots – 40 percent of the island’s Greek population – were forced from their homes and made refugees. More than 1,000 Greek women, of all ages, were raped, often gang-raped.
As for Turkish Cypriot losses in 1974, these are harder to determine, but it is estimated that 788 terrorists were killed, and in the most notable massacres of civilians around Maratha, Santalaris and Tochni, some 180 Turks lost their lives. Five hundred Turkish Cypriots are regarded as missing from 1963, 1967 and 1974, though this number includes those killed in the aforementioned massacres. Rape of Turkish Cypriot women was isolated. Turkish Cypriot journalist Sevgul Uludag in her book on massacres and mass graves in Cyprus, mentions one case of rape against a Turkish Cypriot woman. Forty thousand Turkish Cypriots – one-third of their population – moved to the north of the island after 1974; but this was at the behest of Turkey, which now wanted to consolidate the Turkish Cypriot puppet state it was planning to establish in the occupied areas.
Equating Greek and Turkish nationalism
The goal of Greek nationalism on the island – enosis – was aimed at ending British colonial rule and not at the Turkish Cypriots. Had enosis been achieved, there is no reason to believe that the Turkish Cypriots would have had to endure violent repercussions
On the other hand, the goal of Turkish nationalism on the island – taksim/partition – was predicated not only on the ethnic cleansing of Greek Cypriots from the north of the island but the movement of Turkish Cypriots living in southern and western Cyprus the other way. Turkish nationalists knew this kind of ethnic cleansing could only take place through the fomentation of ethnic strife and the ultimate intervention of Turkey. As such, ethnic violence was initiated, encouraged and, indeed, desired, by the Turkish Cypriot nationalist leadership.
Greek nationalism was not imposed on Cypriots or imported from outside.
Nostos has written about the significant contribution of Cyprus to the Greek War of Independence in 1821, the 1,000 volunteers who fought for Greek liberty, particularly at the siege of Athens. Indeed, since 1821, large numbers of Cypriot volunteers have fought in every single campaign waged by the ethnos. Also worth mentioning is Ioannis Karatzas from Nicosia, an associate of Rhigas Pheraios – the proto-martyr of the Greek revolution. Karatzas was executed with Pheraios by the Turks in 1798. All of which proves that Greek Cypriots helped shape the revival of Greek national consciousness as much as having been shaped by it.