Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Will Turkey ever pay for its Cyprus war crimes?

I've been surprised by the amount of coverage the execution of the National Guardsmen and the murder of the family from Lapithos – mother, father and two handicapped children – has received in Greece, on the TV news and in the newspapers. Cyprus is not usually an issue that registers in the Greek media – I've heard Greek newspaper editors say that stories on Cyprus are guaranteed to see their readership figures plummet – and, indeed, this lack of coverage of Cyprus is behind the ignorance most Greeks have regarding the Cyprus issue, a state of affairs that Archbishop Chrysostomos of Cyprus commented on last week, observing that not only have we [Cypriots] failed to impress on the international community the facts of the Cyprus problem, but, he added, even more distressing is the amount of Greek officials and politicians he has encountered who know so little of the situation in Cyprus. Perhaps Cypriots are guilty of narcissism and of expecting others to share and understand their problems and obsessions; or perhaps Greek ignorance and indifference to Cyprus is a reflection of the kind of society Greece has become, one in which 'national issues' are regarded as anachronistic, a burden, an impediment to modernisation and Europeanisation.

Nevertheless, the recent revelations of Turkish atrocities in Cyprus did seem to make an impression in the Greek media, which is a good thing. No such coverage, of course, occurred in the international media, which has been seduced, one way or another and for a variety of reasons, by Turkey's pretensions to be a regional power, and where any reference to Turkish barbarism would have had the Turks screaming Islamophobia and racism and the Western media cowering. (Indeed, my impression is that to avoid upsetting Turkey and the so-called Islamic world, to avoid being branded racist or Islamophobic, the Western media has succumbed to the worst kind of censorship, i.e. self-censorship).

Anyway, none of this has anything to do with the point I started out wanting to make in this post, which is connected to this frequently asked question: why, given the irrefutable and well-documented barbarism that defines the Turkish invasion of Cyprus – the murders, executions, rapes, looting, ethnic cleansing and so on – have the governments in Cyprus and Greece neglected all these years to denounce Turkey internationally for war crimes and failed to insist that Turkey and those politicians, soldiers and paramilitaries responsible for the atrocities are brought to justice, preferring instead to repeat platitudes about Turkey needing to open its archives or Turkey needing to comply with European Court of Human Rights rulings urging Turkey to account for the 1,619 Greeks missing since the Turkish invasion?

The answer is simple: our leaders in Cyprus and Greece have never regarded making Turkey accountable for its war crimes as an intrinsic part of a Cyprus settlement, but, in fact, as an obstacle to that settlement, petrified, as they are, that any Greek campaign to bring Turkey to justice will antagonise Turkey – Turkish hysteria regarding the Armenian genocide is well known – and make that country even more unreasonable and unwilling to find a 'solution' that ends its occupation of the island.