Friday, 30 August 2013

Democracy as a tragic regime

Ancient Greece: The Greatest Show on Earth is a documentary from the BBC and the Open University on Greek drama, presented by Michael Scott, whose recent two-part series Who were the Greeks? I posted on here and here. In this programme – the first of three in the series – Scott looks at tragedy and democracy, arguing that the two are intimately connected and it is no coincidence that tragic theatre emerged at the same time as democracy in Athens. It’s not a bad programme, despite the appearance of a number of leading British classicists, who are a bland lot with nothing particularly exciting to say.

The Greek philosopher Cornelius Castoriadis is also concerned about the connections between tragedy and democracy, asserting that democracy is a ‘tragic regime’ and that tragedy is so connected to the rise of democracy in Athens that it makes more sense to refer to Athenian rather than Greek tragedy. Castoriadis arguments on tragedy and democracy are contained in two of his essays. One is The Greek Polis and the Creation of Democracy, contained in Politics, Philosophy and Autonomy; and the other is Aeschylean Anthropogony and Sophoclean Self-Creation of Man, which is from the collection of essays Figures of the Unthinkable, which is available to download here.

There’s also an essay critical of Castoriadis’ work on tragedy and democracy by Nana Biluš Abaffy, which can be read here.

* See part two of the series here and part three here.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Attila 74: the evil fate of Sysklipos village

Following the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974, 27 persons were listed as missing from the Greek village of Sysklipos in the Kyrenia district. It is not only the large number of victims – 27 from a village of less than 400 – that shocks but also the fact that those who must now be regarded as murdered by Turkish forces were almost all elderly. The average age of those killed in Sysklipos was 64, with the oldest being Andreas Violaris, who was 83-years-old when he was slain.

Invasion and occupation
Despite the ceasefire agreed on 22 July – two days after Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus – attacks continued on Greek villages just outside the Kyrenia-Nicosia bridgehead the Turks had established, and on the morning of 26 July, Sysklipos was shelled and raided by Turkish forces. Trying to avoid the Turkish assault, a chaotic evacuation ensued in which most of the villagers fled in cars, by bus or on foot. Some 35 villagers, however, mostly elderly and/or infirm, were unable or unwilling to abandon their homes.

Later in the day, a group of four Greek Cypriot commandos, led by second lieutenant Savvas Pavlides, was ordered to go to Sysklipos and raise a Greek flag over the village school. This was supposed to be in preparation for acting president of Cyprus Glafkos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash passing through Sysklipos to establish Greek and Turkish positions as part of the ceasefire agreement.

Pavlides recalls that on entering Sysklipos, he encountered a frightened old man desperate to escape the village but not knowing which route to take to avoid the Turks. Pavlides directed him to safety and then went further into Sysklipos, where he completed his mission with the Greek flag and observed that homes throughout the village had been broken into and looted. Pavlides then proceeded to the village spring where he came across another villager, whom he later identified as 78-year-old Christodoulos Kamenos, carrying two pales of water. The two men had the following conversation:

Pavlides: What are you doing here? What are you doing with those?
Kamenos: We have some animals in the yard and I need to give them water.
Pavlides: But haven’t you realised what’s happening all around you?
Kamenos: What can I do, my son? My wife is blind. We’re at home. All the old people in the village are still here.
Pavlides: Why don’t you leave?
Kamenos: We can’t walk. There are no cars. The Turks came through the village and looted the houses, and we don’t know what to do.

Turkish shelling resumed the same day and Pavlides and his men were forced to leave Sysklipos and return to their unit in the hills on the western outskirts of the village. The Turks re-entered Sysklipos and rounded up the 35 residents who had stayed behind, initially detaining them in a camp outside the village, before allowing them to return to the village, where the 35 decided, for their own security, to stay in groups of five and six in each other’s homes.

First wave of killings
Between 26 July and 3 August, Turkish forces occupying Sysklipos subjected the 35 trapped villagers to a campaign of mistreatment and murder. During this period, fearing the worst, up to 10 villagers escaped, hiding in fields during the day and travelling at night, to get to the government-controlled areas of the island.

One of those murdered in the first wave of killings was 52-year-old Maria Christodoulou. Three of her four children had left Sysklipos with relatives following the initial Turkish shelling and foray into the village, while her husband, Andreas, and one of her daughters remained with her. On resumption of the Turkish shelling and increasingly concerned about their daughter, Andreas and Maria decided that the girl had to be taken to safety, and since this could only be done on foot, it was agreed that she should be escorted by her father, while Maria, who was blind and couldn’t follow, would be left behind. Maria Christodoulou was murdered by the Turks on or around 2 August 1974 and her remains were exhumed in Sysklipos in 2011. She is the only missing person from Sysklipos whose remains have been recovered.

The massacre of the 14
The climax of the killing in Sysklipos seems to have occurred on 3 August at the home of Evgenios Sofokleous and his wife Elli. Sheltering with the couple were two of Evgenios Sofokleous’ children from his first marriage – 20-year-old Andreas Evgeniou and his 11-year-old sister – along with 11 other villagers, four of whom have been identified as 82-year-old Iraklis Hadjinikolaou; 60-year-old Charita Kanarini; 72-year-old Anastasia Kamenou; and her husband Christodoulos Kamenos – the 78-year-old man Savvas Pavlides had encountered at the village spring on 26 July.

This group of 15 had been at the Sofokleous’ house from 30 July, where they were regularly visited by two Turkish soldiers and a Turkish Cypriot mujahid. Each day, hoping to placate the Turks, Evgenios Sofokleous would offer them coffee and fruit. On 3 August, the Turkish Cypriot mujahid made a final visit to the 15. In the evening, another group of Turkish soldiers came to the house. They separated the men and the women into two rooms, and raped the women.

What happened next to the 15 is described in Erol Mütercimler’s book Cyprus, Island for Sale: Unknown Aspects of the Peace Operation, which was published in Turkey in 2009.

In it, Mütercimler quotes from the diary of Colonel Salih Güleryüz, commander of a special‐forces unit stationed near Sysklipos.

Güleryüz writes:
3 August 1974: we were informed that 14 Greek Cypriots residing at Sysklipos village were killed the previous night. This was done by an artillery junior officer, two commandos and two [Turkish Cypriot] fighters. Statements were taken from the soldiers late into the night. Early in the morning of the next day 4/8/1974, my schoolmate, the head of the ordnance corps, Corporal Mahmud Boyouslou, arrived. We went together to Sysklipos and found the house where the Greek Cypriot civilians had been killed. They were killed by fire from automatic weapons. Eight persons were on armchairs and chairs, covered in blood, with perforations in the chest and head. There were five other dead persons, men and women, on the ground. Near the entrance to the house, sitting on an armchair, there was another corpse, which had been beheaded.’
The only survivor of the carnage, according to Güleryüz, was Evgenios Sofokleous’ 11-year old daughter. She was found dressed up in the coat of a Greek Cypriot soldier and was being forced to serve breakfast to Turkish soldiers occupying the village. Güleryüz says the girl had been raped.

As already noted, of the 27 Greek Cypriots listed as missing from Sysklipos, only the remains of Maria Christodoulou have been recovered. Turkish Cypriot journalist Sevgul Uludag, who has investigated the fate of the missing from Sysklipos, says that a Turkish Cypriot informant has told her that there is a mass grave of Greek Cypriots in the neighbouring Turkish village of Krini, while other reports suggest a burial site in a field between Sysklipos and the occupied Greek village of Agios Ermolaos, but no excavation work has been done to ascertain the veracity of these claims.

