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School visits to Grivas hideout spark controversy

Grivas with Archbishop Makarios

By George Psyllides

Communist AKEL has asked the education ministry to withdraw a circular listing places for schools to visit because it included the hideout of EOKA leader Georgios Grivas, a controversial figure viewed in Cyprus as a hero and villain at the same time.

AKEL took issue because Grivas, also known by his nom de guerre Dighenis, later led the EOKA B paramilitary organisation, which many blame for the ills suffered by the island.

EOKA was a Greek Cypriot organisation that took up arms against British colonial rule between 1955 and 1959 with the ultimate aim of uniting the island with Greece.

Cyprus gained independence in 1960 but failed to unite with Greece, something that did not go down well with Grivas, who ended up being at odds with president Makarios.

Grivas left Cyprus but returned in 1964 and took over command of the National Guard during the intercommunal strife with the Turkish Cypriots.

He was recalled by Greece in 1967 but returned to the island in 1971 forming EOKA B, a paramilitary organisation, which waged a bloody campaign for union, or Enosis, with Greece.

Grivas died of heart failure at the age of 75 on January 27, 1974 while hiding in a house in Limassol.

Makarios was overthrown by an Athens-backed coup in July that year.

“We think these visits should be avoided; we honour a man who created an illegal, paramilitary organisation to overthrow the lawfully elected president,” AKEL leader Andros Kyprianou said. “A man who prepared the grounds for the coup, and I think an education system and a state that respects itself cannot honour such personalities.”

Kyprianou was speaking after a meeting with Education Minister Costas Kadis.

He added that it was a paradox, “to say the least” for a “democratic country to honour people who took up arms against democracy.”

Kadis defended the ministry’s circular, saying lists that included visits to the EOKA leader’s hideout had been issued repeatedly in the past, even when AKEL was in power.

“The thinking behind these visits is connected to Dighenis’ role during the EOKA struggle and that is why a visit to the hideout is included in the circular and the museum, which includes exhibits linked to the struggle, and has nothing to do with anything else,” Kadis said.

Responding to the minister, Kyprianou said a similar circular had been issued during the Tassos Papadopoulos administration, in which AKEL participated, and the party had reacted in the same “very strong way.”

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