By Philippos Stylianou
I GAVE A lot of thought as to whether I should respond to my old Enosis colleague and dear friend Loucas Charalambous who, in a recent comment in the Sunday Mail, tried to justify the secret Turkish Cypriot designs in 1963 to break away from the newly founded Republic of Cyprus and set up a separate entity.
In the end – rather than continue harping on the deliberate myth of “bad Greeks-poor Turks” as Loucas Charalambous, of all people, is doing – I decided that setting the record straight about what happened back then is in the interest of permanent peace on the island. For no solution, however firm and elaborate it might be, can last if one of the parties feels that the other has wronged, cheated, compelled or humiliated it. I shall come back to this but first I want to refer to Charalambous’ analysis (sic) of the subversive Turkish Cypriot plan, dated September 14, 1963 and signed by the leaders of the Turkish Cypriot community, Fazil Kutchuk and Rauf Denktash, both high officials of the Republic of Cyprus at the time.
Charalambous asserts, without offering any proof, that this plan for the violent break-up of the Republic was meant to counter existing hostile Greek plans against the Turks and further maintains that everything the Turks did in Cyprus was a reaction to Greek Cypriot aggression. “When there is a quarrel, the responsibility belongs to the one who started it,” he writes.
The writer’s views and arguments have been savaged by many website commentators, who proved themselves better informed than Charalambous by showing things to be the other way around through the use of audiovisual documents. A much earlier though undated, Turkish Cypriot secret document found in the Turkish Cypriot Agriculture Minister Fazil Plumer’s office explicitly sets out the joint partitionist policy of the Turkish Cypriot leadership and Ankara, and there are sensational confessions by the perpetrators themselves. You see, when the Turks realised that they had pulled it off and there was no way for the Greeks to redress the situation, they began jointly and severally to speak out and claim historical laurels.
Rauf Denktash for one, the “secret” political leader of the TMT organisation, revealed in an interview that it was he who gave the order for a bomb to be planted at the Turkish Information Office in Nicosia as early as June 2, 1958, in order to blame it on the Greek Cypriots and start a pogrom against them under the protective indifference of the British colonial government. That was the beginning of the refugee problem in Cyprus, since hundreds of Greek Cypriot families were then expelled from their homes by the fanatical Turkish mob. Denktash also revealed that the blowing up of the Bairaktar and Omeriye mosques on March 25, 1962 was the work of his men and not that of the Greek Cypriots as had been thought for decades. Charalambous is forgetful of these incidents, although his memory does not fail him when it comes to an alleged Greek Cypriot provocation in December 1963. Indeed, he displays total amnesia about events that clearly prove who started it first in Cyprus.
Even the declaration of independence was stalled for some time because on October 18, 1959 the Turks were caught red-handed smuggling arms and ammunition to Cyprus on a naval craft converted into a fishing boat. The crew of three, sergeant-major Resat Yavus of the Turkish army and two staff of the Turkish Defence Ministry, were sentenced to one year imprisonment by the British who still ran Cyprus as a colony. The last act of the British governor Sir Hugh Foot before leaving the island was to expel all three, back to Turkey to continue their gun-running. They were not the only ones, of course. According to the Turkish daily Milliyet (June 11, 1995) between January 1959 and September 1960, enough arms had been smuggled into the island to equip 5,000 Turkish Cypriots.
In the face of these revelations, it looks historically safer to say that it was the Turks who started it first and not the Greek Cypriots who were reacting to Turkish acts and designs.
On a personal note, I was not here during the 1963-1964 events. In mid-1961, my father had a row with a Turkish Cypriot colleague of his, who made a throat-slitting gesture and told him: “The time is drawing nigh for you Christians!” My father told his family there was going to be trouble and at Easter 1962 we all went to London. We stayed for 11 years, returning in time for the Turkish invasion.
The military and political plan outlined in Plumer’s document did not only turn against the Greek Cypriots, but also against those Turkish Cypriots who might oppose them. For starters, it passed the death sentence on two outspoken critics of the Turkish Cypriot leadership, Aihan Hikmet and Ahmet Gurkan, editors of the local Cumhuriyet newspaper: “If they don’t believe in the existence of the national cause, they must be silenced,” decreed the Turkish Cypriot plan. And silenced they were with a hail of bullets on April 23, 1962 when they promised to publish the names of those who had been blowing up the mosques. The catalogue of opponents thus silenced is a long one and spans not only the early years of independence but subsequent ones up to recent times: Greek Cypriot Costas Misiaoulis and Turkish Cypriot Dervis Kavazoglou, fellow trade unionists, were shot dead in their car on April 11, 1965; Greek Cypriot Kurdish activist Theofilos Georgiades was assassinated on March 20, 1994 and Turkish Cypriot journalist Kudlu Adali on July 6, 1996, to name the most important ones.
One of the things that struck me on reading bloggers’ comments in the Cyprus Mail is how impermeable some Turkish Cypriots are to hard evidence about the darker side of their history. Yet they don’t lack reason or sensitivity. A few years ago they were shocked when a Turkish actor, Attila Olgac, described on television how during the 1974 invasion he shot Greek Cypriot POWs with their hands tied behind their backs. Likewise in 2009 when the film Guz Sancisi (Autumn Sorrow) about the pogrom against the Greeks of Constantinople in 1955 was screened, the audiences came out of the cinemas with tears in their eyes, saying they never thought their fathers could do things like that.
It is high time the Turkish Cypriots found the honesty and the courage to articulate audibly and solemnly their remorse and regret for the ills the expansionist policy of Turkey and the partitionist policy of their leaders have brought to this island. It is their turn to apologise to the Greek Cypriots if they really mean to live in peace with them. For if they choose to stick to the myth that they are the victims, it will only be an excuse for them to continue occupying our houses and properties. On account of the Greek Cypriots the Turkish Cypriots became free citizens in 1960 and European citizens in 2004. They are wrong if they believe they can now become a state by themselves. All they will have achieved if they persist in this course is to become perpetual usurpers.
Unfortunately, people like Loucas Charalambous are not helping them make the right decision.