Uludag also notes that the 11-year-old girl who was raped and witnessed the murders of her father, stepmother, brother and 11 others, was eventually handed over to UN peacekeepers and transferred to the free areas. She has never recovered from her ordeal and has spent a large part of her life in psychiatric hospitals. Meanwhile, Uludag says, one of the Turkish Cypriots involved in the Sysklipos killings, a certain K. from Kyrenia, is known to regularly recount his role in events, a role he is said to be very proud of.

Currently, Sysklipos is barely habitable. Greek refugees who’ve visited their village since restrictions on crossings were eased in 2003 report that most homes are in ruins, with only some 95 Turkish Cypriots (originally from Sarama and Meladeia in the Paphos district) living in Sysklipos, which they’ve renamed Akçiçek, meaning ‘white flower’. The village cemetery, which was intact until recently, has now been desecrated, presumably as a means to discourage refugees from visiting Sysklipos and dreaming of return.

* Thanks to Loukia Borrell (@LoukiaBorrell) for her help in the researching of this piece. Loukia Borrell’s family is from Sysklipos and her grandparents are missing persons Christodoulos Kamenos and Anastasia Kamenou, to whom her novel Raping Aphrodite is dedicated. Visit Raping Aphrodite’s Facebook page here.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Cyprus: the Turkish Islamist perspective

Nikos Moudouros’ article The Cypriot Version of the AKP Model. Neoliberalism and the Turkish Cypriot Community (belowis quite interesting. It purports to explain how the Islamists of Turkey’s ruling AK party see Cyprus – as the first piece of Christian/Western territory Muslims have conquered in 300 years – and, more broadly, reveals the worldview of Turkey’s Islamists, who regard the West as in decline, facilitating the emergence of Turkey, spearheading a revived Islamic world, as a global power.

In the second part of his article, Moudouros dwells on how Turkey is trying to shape occupied Cyprus into the mirror image of Turkey – economically neoliberal, culturally Islamic – and on how secular and leftist Turkish Cypriots can be expected to resist this. (Personally, I doubt that the Turkish Cypriots have the power or will to resist Turkey’s plans – their political culture is overwhelmingly geared to serving the will and interests of Ankara – and, indeed, so far there exists little evidence to suggest that the AK party will be denied in occupied Cyprus).

Worth pointing out that Moudouros is Dimitris Christofias’ son-in-law and was the ex-president’s chief adviser on Turkey and Turkish Cypriot affairs and you will have to ignore the Marxist gobbledegook in his article to decipher the worthwhile points he makes.

I’ve also come across another article by a prominent US neocon arguing that America’s interests in the Eastern Mediterranean demand the ditching of Turkey and the forging of an alliance with Israel, Cyprus and Greece. Read Seth Cropsey’s Mediterranean Gas Find: A Chance for US to Break with Turkey here.

The Cypriot Version of the AKP Model. Neoliberalism and the Turkish Cypriot Community, by Nikos Moudouros
Ali Bulaç, a Turkish Islamist intellectual, cited in a characteristic way the traditional perception of the way political Islam faces Cyprus, through his own column in Zaman newspaper, by mentioning the following:
‘The reason why the Turkish intervention in Cyprus caused a huge wave of enthusiasm would be explained to me a little later by an elder uncle from Halepi… the most important of all was that for the first time after 300 years the Muslim world would manage to grab a piece of land, even a small one, from the hands of the Christians’.

According to the above, conquering a small part of land ‘taken from the hands of the Christians’ constituted a matter of honor to the rivalry of these two completely different worlds, as these were formed in the perception of the Turkish political Islam. However, in order to better understand today’s strategy of the Justice and Development Party concerning Cyprus, this strategy should be placed in a right historical context. The de-coding of the policy followed in the northern part of Cyprus, demands an even at least brief de-coding of the AKP’s worldview as this has been affected and formed by the end of the Cold War, the terrorist attacks of September 11th 2001 and the neoliberal restructuring.

After almost eleven years of governance it is now clear that the AKP demands a new international world order which will reflect the 21st century’s new balances. Behind the AKP’s will for a new reading of global balances, lies the belief that the West no longer constitutes the dominant political and economic center of the world. According to this thinking, the 21st century world is marked by a shift of trade, industrial production and consequently part of the capital from the West to the East. This change in its turn affected a deeper ideological understanding of ‘national geography’, defining a new framework for regional activation of Turkey.

We could claim that according to the AKP this is about a procedure which regenerates the ‘greatness’ of the Islamic world, which now claims with more pretensions its positions in the global competition. Ibrahim Kalın, chief adviser to Prime Minister Erdoğan, claims that Turkey backs up this very own questioning of the up to today West-centered reading and interpreting of the world. Now, says Kalın, there is a new Turkish history which must be promoted in the region. This historical understanding requires the creation of a new ‘geographical imagination’, such that would demolish the traditional concept of borders. Kalın is for once more enlightening: ‘The best way to protect the national state is to act as if it does not exist, to respect the borders of others as well as yours, but also to operate as if they do not exist.’

Thereby the effort of creating a Turkish-Islamic area of influence, a geopolitical field, of which Turkey will ensure its integration to the global economic structure is revealed. Turkey as a kind of a ‘commercial state’ and with the machine for promoting its goals being Islam and the economy, seeks to become a leading force in the continuous ‘commercialization’ of a large contiguous area. Turkey seeks to export its own model of modernization to the Arab-Muslim world transforming itself at the same time to a representative of a separate international (Islamic) block demanding integration to what was up to today perceived as the Western capitalist world. So Turkey is in a constant search for finding ways of facilitating neoliberal modernization in a large region considered to have historical and cultural ties.

Read the rest of the article here.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

‘We offer an olive branch, but we will never offer earth and water’

Above is a clip from Michalis Cacoyiannis’ film Attila 74: the rape of Cyprus (see the film in its entirety here), in which President Makarios, whose toppling by the the Athens junta preceded Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus, says a couple of things worth stressing.

First, at a rally in Athens in November 1974 – we note the size and passion of the rally – Makarios defiantly tells Turkey, despite its recent invasion and occupation:
‘We offer an olive branch, but we will never offer earth and water.’
Second, while being interviewed by Cacoyiannis, Makarios has this to say of Turkish demands on the island:
‘It’s unheard of. Eighteen percent of a population claiming the right to manipulate the fate of the other 82%. In other countries, minorities struggle for equal rights. The Turkish minority in Cyprus is trying by force of arms to have not only equal rights but to dictate the destiny of the whole island.’
His argument and description of Turkish aspirations on the island applied in 1974, it applied in 1963 and in 2004 when the Annan plan was on offer, and it applies now.

More generally on Makarios, for the 27 years he guided Cypriot Hellenism, I find it hard to fault his leadership.

I suppose it could be argued that he should never have sent the 2 July 1974 letter to Greece’s president, General Phaedon Gizikis, complaining of the junta’s Cyprus policies, its sponsoring of EOKA B, its plots to assassinate Makarios, and demanding that Greek officers of the National Guard be recalled.

In retrospect, the letter seems unnecessarily provocative and that Makarios overplayed his hand, overestimating his strength and the junta’s rationality. Indeed, the letter rather than serving to discourage the junta from its plans to overthrow Makarios, stiffened its resolve to act and, on 15 July, it carried out its catastrophic coup.

