Saturday, 3 June 2017

Political activities of Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots, 1945-1958. Part Five: Denktash admits Turks initiated intercommunal violence

Here is part five in the series I’m posting from Stella Soulioti’s Fettered Independence: Cyprus, 1878-1964. In this excerpt, Soulioti describes the admission in 1984 by Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash that Turkish Cypriots were responsible for a false flag incident in 1958 – the planting of a bomb outside a Turkish consulate building in Nicosia – that triggered a wave of anti-Greek violence across the island and irreparably damaged intercommunal relations. Denktash’s admission was made on UK TV’s Cyprus: Britain’s Grim Legacy, and the relevant clip from the programme is above.

Read parts one, two, three and four in the series.

On Rauf Denktash and Turkish political consciousness, go here.

Denktash reveals that 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 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. 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.

(Part Six to follow).

Read the entire series in one post here.