Monday, 20 July 2009
The Turkish invasion: Cyprus’ blackest day
Cyprus has a long, blood-stained history – Jews, Arabs, Franks and Ottomans have all taken their turn at pillage and massacre; but perhaps the blackest day in the island's history was 20 July 1974, when Turkey invaded the island and unleashed a wave of violence that shocks us because of its barbarity and because of the fact that it has not only gone unpunished but barely remarked on. There has been no redemption from the evil that was committed by the Turks that summer 35 years ago, no nemesis. The Turkish invasion provides a sobering lesson in politics and human affairs. There is no natural order, no moral laws or justice, and good, truth and civilisation do not necessarily win out over evil, lies and barbarism.
By now we should all know the story of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus. We should know that the Turks had been straining at the leash since Cyprus’ independence (1960) to invade the island and came close to doing so in 1963 and 1967, only to find themselves diplomatically isolated and conscious of their own military unpreparedness. In 1974, however – and having addressed their military shortcomings – they were not only granted the perfect excuse for an invasion – by the Athens junta's coup against President Makarios; but they were also given the support they had been previously lacking and that support, most notably, came from the USA, which not only approved the Turkish invasion but also encouraged it.
Thus on 20 July, the Turkish airforce began bombing Greek positions on Cyprus, hundreds of paratroops were dropped in the area between Nicosia and Kyrenia, where were well-armed Turkish Cypriot enclaves had been long-established, while off the Kyrenia coast 30 Turkish troop ships protected by destroyers disgorged 6,000 men as well as an array of tanks, trucks and armoured vehicles.
Both the junta in Athens and their stooge in Nicosia, Nikos Sampson, were caught by surprise by the Turkish assault. Junta leader Dimitrios Ioannides believed the Americans when they told him there would be no Turkish invasion in response to the 15 July coup against Makarios and he passed this on to Sampson who, rather than use the time he had since seizing power in Cyprus to prepare for a probable Turkish attack, chose instead to settle political scores and put down the resistance to the coup by Cypriot leftists and Makarios’ supporters.
By the time, three days later, when a ceasefire had been agreed, Turkey had landed 30,000 troops on the island and captured Kyrenia, the corridor linking Kyrenia to Nicosia and the Turkish-Cypriot quarter of Nicosia. The junta in Athens and then Sampson in Cyprus fell from power.
In Nicosia, Glafkos Clerides assumed the presidency and constitutional order was restored; ostensibly removing the pretext the Turks gave for the invasion, though the Turks having come this far were now committed to implementing their long-held plan to partition the island and annex northern Cyprus. The Turks used a period of sham negotiations – during which Turkey enjoyed American moral, intelligence and diplomatic support – to reinforce their Kyrenia bridgehead and prepare for the second phase of the invasion, which began on 14 August and resulted in the seizure of Morphou, Karpasia, Ammochostos and the Mesaoria.
Above is a clip above from Attila ’74: the Rape of Cyprus (watch film in its entirety here), in which director Michalis Cacoyiannis describes the first and second phases of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus and its aftermath of refugees, prisoners, enclaved and missing persons; while below is an article (taken from the Lobby for Cyprus webiste) that appeared in the UK daily, The Sun, on 8 August 1974, in which Iain Walker describes the atrocities committed by the Turkish army during the first phase of the invasion.
Sun reporter Iain Walker sends a shock report from Cyprus on the Turkish invaders
'My fiancé and six men were shot dead. The Turkish soldiers laughed at me and then I was raped.'
GREEK CYPRIOT GIRL AGED 20
'The Turkish soldiers cut off my father's hands and legs. Then they shot him while I watched.'
GREEK CYPRIOT WOMAN AGED 32
'They shot the men. My friend's wife said "Why should I live without my husband?" A soldier shot her in the head.GREEK CYPRIOT FARMER AGED 51
A HORRIFYING story of atrocities by the Turkish invaders of Cyprus emerged today. It was told by weeping Greek Cypriot villagers rescued by United Nations soldiers.
THEY TOLD of barbaric rape at gunpoint... and threats of instant execution if they struggled.
THEY TOLD of watching their loved ones tortured and shot.
The villagers are from Trimithi, Karmi and Ayios Georhios, three farming communities west of the holiday town of Kyrenia, directly in the path of the Turkish Army.
They had been trapped since the fighting began two weeks ago and were only evacuated to Nicosia by the UN on Saturday. And today at a Nicosia orphanage they told me their tales – simply and without any prompting.
A 20-year old girl in a pretty yellow and white dress sat under a painting of Jesus tending his flock as she described how she was raped.She had been visiting her fiancé who worked in a hotel near Kyrenia when the Turks attacked. For the first 24 hours she sheltered with other villagers in a stable until they were discovered by Turkish soldiers. She then watched as her fiancé and six other men were shot dead in cold blood – only a few minutes after they had been promised that they would not be harmed.