Now, it seems obvious that Makarios, and Cyprus, would have been better off not challenging so openly the junta and patiently waiting for it to fall, as it was destined to do and, probably, within a very short space of time, a year or two at the most, after which a more sane Greek government would have come to power and the existential threat to Makarios, his government and policies, from Greece would have been overcome and no opportunity would have been presented to Turkey to invade and partition Cyprus.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Political Activities of Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots, 1945-1958 (Full Text)

Following requests, I’m making available in one post and, also, as a PDF (view it and download it here), the recent series I ran on the political activities of Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots in the last years of British colonial rule in Cyprus. The post comprises chapter three of Stella Soulioti’s Fettered Independence: Cyprus, 1878-1964; a chapter that describes how Turkey and nationalists from the Turkish minority on Cyprus settled on a plan to partition Cyprus and pursued this through a campaign of violence aimed at stirring up of ethnic conflict on the island, facilitating the physical and psychological separation of Greek and Turkish Cypriots. This evidence is intended to directly refute the Turkish narrative on Cyprus, which has, unfortunately, gained currency, that the Turkish invasion of Cyprus was designed to protect the beleaguered Turkish Cypriot community from Greek depredations. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Turkish invasion of Cyprus was the culmination of two decades of Turkish aggression and violence on Cyprus, consistently aimed at one thing and one thing alone: the partitioning of Cyprus.

Political Activities of Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots, 1945-1958
Turkish Cypriot Organizations and Involvement of Turkey
The first Turkish Cypriot organization was formed in 1943 under the name the Cyprus Turkish Minority Association (KATAK), which was joined by Dr Fazil Kutchuk, the Turkish Cypriot leader who later became vice-president of the Republic of Cyprus. The activities of the association were rather insignificant, and in 1945 Kutchuk withdrew from it and established the Cyprus Turkish National Party. This gradually superseded KATAK, which was finally dissolved in 1949.

Although the general objective of these organizations was to oppose enosis and support the continuation of British colonial rule, it should not be overlooked that in January 1947 KATAK issued a statement advocating that if Britain were to leave Cyprus, the island should go back to Turkey, ‘its previous suzerain and nearest neighbour’. However, when a Committee on Turkish Cypriot Affairs was set up by [colonial governor of Cyprus] Lord Winster to inquire into the grievances of the Turkish Cypriots, the chairman declared at its opening meeting on 24 June 1948 that it was the ardent desire of the Turks on the island to live and prosper under British rule, which they wished to see perpetuated. Significantly, the young generation was represented on the committee by Rauf Denktash, who was later to become the forceful leader of the Turkish Cypriot community.

It was in 1948, after the collapse of the Consultative Assembly, that the Turkish Cypriots first appealed to Turkey for support. This approach met with a positive response, particularly among university students and the press. In November 1948, President Inonu assured a Turkish Cypriot delegation that Turkey was not indifferent to the future of Cyprus. Before the end of that year, a large anti-Greek rally staged by the Turkish community took place in Nicosia. This heralded the beginning of Turkish Cypriot orientation toward Turkey.

It is indicative of the trend of events that in 1955 the name of the Cyprus Turkish National Party was changed to the Cyprus-is-Turkish Party. This party was in fact organized with the help of an emissary from Turkey, Hikmet Bil. At the same time, a sister party was formed in Turkey itself, which Kutchuk is quoted as saying ‘would soon have half a million members, all ready to back up their brothers in Cyprus’ – and that all was done with the approval of the Turkish government. Hikmet Bil was president of the Cyprus-is-Turkish Association in Turkey, while Adnan Menderes, the prime minister, was its patron.

In the summer of 1955, the Turks also formed an underground organization, Volkan, which was later reorganized and renamed the TMT (Turk Mukavemet Teshkilati, Turkish Resistance Organization). Many members of Volkan and TMT were Turkish Cypriot auxiliary policemen. It has since become known that the organizer of TMT was Rauf Denktash. In an article in the Turkish newspaper Belge, Denktash later related that in 1958 he visited Ankara with Kutchuk and had a meeting with foreign minister Zorlu to discuss the better organization of TMT on an island-wide basis. On a subsequent visit to Ankara, he met Cevdet Sunay, who was to take a personal interest in TMT in his various capacities, as deputy chief of staff, chief of staff and later president of Turkey. ‘They gave us their most distinguished experts in order to organise the TMT in the best possible manner,’ Denktash said.

It is a fact worth special attention that, unlike EOKA [which was entirely rooted in the Greek Cypriot community], TMT was not a wholly Turkish Cypriot movement but overtly involved Turks from Turkey, and that it operated both in Cyprus and Turkey. This was formally recognized by the decision of the Turkish Cypriot Legislative Assembly, taken on 7 February 1975, to grant ‘Turkish Cypriot citizenship’ to ‘persons who served in the Turkish Resistance Organization, TMT, since 1958, in Cyprus and in Turkey’.

British Attitude Towards Turkish Activities
British policy was to encourage the underground activities of the Turks and to rally Turkish Cypriot support in opposition to EOKA. It is eloquent of this policy that, while EOKA was banned a week after the appearance of [its] first leaflet and mere membership of EOKA was decreed a crime, no action was taken against Volkan or TMT, nor did the government voice any objection to the meddling of Hikmet Bil, a foreign national, in the affairs of a British colony. Worse still, Turkish Cypriots were employed extensively in the British security forces against EOKA. These consisted of a Mobile Reserve, composed exclusively of Cypriot Turks, and an Auxiliary Police and Special Constabulary which, in their overwhelming majority, were made up of Turkish Cypriots (1,700 out of 1,770), in addition to the large numbers serving in the regular police force. It has been noted that ‘as guards and escorts they [the Turks] were irreplaceable,’ and that ‘the co-operation of the Turkish community was vital to the struggle against EOKA’. It was only a matter of time before an incident would occur involving a Turkish Cypriot serving with the security forces, thereby activating riots against the Greek Cypriots.

Turkish Political Objective of Partition Formulated
By 1957 the Turks had formulated their political objective clearly: the partition of Cyprus, which they set out to achieve by:

    •    establishing a separate identity for the Turkish Cypriots;
    •    demonstrating that coexistence between the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots was impossible, and that they must therefore be physically separated; and
    •    creating territorial division between the two communities which were interspersed throughout the island.

The above goals have persisted as the cornerstone of Turkish and Turkish Cypriot policy over the years.

The arm used to apply the policy was [the terrorist group] TMT, under the slogan ‘Partition or Death.’ The partition line was set at the 35th Parallel, dividing Cyprus roughly in half. Posters, showing the island partitioned, with the superimposed figure of a Turkish soldier, were displayed everywhere.

A booklet entitled The Cyprus Question – A Permanent Solution, issued in October 1957 by [Fazil] Kutchuk, then chairman of the Cyprus-is-Turkish Party, spells out the Turkish policy in unequivocal terms. The cover of the booklet shows Cyprus partitioned in half. The following excerpts are revealing:

Equal rights is what we want and equal rights mean nothing but partition.

Turkey has, in fairness and magnanimity, consented to Partition for the sake of permanent peace in the area. Thus, the two countries [Greece and Turkey] which are friendly frontier-neighbours will extend their frontiers across Cyprus and the Communist foothold in the island will thus be prevented and the Turkish foothold will safeguard the breathing space for Turkey and her allies in the event of war.

