Friday, 16 December 2011
Christopher Hitchens: a steadfast supporter of Cyprus
Christopher Hitchens, who has died today, was a steadfast supporter of Cyprus against partition. His engagement with the island began before 1974 when, as a young left-wing journalist, spurred on by loathing for US conduct in the Vietnam war, he identified Cyprus as another battleground where the West, chiefly the US, in pursuit of nefarious, ill-conceived interests, was covertly cultivating what for it was a small, sideshow war but, to those directly affected by it, as Hitchens says in the documentary above, resulted in a ‘catastrophe of epic proportions’.
Prior to the coup and invasion in 1974, Hitchens wrote prophetic articles for the New Left Review and New Statesman on the power-politics and machinations aimed at destabilising and overthrowing the Makarios government in order to bring about the partition of Cyprus between Greece and Turkey and, thus, secure so-called NATO interests. His narrative of betrayal, collusion and superpower conceit led to his book (1984), Cyprus: Hostage to History, which remains the definitive account in English of the Turkish invasion; the starting point for anyone who wants to grasp the nature of the Cyprus problem.
Above is the first part of Frontiers, a BBC documentary Hitchens made in 1989 on the aftermath of the Turkish invasion. It’s not so much an account of the causes of the Turkish invasion, but a reflection on the impact partition has had on Greek and Turkish Cypriots. The remaining four parts are available on Youtube.
*Addendum: The American Hellenic Institute has written a good obituary for Hitchens, stressing his long-standing support for Cyprus and other Greek causes, which in 2007 led the AHI to award him the Hellenic Heritage National Public Service Award. In his acceptance speech, Hitchens said the following:
‘Those of us who are governed by the rule of law don’t demand very much. We are very modest and understated in what we ask. All we want is for the removal of every single Turkish soldier from Cyprus, as international law demands, the restoration of the sculpture of Phidias [the Parthenon Marbles] as a unity, the same way it was carved, as a tribute to the glories of 5th century Athens and the human culture that it has inspired… Take heart. You have friends who will never desert you. Mr. Erdogan, tear down that wall. Zito I Ellas (Long live Greece). Eleftheri I Kypros (Free Cyprus).’