By Jean Christou
The remains of two Turkish Cypriot men murdered and buried in their car in a charcoal pit outside Kyrenia on Christmas Day 1963 have been uncovered during excavations by the Committee on Missing Persons (CMP), the ‘foreign ministry’ in the north said in a release on Monday.
The remains were found after information was passed to the CMP by one of the Greek Cypriots who was said to be involved in the incident and who, according to reports in the Turkish Cypriot media, is now 85 years old.
The development was confirmed to the Cyprus Mail by a source close to the CMP who said that as far as he knew, they had not even removed the remains from site yet. It was not possible to reach the Greek Cypriot member of the CMP.
According to the release from the Turkish Cypriot ‘foreign ministry’, Şevket Kadir and İbrahim Nidai had been stopped and arrested at a Greek barricade while they were returning to Kyrenia from Lapithos on December 25, 1963 – during the intercommunal troubles. They were murdered and never seen or heard from again until their remains were found during excavations at Ayios Georgios, then a small village some 5km west of Kyrenia, which today is a suburb of the sprawling town.
“After Kadir and Nidai were murdered by Greek Cypriots they were thrown into a ‘gamini’ (charcoal pit) with their vehicle, and covered with soil,” the news release said. According to Turkish Cypriot media, it took CMP personnel a week to find the buried car. The Greek Cypriot who gave the information to the CMP was originally from Ayios Georgios, reports said.
The ‘foreign ministry’ statement also quoted the son of Şevket Kadir, Salahi Uçkan, who was three when his father went missing and was watching the excavations reportedly said: “It is like my father died again today”.
According to official CMP figures, the number of missing Greek Cypriots is 1,508, and Turkish Cypriots 493, most of whom disappeared between 1963 and the 1974 Turkish invasion. The number of identified remains returned to their families stands at 451 Greek Cypriots and 144 Turkish Cypriots.
Last Tuesday, fresh efforts were underway in the north to locate a mass grave thought to contain the bodies of dozens of Greek Cypriots missing since 1974. This is the 12th attempt to locate the mass grave in question. The excavation is being carried out in the area of Trahonas in Nicosia. The case concerns Greek Cypriots killed in the Nicosia areas of Kaimakli, Trahonas, and Omorphita in July 1974.
In 1977, Turkey filed a document at the Council of Europe that around 200 bodies had been collected by Turkish Cypriot forces from those areas, loaded on trucks and taken to the Ledra Palace hotel to be handed over to the Greek Cypriot side for burial. But the bodies were not received and were eventually buried in a mass grave, the document claimed.
This has never been confirmed and the Turkish side has since revised the number downwards. CMP information suggests between 40 and 45 Greek Cypriots were buried in the area. Turkish Cypriot CMP member Gulden Plumer Kucuk said the excavation near the central prison started with the permission of the Turkish military.
Presidential Commissioner for Humanitarian Affairs Fotis Fotiou on Monday said efforts to convince Turkey to cooperate on the issue of missing persons needed to be intensified.
Fotiou was speaking after a meeting with representatives from the Cyprus Federation of America, currently in Cyprus
for their World Conference, which begins on Tuesday and ends on Thursday in Nicosia.
“Now is the time to intensify our efforts, especially in America, to convince Turkey to cooperate on a humanitarian issue,” he said. He added that 41 years was too long, and Turkey needed to give permission to the CMP to proceed with exhumations in more military areas.
He also said the Turkish army should provide information to facilitate the work of the CMP. “We want to support the work of the CMP because it is through the CMP that we can solve this humanitarian issue,” he said.