Such partitioning will not involve the compulsory exchange of populations. Each man will be able to live in his own place feeling assured that his country is next door to protect his rights and interests. Two responsible governments will keep the extremists in their group under constant control.

Turkey has, in fairness and in complete recognition of her duty to maintain peace in the area and good relations with her neighbours, decided to abandon her claim to the whole of Cyprus and accepted the solution of partition as a fair basis for settlement.

She [Greece] has got no case on Cyprus and… unless she consents to partition Turkey will have the right to move into the island the moment Britain withdraws.

By the end of December 1956, Turkey, being aware that Britain had begun to consider partition as a possible solution, demanded partition at every opportunity. Kutchuk, who visited Ankara (2 April-10 May 1957) to consult with the Turkish government, said in a press statement on 3 April 1957 that enmity between the two communities in Cyprus had reached such a pitch that they could not possibly coexist under the same regime, and the only acceptable solution, therefore, was partition. On 3 February 1958, on his return to Nicosia from another visit to Ankara, Kutchuk said that taksim [partition] was ‘One thousand percent certain’, and that ‘if our own force in Cyprus proves inadequate, our fatherland is ready to come to our aid’.

On 8 June 1958, the Turkish foreign ministry issued a statement that the Turkish government had come to a ‘full and mature decision to bring about the partition of Cyprus’ as the only means of ensuring Turkey’s own security. On the same day, there was a big demonstration in Istanbul in support of taksim, with speeches against Greece and Britain and the burning of an effigy of Archbishop Makarios. The speakers included Kutchuk, who stressed the impossibility of Greek and Turkish Cypriots living together and claimed the question was no longer one for the Turkish Cypriots but ‘for 26 million Turks’. Kutchuk kept up the pressure for partition, along the 35th parallel.

Consistency of Turkish Policy of Partition
The Turkish pursuit of partition remained constant  through all the subsequent phases of the recent history of Cyprus. As Hayrettin Erkmen, a member of the Turkish cabinet at the time of the Zurich Agreements [1959] and foreign minister after the invasion of Cyprus in 1974, has revealed: ‘Turkey’s posture on Cyprus might appear to be variable, but actually it adheres to a specific line.’ And he goes on to explain that when the thesis that Cyprus should be returned to Turkey failed, the idea of taksim [partition] was upheld: ‘and later we came upon the formula of a Cyprus Republic which was a kind of taksim’. This objective was paramount in Turkish minds during the Zurich negotiations.

The consistency of Turkish policy is demonstrated by the fact that, following the intercommunal conflict in December 1963, Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots formally proposed to UN mediator Galo Plaza in 1964 the partition of Cyprus along the line indicated in 1957, together with a suggestion for an exchange of populations. That this line is practically identical with that where the Turkish Army finally halted in the second phase of the invasion of Cyprus in August 1974 is eloquent proof of this consistency.

In fact, between the first and second phase of the invasion, on 12 August 1974, during the conference in Geneva between the three guarantor powers, Britain, Greece and Turkey, and representatives of the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities, the Turkish delegation tabled a proposal demanding as a zone of Turkish control this same line. Moreover, in conformity with its 1964 proposals to the UN mediator, Turkey expelled from their homes and properties in the area occupied by it virtually all Greek Cypriots (about 180,000) and proceeded to compel all Turkish Cypriots to move to the occupied areas, while transporting from Turkey thousands of settlers.

Turkish Cypriot Violence in Pursuit of Partition
[From] 1956 on, the Turkish leadership instituted a vigorous campaign under the slogan ‘from Turk to Turk’, advocating the boycott of Greek goods and services and forbidding cooperation with Greek Cypriots at all levels, including participation in mixed trade unions. Those who deviated were denounced as traitors and punished: two Turkish Cypriot members of a trade union were shot dead by [the terrorist group] TMT in 1958 for collaborating with their Greek Cypriot coworkers…

To bring about the physical separation of the two communities and to impose territorial division, the Turkish Cypriots, at the instigation and with the encouragement of Turkey, embarked, beginning in January 1956, on organized rioting initially aimed at the destruction of Greek Cypriot property. The object was to foster enmity between the two communities, thereby proving [Turkish Cypriot leader Fazil] Kutchuk’s premise that coexistence had become impossible, making partition the only acceptable solution.

As was inevitable in view of the large number of Turks actively participating with the British security forces against EOKA, the day came when, on 11 January 1956, a Turkish Cypriot police sergeant who had given evidence in trials of EOKA members was killed by EOKA. The Turkish Cypriots immediately retaliated by attacks against Greek Cypriot property in Nicosia and Paphos accompanied by threats against Greek lives. These were followed by further attacks on 23 and 24 April, after the killing of a Turkish Cypriot policeman who had chased EOKA fighters. On 25 May, after the death of a Turkish Cypriot policeman who again had chased an EOKA fighter who had turned and shot him, extensive rioting broke out in Nicosia, Limassol, Larnaca and Paphos, with indiscriminate arson of Greek properties. In Nicosia the Turks burst into the Greek quarter of the city and burned down an oxygen factory, battering its old caretaker to death. The Turkish mob, ‘including a score of auxiliary and special constables’, became so menacing that the British authorities set up a barricade across the old city of Nicosia (the ‘Mason-Dixon Line’, a precursor to the ‘Green Line’ drawn in December 1963). By June 1956 Turkish rioting extended to Famagusta and flared up once again in Nicosia, with massive destruction of Greek property, in January and February 1957.

The Turkish leadership had no scruples about creating pretexts for reprisals. Soon after Sir Hugh Foot’s arrival in Cyprus [as the new colonial governor], clashes occurred on 7 and 9 December 1957 between the security forces and Greek secondary schoolchildren demonstrating on the occasion of the UN General Assembly debate on Cyprus, in the course of which a Turkish policeman was wounded accidentally. A fabricated rumor that he had been killed, and killed by Greeks, formed the signal for Turkish  mobs to throw themselves into the Greek quarter of Nicosia with such ferocity that the Mason-Dixon Line had to be reestablished. Nor was calculated misrepresentation of the facts considered improper: at the United Nations on 9 December 1957, Turkey did not hesitate to accuse Greeks of killing three Turks in Paphos a week earlier, whereas they had been killed by fellow Turks who had been arrested.

What is noteworthy is that, despite the repeated, organized and violent rioting and destruction of their property by the Turks, the Greeks, although outnumbering the Turks by four to one, did not counter-attack or retaliate in any way. No Turkish property was threatened or damaged. In fact, on 3 February 1957, the Greek members of the Nicosia Municipal Council appealed to the Greek population to avoid at all costs any friction with the Turkish community.

The most violent riots were yet to come. On 21 January 1958, Turkish Cypriots demonstrated in Nicosia and Famagusta against what they regarded as the pro-Greek policy of the new governor, Sir Hugh Foot. More demonstrations, the most violent ever known in Cyprus, took place in Nicosia on 27 January 1958. These were organized to coincide with the discussion of the Foot Plan in Ankara between British foreign secretary Selwyn Lloyd, accompanied by Sir Hugh Foot, and the Turkish government. During the disturbances, thousands of Turks hurled stones and bottles at British troops, overturned and set fire to military vehicles and police cars, and erected barricades in the Turkish quarter of Nicosia, prominently displaying Turkish flags. After several attempts by British troops to break up the demonstrations, a curfew was imposed in the Turkish quarter, ending nine hours of violent rioting marked by many bitter hand-to-hand struggles between Turkish Cypriots and the security forces. Despite the curfew, further riots broke out the following day with renewed attacks on British forces. Order was finally restored on 29 January 1958. ‘The Turks were, as usual, making their stand clear by actions as well as by words,’ was Sir Hugh’s comment on the riots.