She said: 'After the shooting, a Turkish soldier grabbed me and pulled me into a ditch. I struggled and tried to escape but he pushed me to the ground.
'He tore at my clothes and they were ripped up to my waist. Then he started undressing himself.'
'Another Turkish soldier who was watching us had a nine-month-old baby in his arms and, trying to save myself, I shouted that the baby was mine.
'But they laughed at me and threw the baby to the ground. I was then raped and I fainted soon after.
'When I came to my senses I saw 15 other soldiers standing round watching. The first soldier was taking off my watch and engagement ring. Others were going to rape me – when one of them objected and told them not to be animals.
'I will never forget him for saving me. He was quite unlike the rest – more like an Englishman with blond hair and blue eyes. He spoke to me in English.
'He helped me to my feet and said, "All is OK now."
'The others tried to stop him, but he pulled out his gun and pushed his way through and gave me back to the other women.
'When I had recovered, after a few hours, I went to where the bushes had been burned by the shelling and rubbed charcoal over my face and hands, so I would be ugly and they would not do that to me again.'
The girl, too ashamed to reveal her name, added: 'I cannot put into words the horror I feel at what happened to me. I think I would have preferred it if they had shot me.'
Mrs Elena Mateidou, aged 28, was awakened by Turkish soldiers at Trimithi.She said: 'My husband and father were told to take off all their clothes and they walked us down a dry river bed.
'Then the soldiers separated the women and children and ushered us behind some olive trees. I heard a burst of shooting and knew that they had been killed.
'Later they took us back to the village with our hands tied behind our backs. Two soldiers took me into a room in a deserted house where they raped me.'
'One of them held a gun to my head while it was happening and said if I struggled he would shoot.
'Afterwards, a soldier took off my wedding ring and wore it himself.'
Mrs Mateidou added: 'I saw another woman being pulled into a bathroom where she too was raped.
'Later I went back to the olive groves and found the bodies of my husband and father along with five other men. My father had been stabbed and my husband shot in the belly.'
Later, United Nations soldiers brought the villagers food. 'The Turks took it away and ate it themselves,' said Mrs Mateidou.
Another woman who had been an intended rape victim was Miss Phrosa Meitani, aged 32.She said: 'When I saw what was happening, I ran as quickly as I could. I saw the soldiers pointing guns at me, but I was too frightened to care.
'I hid in the olive groves and tried to get back to where I had been separated from my father.
'I watched from the bushes as they cut off his hands and legs below the knee with a double-edged cutting knife.
'At first he screamed, and beat at them with his fists, but then he became quiet and did not utter a word. Then they shot him in the stomach while I watched.'
Farmer Christos Savva Drakos, 51, saw his wife and two sons murdered.
''I was watering my orchard when the bombs started to explode,' he said.
'With the rest of the village we tried to run away through the groves and river beds but the Turks caught us and we surrendered.
'They searched us but no one had a gun.
'Then the shooting started. It was one by one to start with and I heard my 16-year-old boy Georgios saying in a calm voice "Daddy, they have shot me."
'I pulled him down and we fell behind a rock, He died there in my arms. An officer had been attracted by the shooting and he ran up to see what was going on.
'He was furious with his men and ordered them to stop.
'My wife and my other boy Nicos, who was only 13, were dead.
'My friend's wife was terribly badly injured and she told the officer: "Why should I live without my husband? Shoot me".
'The officer shrugged his shoulders and walked off and a soldier shot her in the head.'
If the Turkish authorities deny these allegations I will remember the drawn face of that old man cowering in a corner, his body racked with tears.
This elderly man was no actor, or a man ordered to lie for political propaganda.
He was a poor man who had lost everything he ever possessed or loved in the world.
Hotel manager Vassilios Efthimiou was the only survivor in a party of men seized by the Turks.He said: 'They separated the men from the women and shot the 12 men.
'Those killed ranged from a 12-year-old boy to an old man in his 90s.'
His brother-in-law was shot dead while holding Efthimiou's four year-old daughter, Estella, in his arms.
Today, Estella showed where a bullet had hit her thigh.
Efthimiou saved his own life by snatching his other daughter, Charian, aged two, and running.
He said: 'I ran until my legs would carry me no longer, and I fell.
'I managed to make my way back later to a village where all the women were trembling with fear and shock.
'I handed my daughter to my wife and said I must save myself.
'I hid in a deep well in my sister's farm for seven days and nights, sitting on a little bar with my feet in the water.
'When I could not take any more I came up.'
Efthimiou and his 37-year-old wife, Helen, run the Mermaid Hotel at Six Mile Beach, Kyrenia, a popular hotel with British tourists.
PRESIDENT Glafkos Clerides of Cyprus flew into Athens today and accused Turkish troops of mass murders and rape.
He also claimed about 20,000 Greeks had been forced out of their homes around Kyrenia.
THE TURKS issued a denial.
A spokesman said: 'The Turkish military authorities deny reports of killings and any other atrocities by Turkish troops in any area under Turkish occupation.'