Cyprus Mail
CM Regular Columnist Opinion

Paying the price for the questions we never asked

Greek coup leader Colonel George Papadopoulos, centre, makes a toast with his feared security chief Dimitris Ioannides

By George Koumoullis

What troubles the Turkish Cypriots is not the territorial integrity of Cyprus but their physical safety, and that’s why they insist on guarantees

IT IS VERY likely that our disregard for Turkish Cypriot psychology could be the root of the Cyprus problem.  It’s a disregard that derives from our education which, at least in the past, exhaustively cultivated the paralysis of knowledge and judgement. While it obsequiously praised the fascist dictatorships of Metaxas, Papadopoulos and Ioannides, it also promoted prejudice and hostility towards the Turkish Cypriots.

Before we started the struggle for enosis, the Turkish Cypriots frequently expressed their fear, if not revulsion, for the process. The slogan ‘taksim (partition) or death’ reverberated at all the rallies of the Turkish Cypriots.

Did we ever care to find out why they had been taken over by a passion for partition? Did we ever care to explore in depth the reasons for their fear of enosis? Did we ever care to re-assure our compatriots that the ethnic cleansing which took place in Crete when it was united with Greece (incidentally, this was the main source of their fears) would not have been repeated in Cyprus, if and when enosis took place? The answer to these questions is a resounding ‘no’, and this arrogance and disdain pushed the Turkish Cypriots into the arms of Turkey.

The decision for the armed struggle of 1955 was taken secretly from the Turkish Cypriots, who made up almost 20 per cent of the population. Yet the Turkish Cypriot intelligentsia may have been able to persuade us that enosis was a maximalist aim because Turkey would on no account have consented to the union of Cyprus with Greece. They may have even warned us, prophetically, that the pursuit of this aim – which was finally implemented on July 15, 1974 – would lead to tragedy.

On the thorny issue of the guarantees we seem set on committing the same mistake we made with our brilliant idea for an armed struggle in 1955. The president of the Republic, the president of the House and the party leaders have presented impeccable studies to explain why a modern state does not need guarantor powers. If these studies were presented to a university review committee consisting of professors and experts of political science, all the academics – even Turkish ones – would award full marks.

But this impressive mark would have meant nothing to the Turkish Cypriots because the study did not take into account their psychology. What troubles the Turkish Cypriots is not the territorial integrity of Cyprus but their physical integrity. All those who are aware of the events that took place between 1963 and ’74 fully understand their fear.

As the renowned Irish statesman Edmund Burke said, “no passion so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear”. Therefore we should not expect an automatic convergence of views on the issue of guarantees. As justified as we are in not wanting to live under the sword of Damocles wielded by Turkey, the Turkish Cypriots are as justified in seeking the safeguarding of their security with some form of guarantees.

The tragic events of the 1963-’74 period left indelible marks on the memories of many Turkish Cypriots – some of them, in order to save their skins, were forced to abandon their houses which our ‘fighters’, combining business with pleasure, plundered.  Some other villages,  Mathiatis for example, had their houses plundered and then set on fire. Other Turkish Cypriots had relatives or friends who were murdered (I will not go into this now) and know that the killers roam free in the south.

We therefore need to show understanding for the psychology of those who suffered, just as they need to show understanding of our fears after what we suffered in the Turkish invasion.

Consequently, there is a sticking point. How do we escape from this labyrinth? Bearing in mind the Turkish Cypriots do not trust the EU or the UN to guarantee their security (this was made clear by the negotiator Ozdil Nami) one solution would be to accept guarantees for a period of time (for instance 20 to 30 years) after which they would be phased out.

The expectation is that the peaceful co-existence of the two federal states would, in the meantime, render the Turkish guarantee non-applicable and therefore redundant. In addition to this, there is the possibility that by then Turkey would be a full member of the EU and, by definition, fully respect human rights, in which case trust between the two communities would be strengthened to such a degree that the treaty of guarantee would become a dead letter.

Dead letters feature in the constitutions of many countries. For instance, Britons are not at all worried that their queen formally has super powers concentrated in her hands. According to the letter of the British constitution, the monarch has the power to dissolve parliament and the political parties, sack the prime minister and establish a dictatorship. But in practice, the queen, without exception, acts according to the wishes of the prime minister, which is why the British never worry about their human rights.


George Koumoullis is an economist and social scientist

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