In March 1958, after almost a year of continuous truce, EOKA renewed its offensive by an intensive sabotage campaign against military installations. On 21 April 1958, however, it declared a ceasefire pending the outcome of a policy statement by the British government, whereas the Turkish Cypriots, fearing that the new British plan would exclude partition, stepped up their preparations in close cooperation with the Turkish government. In February 1958 a meeting was held in Greece between British foreign secretary Selwyn Lloyd and Greek foreign minister Evangelos Averoff, attended also by the governor of Cyprus, Sir Hugh Foot, and the head of the Cyprus Desk in the Greek Foreign Ministry, Dimitri S. Bitsios. Foot stated that the Turkish Cypriots were now armed and were receiving instructions ‘from somewhere in Turkey’, in the hope that EOKA’s truce would end, providing them with an excuse to embark on their own armed activity against the Greek Cypriots.

The next, and by far most alarming, bout of Turkish Cypriot violence erupted on 7 June 1958, shortly before what came to be known as the Macmillan Plan was announced in the British parliament. Sir Hugh records:

The Turks didn’t even wait for the Plan to be announced. On the night of the 7th June I was woken in the middle of the night to see the whole of Nicosia aflame.

He [Zorlu, the Turkish foreign minister] had, I have no doubt, known of and perhaps himself given the order for the Turkish riots and the attempt to burn down Nicosia.

During that one night of rioting in Nicosia and Larnaca, four Greek Cypriots were killed by Turkish mobs and scores more were injured. Greek properties in the old city of Nicosia were sacked, while shops, a cigarette factory, a timber yard and a Greek sports club were burnt down. The Mason-Dixon Line had to be erected again. In Larnaca, crowds of Turks invaded the Greek quarter and a number of buildings were wrecked. Further serious riots occurred on 10-12 June in Nicosia, Limassol and Famagusta, in which four more Greek Cypriots were killed and many injured. In Nicosia, where bands of Turkish youths engaged in large-scale arson, several Greek shops were burnt to the ground and the ancient church of Saint Lucas was gutted, while in Limassol and Famagusta many people were injured.

Denktash Reveals Turkish Cypriots Planted a Bomb to Provoke the Anti-Greek Riots of June 1958
The incident which provoked the riots on 7 June was the explosion of a small bomb outside the Turkish Information Office (part of the Turkish consulate) in Nicosia, alleged to have been thrown from a passing car. Even at the time it was suspected that the Turks had planted the bomb to provoke the riots.

The Nicosia correspondent of the Times commented:

The incident which began the trouble is shrouded in mystery… Whether the bomb was actually thrown by a Greek as the Turks allege, is a matter of raging controversy and the authorities have so far committed themselves to no pronouncement. Certainly, what immediately followed bore all the signs of a planned and concerted action by gangs of Turkish youths…

The mystery has now been cleared up by the Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, who has made the shocking revelation that the bomb was planted by ‘a friend’ of his. This statement was made during an interview in Cyprus: Britain’s Grim Legacy in the 1984 Granada Television Documentary series End of Empire (see clip here). The pertinent passage is worth quoting in full:

Narrator: [British colonial governor Sir Hugh] Foot’s friendly gestures to the Greeks only convinced the Turkish Cypriots their protectors had abandoned them. Tension mounted. On the night of the 7th June 1958 the tension suddenly snapped. Cyprus has never recovered from that night.

Denktash: There was an explosion at the Information Bureau of the Turkish Consulate. A crowd had already gathered there, a crowd of Turkish Cypriot youths, and they all almost immediately decided that Greeks had done it and they were swearing vengeance against the Greeks and so on.

Narrator: The explosion started a night of rioting in Nicosia. The Turkish Cypriots burned and looted Greek shops and homes. Soon EOKA counter-attacked and the violence spread around the island. Greek and Turkish families who had always lived as neighbours now moved with all their possessions into separate areas. Partition was fast becoming a reality.

Denktash: Later on, a friend of mine, whose name will still be kept a secret, was to confess to me that that he had put this little bomb in that doorway in order to create an atmosphere of tension so that people would know that the Turkish Cypriots mattered.

Narrator: The fighting raged for three months. More than a hundred were killed.

1. Geunyeli Massacre
The violence reached its climax on 12 June, when thirty-five unarmed Greek Cypriot villagers, including a boy of fourteen, were attacked by Turkish Cypriots in a field near the Turkish Cypriot village of Geunyeli. Eight of them were murdered and mutilated, while another five were seriously wounded. The following are extracts from the findings of the commission of inquiry, appointed by the governor of Cyprus to investigate the incident:

For some days prior to the 12th June, in fact from the 7th June, intercommunal feeling was running very high in the island and there had been many instances of attacks by Turks, particularly in Nicosia, upon members of the Greek community and upon Greek property.

He [Lieut. Baring, Cornet, Royal Horse Guards, one of the first to arrive on the scene] came upon the body of a man he took to be dead – ‘He was cut everywhere and you could not find a piece of flesh that was not.’

It is a fact that this party of thirty-five unarmed Greeks walked into an ambush laid by Turks who had concealed themselves and went into the attack when the [Turkish] motor-cyclists started shooting. As a result four Greeks died on the spot and four died later in hospital; five were severely wounded but survived. The attack was of a most savage nature and the injuries inflicted indicate an extraordinary blood lust.

There is every indication that it was not a haphazard affair, but was arranged in anticipation of these Greeks passing along by where the killers were concealed.

2. Ousting of Greek Cypriots from Omorphita and Other Areas and Movement of Turkish Cypriots to the Northern Part of the Island
For two months the Turkish Cypriot attacks continued: several Greek Cypriots and some Turkish Cypriots were killed and Greek Cypriot properties ransacked or destroyed. Such was the terror instilled in the Greek Cypriot community by the savagery of Turkish aggression that in one week alone six hundred Greek Cypriot families fled from their homes in the old sector of Nicosia, preferring to live in conditions of squalor. Empty houses were immediately seized by Turkish squatters.

During the summer of 1958, Turkish Cypriots drove out seven hundred Greek Cypriots from 170 houses in Omorphita, a mixed suburb of Nicosia, and Turkish flags were placed on them. This was the first instance in which the Turkish policy of separating the two communities and creating territorial division was applied in practice and it became a symbol of the ‘Turkish takeover movement going on all over the island’. As Omorphita was contiguous to the Turkish quarter of Nicosia, Turkish Cypriots from villages in other parts of the island were encouraged to move into the unoccupied houses of the Greek Cypriots, thus expanding the sector of the capital inhabited exclusively by Turkish Cypriots. The Omorphita incident was described as follows [by Nancy Crawshaw in The Cyprus Revolt]:

On 30 June serious clashes broke out between Greeks and Turks at Omorphita, a new suburb on the outskirts of Nicosia. Troops quelled the initial outbreak. But the suburb, with its neighbour Kaimakli, continued to be the centre of intermittent communal friction for many weeks. The sight of a Turkish youth brandishing a knife over the garden wall was sufficient to set off a new wave of panic. Early in July Greek householders were still leaving Omorphita in considerable numbers by lorry. The Turks, convinced that military help from Turkey was imminent and partition a certainty, became very bold. Many of them moved into Greek houses and hoisted the Turkish flag. Troops at the time blamed the authorities for their delay in authorising the curfew. The security forces were now faced with the problem of a head-on clash with the Turks in the attempt to evict them or the virtual toleration of the illegal seizure of Greek houses. The removal of the flags led to fresh incidents and in the circumstances troops were ordered to leave them.

