Cyprus Mail
CM Regular ColumnistOpinion

A stubborn refusal to accept the truth

Vassos Lyssarides, among those holding fast to the official version of 1963-64

By Loucas Charalambous

A DOCUMENTARY, broadcast by the CyBC on March 3, that did not subscribe to the official version of the bi-communal clashes of 1963 sparked a hostile reaction by some of our super-patriotic countrymen.

The reaction was to be expected. For decades these critics of the official version had been watching Vassos Lyssarides, Nicos Koshis, Christodoulos Christodoulou and other self-styled captains of the ‘Akritas organisation’ speaking on TV programmes about their heroic feats of the time, and these captains would never accept the telling of painful truths.

They resort to a rather simplistic line of argument, going back to the EOKA period so they can blame TMT, the Turkish Cypriot paramilitary organisation that opposed the struggle for Enosis; they cite Turkish documents and strategy plans. Yet these facts are not disputed by anyone, not even the Turkish Cypriots.

If you ask Turkish Cypriots why they were organising themselves, you will probably get the same explanation I was given when in 2003 I asked a Turkish Cypriot who had been an officer in the Cyprus police force. This is what he said: “What should we have done? Your policemen, when we finished work at the station, would take their guns with them when they left. We would hear one say to the other, ‘don’t forget your gun because we have training in the afternoon’.”

I recommend to those who did not like the contents of the CyBC show, to take the time to read our side’s documents and plans of that time. They are very interesting and quite entertaining as they considered the crushing of any Turkish reaction as foregone conclusion.

Yet they don’t deal with the substance of the issue. What is it? Regardless of what happened before, at some point we signed agreements for the establishment of a state that came into being in August 1960. Who dissolved this state? Was it not Archbishop Makarios who, immediately after its establishment, started working at the scrapping of the agreements despite Turkey’s opposition and Greece’s warnings? Greece in fact had been urging him since April 1963 to stop the brinkmanship.

Was it not Makarios who refused to implement the provision for separate municipalities, a provision he had insisted was included in the original agreements despite Greece’s objections? Was it not Makarios – the head of state – who was subverting the state in the foolish way described in the Akritas plan of which he was the ‘invisible leader’ according to Koshis and Christodoulou?

And who had sparked the armed conflict at Christmas 1963? The Turks? Was it not interior minister Polycarpos Yiorkadjis who instigated it, by giving orders for the placing of a bomb at the bust of Markos Drakos, 18 days earlier? Former officer, Takis Chrysafis testified that he heard Yiorkadjis giving the order.

Consequently we cannot claim that the explosion was an “alleged (Greek Cypriot) provocation” as someone wrote. The truth is that the Turkish side did not take action aimed at the dissolution of the state, it let us do it. And what TMT or we did five years earlier is beside the point. This is the substance of the whole issue and it makes me wonder what purpose is served by our stubborn refusal to accept the truth.

One of the arguments used by the leaders of Akritas is the following: How could we have started the armed conflict considering we had very few guns while the Turks were armed to the teeth? This merits two answers.

First: we were both incompetent and irresponsible if we could be preparing, for two years, for armed conflict and when the time came for the fighting we realised we did not have any weapons. What sort of military organisation was this? Lyssarides was not exaggerating when he said that after the first gun-shots its members ran away.

Second: on January 21, 1964, the Swiss head of the Red Cross mission in Cyprus that was searching for missing persons said that 25 Greek Cypriots and 250 Turkish Cypriots had been reported as missing to his mission. How did we manage, without guns, to cause the disappearance of 250 Turkish Cypriots, while the much better armed Turks only managed one tenth of that number of Greek Cypriots.

One supporter of the Akritas plan proposed an excellent idea for achieving reconciliation. The Turkish Cypriots, he said, should find the courage to apologise to the Greek Cypriots and ask for forgiveness “if they really mean it when they say they want to live in peace with us.”

I agree. It is a wonderful idea and I have personally started putting it into practice asking my Turkish Cypriot friends and acquaintances (I have many) to apologise to us. In fact I have even been asking them to apologise for the placing of the bomb at the Marcos Drakos statue, because this is also a demand of the friend who came up with the idea.

I know it may sound strange, but many Turkish Cypriots promised that for the sake of peace, they would even apologise for the bomb.

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