Sunday, 13 August 2017

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 This gradually superseded KATAK, which was finally dissolved in 1949.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.