Some Factors Underlying the Turkish Cypriot Acts of Violence
The Turkish Cypriot attacks on the Greek Cypriots in 1956-1958 were the first instance of violence between the two communities. In view of the preceding long history of peaceful coexistence, this cannot but pose questions as to the factors underlying these actions.

It may be too simplistic to ascribe them solely to the pursuit of the objective of partition on the instigation of political leaders. The possibility that other elements, such as the following, played a part must not be overlooked: (1) the lower standard of living of the Turkish Cypriots; (2) the sense of segregation fostered by the fact that they were congregated in separate quarters in the various towns, which also made forays easier; and (3) the fear that enosis might soon become more than an unattainable Greek dream, creating uncertainty and anxiety as to their future.

The above factors may indeed have contributed to the events of that period. However, the intensity of the Turkish Cypriot assaults, their careful preparation and the statements and admissions of their leaders negate the possibility that the attacks were spontaneous eruptions of indignation at the sporadic, isolated killing by EOKA of a Turkish Cypriot serving with the British security forces.

The inevitable conclusion is that these attacks would not have occurred without incitement and direction from Turkey, to mark the initiation by Ankara of a more aggressive policy on the Cyprus Question. Moreover, the patterns adopted were those used during the anti-Greek pogroms in Istanbul and Izmir in September 1955. It is unfortunate that Ankara’s endorsement of violence and the supply of arms to the Turkish Cypriots did not  cease on the conclusion of the Zurich-London agreements in February 1959 but continued after the signing of those agreements, until the achievement of the final goal by the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974.

Lasting effects of Turkish Cypriot Violence Against the Greek Cypriots in 1956-58
The events of 1956-1958 left far deeper and more lasting scars than could have been anticipated. So much distorted publicity has been given by the Turks in later years to the events of 1963-1964, and so much more successful propaganda made out of them, that public opinion has been blinded to the fact that intercommunal strife in Cyprus was initiated as early as 1956 by the Turks themselves, not by Greeks, and that in 1963-1964 the Turks were not – as they have tried to convince the world – merely passive victims of Greek Cypriot violence, but protagonists in the continued pursuit of the Turkish  objective of partition.

In assessing the psychological climate within the Greek Cypriot community in 1963-64, the following factors (emanating from the events of 1956-58 coupled with the divisive and unworkable elements of the 1960 constitution) must be taken into account:

    •    the enduring fear struck in the hearts of the Greek Cypriots by the 1956-1958 Turkish attacks;
    •    the feeling of helplessness and humiliation caused by the fact that one-fifth of the population had succeeded in terrorizing four-fifths;
    •    the loss of life, destruction of property and ousting of hundreds of Greek Cypriots from their homes in Nicosia; and
    •    the realization that the Turkish Cypriots had emerged from the Zurich-London agreements with a manifestly unjust and disproportionate share, which they were quick to exploit to their even greater advantage.

It is important as a matter of historical truth that these facts be remembered.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Cyprus: a Ponzi scheme economy

Below is a pretty good piece from Sofronis Clerides, associate professor of economics at the University of Cyprus and member of the country’s National Economy Council, summing up how Cyprus arrived at the economic crisis currently overwhelming it. Still, even if he is right that Cyprus’ predicament has been exacerbated rather than cured as a result of policy failures at the EU level, it is worth pointing out that as the Cypriot economy has unravelled, a picture of it as a large Ponzi scheme has emerged, in which it is evident that the island’s political, trade union and commercial elites were colluding to gain access to money generated by the island’s banks, pension funds and state-owned companies, taking out or issuing uncollateralized ‘loans’ in order to enrich themselves or their families and friends or in support of pet businesses and organisations, including football clubs, political parties and enterprises linked to political parties. This looting, rather than the misdirected money-laundering and ‘casino economy’ accusations, is the form of corruption that accompanied and characterised Cyprus’ financial boom and made ludicrous Cyprus’ stated aspiration to become the Switzerland of the Mediterranean.

Clerides’ article originally appeared in this collections of papers, Greek Myths and Reality.

Cyprus Pays for Its Own Failures, by Sofronis Clerides

An untimely experiment
In March 2013 Cyprus became the fourth Eurozone country to receive a rescue package from the troika of international lenders. It was perhaps the most controversial of the four agreements because of the ‘bail-in’ element: for the first time, depositor money was to be used to recapitalize banks in trouble. The idea had been quietly discussed in policy circles for many months but its actual implementation in Cyprus came as a surprise to most and caused a stir. The inclusion of secured depositors in the original haircut decision was indeed a stunning outcome that has been subject to serious criticism.

The economic principle behind the bail-in is sound. Rather than being bailed out with state (taxpayer) support, ailing banks must self-finance their capital shortfalls by bailing in bondholders and – if necessary – depositors. This is a move in the right direction, yet there are several reasons why March 15, 2013 was not the right time to begin implementing it:

1. A formal framework for bail-ins did not exist at the time and the decision was applied in Cyprus in a haphazard and improvised manner. For example, there was no distinction between long-term deposits earning high returns and short-term deposits in current accounts. As a result, many companies lost large chunks of their working capital, leading to severe liquidity problems in the daily functioning of the economy. At least, we seem to have learned our lesson: the draft EU directive agreed upon in June has explicit provisions to protect small businesses.

2. Rules must be clear ahead of time. People who deposited their money at the banks were not aware that a bail-in was a policy option.

3. The bail-in was applied to Cyprus’ two systemic banks and effectively decimated the country’s banking sector.

4. Cypriot banks are deposit-based and had very few outstanding bonds. As a result, the burden fell almost exclusively on unsuspecting depositors.

5. There was no prior assessment of the impact of the bail-in on the Cyprus economy.

The economic consequences of the bail-in are nothing short of catastrophic. Total depositor losses have been estimated at around €8.3 billion, or 46% of GDP (€17.9 billion in 2012). The financial and business services sector that had been the most important growth engine for the Cypriot economy for the last several years has been crippled and there is nothing on the horizon to pick up the slack. It may take years to rebuild the image and credibility of Cyprus and develop new export sectors. The decision to shrink the banking sector to half its size overnight has resulted in a liquidity crunch that will stifle growth prospects for the short to medium term. Most analysts expect a contraction of 20-25% over the next three years. Unemployment was already at 15% prior to the haircut and is bound to rise well above 20%.

Did Cyprus really deserve this? Why was such a blunt and untested instrument used with little apparent regard for its tremendous social cost? Was there no alternative path that would provide Cyprus with the necessary support in a manner consistent with EU principles but without causing so much social disruption?

Ring-fencing Greece
Europe should have shown more solidarity towards Cyprus. It could have recognized the fact that the economic woes of Cyprus were to a large extent due to Europe’s poor handling of the Greek crisis, including the mistimed haircut of Greek government bonds that cost Cypriot banks €4.5 billion (25% of GDP). The prolonged recession in Greece hurt Cypriot banks even more as they had extensive operations in Greece. Cypriot banks in Greece were in effect Greek banks, one of them being actually managed by a Greek group. It would have been justified to make provisions for capitalizing the Greek operations of Cypriot banks the same way that Greek banks were capitalized after the losses they took as a result of the Greek haircut.

