Monday, 2 March 2009

The missing from the village of Strongylos

Regarding the 1,619 Greek and Greek Cypriot missing since the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974, it’s often said that this is a purely humanitarian issue that must be resolved to ease the pain of the families who have had to endure decades of not knowing the fate of their loved ones.

That the issue of the missing persons has a humanitarian aspect is undoubtedly true, but what is not true is that the massacre of prisoners of war and civilians – men, women and children of all ages – has no legal or political ramifications. In fact, those who repeatedly declare that the missing persons issue is solely humanitarian do so in order to divest the murders of their political content – the Turkish ambition to partition Cyprus was predicated on the ethnic cleansing of Greeks – and as a ploy to absolve the murderers of their crimes.
The article below by Elena Hadjigeorgiou-Ioannou recently appeared in Simerini and tells of how her father and brother were apprehended by the Turks in 1974 in the village of Strongylos, a mixed Greek and Turkish village in the Mesaoria, the region of Cyprus between Nicosia and Famagusta. She also demands – and this demand is being increasingly articulated by the relatives of the missing – that those Turks responsible for the abductions and murders be brought to justice. (My translation).

‘During the second phase of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus [14 August 1974], my family decided to remain in the village. The main reason we took this decision was because our Turkish Cypriot co-villagers implored us not to leave, telling us: “As you protected us from your soldiers, we will do the same for you.” The Turkish Cypriot mukthar assured us: “For them to harm you, they’ll have to kill me first.”

‘The next day, however, 15 August, it seems they forgot their promises. Five of our Turkish Cypriot co-villagers – M.Y., O.Y., S.A.E., H.A. and M.K.M. – armed and wearing uniforms, came to our homes and took away all the men aged 16 and over, among them my father, Loizos Hadjigeorgiou, 43, and my brother, Giorgios Hadjigeorgiou, 18, telling us they would protect them from the approaching Turkish army.

‘The next day, they told us that they’d taken the men to the neighbouring Turkish Cypriot village of Sinta for interrogation. On the 23 August, the first time we saw foreign soldiers in our village, a Turkish officer, who spoke very good Greek, promised us women and children that no harm would come to us from our Turkish Cypriot co-villagers. He also personally promised my mother that he would bring back the younger prisoners – my brother and two others.

‘On the 26 August, the day we were expelled from our village, the same Turkish officer went from bus to bus on which had been piled Greek women and children from our village and from the surrounding villages, looking for my mother. Finding her, he said to her: “Madam Maria, I didn’t keep my promise to you because your son has been taken to Adana [southern Turkey; picture above is of prisoners at Adana concentration camp]…”.

‘Most journalists, in the case of the Turkish actor
Attila Olgac, have asked for his arrest. Why haven’t they asked for the arrest of the five Turkish Cypriots who rounded up the men in Strongylos village? Their names are known to the Attorney General and the Committee on Missing Persons. Maybe one of the five has a bad conscience and wants to talk. And why has no journalist tried to track down the Turkish officer who came to our village in 1974, to find out if he was telling us the truth or if he too was playing with our pain?…

‘As a family, we want to discover what happened to Loizos and Giorgios Hadjigeorgiou and we also want to see those responsible for their fate brought before a court.’

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