On the contrary, Cyprus was doubly penalized. When the depositor bail-in was put on the table, the troika insisted that deposits in Cypriot banks in Greece should be exempt. The intent was clear. After a long and painful slog, the Greek economy was finally beginning to turn around. The last thing the troika wanted was to see the Greek banking system implode as a result of the bail-in of Cypriot banks. Thus, the solution adopted was to exempt Greek deposits from the haircut. It may have protected Greece but at the expense of depositors in Cyprus. Furthermore, the troika insisted that Greek operations of Cypriot banks be sold off to Greek banks, thus leading to an indirect transfer on top of the big losses already incurred because of the crisis in Greece. Thus in trying to save Greece and also cut off any transmission mechanism to the rest of the Eurozone, Europe decided to offload the cost to Cyprus – and many people think it is rather unfair.

A faulty model?
Many people have criticized the existence within Europe of low-tax jurisdictions, such as Cyprus, that serve as financial and business centers. Germany in particular has long been in favor of tax harmonization across Europe. The German finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, stated on several occasions that Cyprus model had failed and the country needed to chart a new course, while French finance minister, Pierre Moscovici, went so far as to call Cyprus ‘a casino economy’.

What exactly was the Cypriot business model? In the aftermath of the Turkish invasion that devastated the island’s economy, Cyprus decided to fashion itself as a financial and business center. The main attraction was a low corporate tax rate for international businesses, complemented by a good location and climate, a common law-based legal framework and the high quality services provided by UK-educated accountants and lawyers. This was highly successful and the sector became the most important growth engine, especially after Cyprus joined the EU in 2004. This growth was accompanied by a large expansion of the banking sector to nine times GDP in 2009. The rapid expansion of the banking sector caused problems. Armed with plentiful liquidity, the banks financed business and consumer loans, a construction boom in Cyprus and rapid expansion abroad, especially in Greece, where they created extensive branch networks and invested in government bonds. Ex-ante, the expansion abroad could have been part of a well-designed diversification strategy. Ex-post, it turned into a disaster as exposure to the Greek economy brought the banks to their knees.

Given the outcome, it is easy to concur with the conclusion that the model has failed (though it is still difficult to come to terms with the ‘casino economy’ reference). But it is important to understand exactly where the failure lies. Cyprus failed in letting its banking sector get too large and expand too quickly and recklessly. This does not render the strategy of a country specializing in the provision of business services as a failure. For the last twenty years Cyprus has invested in building an infrastructure that is designed to serve the needs of the international business community. It has established itself as a place where one can receive high quality accounting, legal and other business services at competitive rates. Many other countries, including several European ones, have followed similar strategies. There is nothing legally or morally wrong with being a business center, as long as the rules are followed and the banks are kept under tight control.

Did Cyprus follow the rules? In the months leading up to the March 2013 decision, the German press painted a picture of Cyprus as a laundering center for the ill-gotten gains of Russian oligarchs. This created a negative political climate and provided the moral justification for the country’s harsh treatment. Is there any truth to these allegations? Cyprus had in fact acquired a bad reputation for money-laundering in the 1990s. But in preparing for EU accession, it completely revamped its regulatory framework to meet European standards. International organizations like Moneyval rated Cyprus equally high with many other European countries for its anti-money laundering (AML) procedures. A more in-depth investigation specially commissioned by the troika pointed out weaknesses in the implementation of AML procedures in Cyprus but did not uncover anything that would justify shutting down the country’s international business sector.

Cyprus is perhaps paying for old sins and for electoral brinksmanship in other countries. The irony is that by recapitalizing the Bank of Cyprus using depositor money, the Eurogroup has handed ownership of the bank to its big depositors - purportedly those same Russian oligarchs! In reality, the vast majority of Russians with money in Cyprus are said to be owners of small and medium sized businesses rather than oligarchs (should we call them polyarchs?), while big depositors include many Cypriot pension funds, provident funds, and 401k-type investment plans who saw their savings wiped out.

Too high a price
Cyprus has made many mistakes. It allowed its banking sector to get too large and to expand quickly and recklessly abroad. It indulged in a decade of over-borrowing and over-consumption. When the international crisis first hit in 2008, it failed to appreciate the extent of the possible repercussions. Even after the Greek debt restructuring, the Cypriot government seemed oblivious to the blatantly obvious and failed to take any meaningful corrective action.

It is now time to pay the bill for these mistakes. This is perfectly acceptable, except that the bill is unjustifiably high. Cyprus is not paying just for its own mistakes. It is paying for a series of policy mistakes committed by the EU over the handling of the debt crisis. It is paying for the fact that it is small and thus can serve both as a testing ground and as an example to other profligate countries. This may be an instructive tool and an effective disciplining approach, but it hardly abides by the principles of fairness and solidarity espoused by the European Union. As it watches yet another European country sink into depression, the EU needs to take a long, hard look in the mirror.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Eradicating the past: Turkey’s assault on the cultural heritage of Cyprus

It’s worth watching the video above of the recent Lobby for Cyprus seminar held here in London, which looked at Turkey’s systematic attempt to wipe out the Greek and Christian culture of occupied Cyprus and the efforts to save and restore whatever can be saved and restored. I slightly take issue with Lobby’s wording in describing the seminar, since Turkey’s assault has not been on Cyprus’ ‘past’ or the island’s ‘heritage’. Churches, monasteries, cemeteries, etc, were, and still are, an animated expression of Cypriot culture and Turkey’s assault has not been on antiquarian monuments and sites but on a living and breathing civilisation. Below is Lobby for Cyprus’ press release for the seminar. Go here to sign the online petition to UNESCO to protest Turkey’s barbarism and misanthropy in Cyprus.

Eradicating the past: Turkey’s assault on the cultural heritage of Cyprus
The annual Lobby for Cyprus seminar at Theatro Technis, London, took place on 17 July 2013. The Kyriacos Christodoulou memorial seminar, so-called after Lobby’s founder, was entitled ‘Eradicating the past: Turkey’s assault on the cultural heritage of Cyprus’.

The evening began with a specially composed piece by noted composer and performer Nikos Savvides entitled ‘Keryneia Eleftheria’ (‘Freedom for Kyrenia’). This was followed by a reading of the poem ‘Keryneia kai neropontes’ (‘Kyrenia and heavy rain’) by noted poet Panayiota Zeniou.

Chairman Nick Kounoupias from Lobby opened up the seminar by reminding the audience that Turkey had perpetrated what constitutes a genocide in occupied Cyprus and as with every genocide it followed the same pattern. First a pretext was used to launch an attack on the island, then massive and well documented ethnic cleansing took place accompanied by horrific atrocities against the civilian population, third the Turks inflicted cultural destruction upon the religious and cultural identity of the Christians and Greeks Cypriots and finally they denied that any of this has happened, bought dodgy academics to re-write history and lied again about the past. This was the pattern that Turkey had used in the Armenian genocide, the Pontiac genocide, the Smyrna Greek genocide, and the Assyrian genocide. The fate of another weaker neighbour or non-Turkish indigenous group, the Greek Cypriots, was no different.

The first speaker was the Mayor of Kyrenia Glafkos Kariolou. He gave an excellent slide presentation: ‘Cultural destruction: recovery and protection – the Kyrenian approach’ in which he highlighted the Greek and Christian heritage of his town and placed the comparatively recent presence of the vandalism in context. Thirty-nine years of vandalism could not destroy 2,000 years of Hellenic culture. Glafkos emphasised that presenting accurately and scientifically the destruction inflicted by Turkey on Cyprus is of paramount importance. Glafkos specifically referred to the fact that the church of St George of upper Kyrenia was saved in 1974 as a few elderly Greek Cypriot ladies and their families together with 20 or 30 Turkish Cypriot Kyrenians prevented the interior of the church from being vandalised and looted by the Turkish military. The exterior was however badly damaged and it was not until 2007 that it was finally repaired by Greek Cypriots under the supervision of a Turkish Cypriot architect.

Tasoula Hadjitofi was introduced as a living legend and her presentation ‘Trafficking cultural heritage is trading a nation’s soul’ showed why. Tasoula explained how when she was based in the Netherlands as Honorary Consul for the Republic of Cyprus she worked over many years from the Hague to trace, identify and recover stolen icons and other religious treasures. Her most notable success was the recovery of the Kanakaria Mosaics. She enlisted the help of a notorious art dealer Michel van Rijn to help locate these treasures and this culminated in a series of raids in Munich to seize the stolen art works. Tasoula explained that she still works on fighting art trafficking and creating alternative ways of repatriation. She is founder of ‘Walk of Truth’, an independent non-profit NGO which aims to protect cultural heritage and provide a platform for dialogue between people living in areas of conflict.

Next up was Jim Karygiannis the Canadian MP for Scarborough-Agincourt and strong associate of Lobby over many years. He reminded the audience of the power that they have to effect change by pressurising their elected representatives in parliament. He also told the audience about the meeting he had earlier this year with officials from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to discuss the unacceptable state of affairs as regards Turkey’s destruction of the religious and cultural history of Cyprus.

Finally the audience heard from Costas Frangeskides of Lobby who spoke about how despite there being in existence a legal framework to punish Turkey for its vandalism, that little had been done to this end. However the law was there and it was up to us to pressure states, including the government of the Republic of Cyprus, to use it to punish Turkey.

There then followed a question and answer session to round off what all agreed was a very interesting seminar with exceptional speakers.

For further information:

Friday, 2 August 2013

Greece and Cyprus amid the turmoil of Eastern Mediterranean geopolitics, and the prospects of a settlement of the Cyprus issue

I was reading this long piece by Panayiotis Ifestos on recent developments in the geopolitics of the Eastern Mediterranean, in which the professor of international relations makes a plea for Greece to pull its finger out, reverse Constantinos Karamanlis’ ‘Cyprus is too far away’ doctrine and more actively engage in the region, not only for Cyprus’ sake but for Greece’s too – the security of the two Greek states are, of course, interdependent.

I was also reading a report from the American Enterprise Institute – the prominent US conservative think tank, whose associates and reflections strongly influence the Republican Party’s foreign policy. Will the Eastern Mediterranean become the next Persian Gulf? argues that Turkey – mainly because of its increasing hostility to Israel – is becoming an unreliable partner to American interests in the region, and suggests that Cyprus and Greece could form part of a US-led ‘Eastern Mediterranean Defense Partnership’.

The report states:
‘The US Department of State and Pentagon might also negotiate a naval security site in Limassol, Cyprus. The British maintain a Permanent Joint Headquarter in 98-square-mile Sovereign Base Areas in Akrotiri – close to Limassol – and in Dhekelia, which they use for electronic intelligence gathering and communications.

‘Greece and Britain could join a US-led “Eastern Mediterranean Defense Partnership” designed to ensure Israel’s and Cyprus’ exploration rights and seaborne defense against threats from nearby littoral states and terrorism from the Middle East. It is essential that the US government convince Greece and Cyprus that the United States, United Kingdom, and Israel can guarantee their diplomatic and economic interests more than Russia and the Arab Middle East.’
I make no assessment on whether it’s in Greece and Cyprus’ interests to become so entwined with the USA, UK and Israel, just note that incorporating Cyprus and Greece into right-wing US strategic thinking is quite a change.

A couple more points on Ifestos’ piece:

He expresses concern that the economic crisis affecting Cyprus will so weaken it that a new Annan plan will be imposed. This is an exaggeration. It should be remembered that the 2004 Annan plan only emerged because Greece and, following Athens’ recommendation, Cyprus accepted a particular procedure involving binding UN arbitration, expecting the UN to put forward an even-handed settlement rather than the disgraceful concoction it came up with. The Annan plan expressed an ethos and contained provisions that no Cypriot government would have freely negotiated, in which case unless Cyprus accepts a similar arbitration process – and, given the experience of 2004, this is extremely unlikely – then a settlement like the Annan plan cannot be imposed on Greek Cypriots. Similarly, the particular strategic alignment in 2004, in which the USA, UK and Israel were content to dismantle the Republic of Cyprus and allow Turkey to exert itself in the Eastern Mediterranean, no longer applies, with skepticism over Turkey’s long-term ambitions in the region prevailing.

More generally, I remain doubtful that the new round of Cyprus talks scheduled for October will produce a settlement. It seems to me that Turkey believes that because of the economic crisis in Cyprus and because President Anastasiades campaigned in favour of the Annan plan in 2004, then there exists another opportunity to arrive at a deal, like the Annan plan, in which all of Turkey’s strategic objectives on Cyprus are fulfilled.

However, Turkey exaggerates Cyprus’ weakness and puts too much store in Anastasiades’ support for the Annan plan. Anastasiades favoured the plan not because he regarded it as fair and just, but because he (mistakenly, as it transpired) believed that the consequences of the Greek side rejecting it would be international recognition of the ‘TRNC’ and the formalisation of partition. Indeed, there currently exists no pressing need for the Greek side to accept a settlement on Turkey’s terms. In fact, it could be argued that Cyprus should resist any deal for the time being, since there are signs, as indicated by the AEI report mentioned above, that Turkey’s strategic hand is weakening and Greece and Cyprus’ improving. In this scenario, with its value as an energy hub and reliable ally to US and Israeli interests upgraded, Cyprus will be in a much better position regarding the terms of a Cyprus settlement it is able to insist on than it is now and has been for a while.

It’s also worth reminding ourselves, as mentioned in Ifestos’ piece, of how Turkey views Cyprus. In his tome outlining the principles of neo-Ottomanism, Strategic Depth: the international position of Turkey, that country’s foreign minister Ahmet Davoutoglu makes clear neo-Ottomanism’s belief that Cyprus has to exist within Turkey’s orbit.
‘Even if there was not one single Muslim Turk there [Cyprus], Turkey would have to maintain a Cyprus question. No country could be indifferent to an island like this, positioned at the heart of its Lebensraum [living space]. The same applies to the Dodecanese islands, where there no longer exists a significant Turkish population, but which continue to retain their importance for Turkey. As the USA has no population projection regarding Cuba or the other islands in Caribbean and yet retains an interest in the region, so Turkey is obliged from a strategic point of view to take an interest in Cyprus, regardless of any human factor.’
Given Turkey’s unrelenting view that Cyprus belongs in its sphere of influence, then it is hard to imagine Turkey, in the near future, making the kind of concessions that would make a settlement acceptable to the Greek side.