Former foreign minister Erato Kozakou-Markoullis defended on Thursday her decision to issue a public apology for the killings of more than 200 Turkish Cypriots by the EOKA B paramilitary organisation in the villages of Aloda, Maratha, Sandalaris and Tochni on August 14, 1974.
The apology, which she published on her Facebook profile in Greek, English, and Turkish on Tuesday, followed the funeral the previous day, of 33 Turkish Cypriot Tochni residents who had been murdered back in 1974, and whose remains were identified by the Committee on Missing Persons (CMP).
The funeral, which took place in Nicosia, in the north, was attended by Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci.
“I feel the need to express a sincere public apology to our Turkish Cypriot compatriots for the horrific crimes committed on August 14, 1974 by EOKA B extremists against 126 women and children in the villages of Aloa, Maratha and Sandalaris, and 85 civilian men (including a boy of 12 years) from the village of Tochni,” Markoullis’ post said.
The villages of Sandalaris, Maratha, and Aloda, inhabited entirely by Turkish Cypriots, were located next to each other in the Famagusta district. It is believed that the shooters came from the neighbouring village of Peristeronopigi.
The men of the three villages had been rounded up and sent to Limassol on July 20, the day Turkey invaded the island.
Unfortunately, she said, no investigation has been conducted during the past 42 years by the official state of the Republic of Cyprus to unravel the truth behind these crimes and none of the culprits has been brought to justice. She added that “we cannot turn a blind eye to the crimes committed by our own extremists and fascists against civilians and innocent Turkish Cypriots”.
“It is time to finally establish a Truth Commission for effectively ascertaining the truth behind the recent Cyprus tragedy, because without the truth there will be no reconciliation and without reconciliation there will be no peaceful coexistence,” the post said.
The post received mostly positive comments, but there were those who criticised Markoullis for not making these statements while she was in office.
DISY member Christos Rotsas, who recently suggested that the failed coup in Turkey offered an opportunity to recapture the north, responded on Twitter: “You should have said that whatever reprehensible act they carried out, they did so in the heat of passion in retaliation to the atrocities committed by the official Turkish troops.”
She responded that women and children were not raped and then brutally killed, some mutilated, in the heat of passion.
Markoullis served as foreign affairs minister between 2007 and 2008, under Tassos Papadopoulos, and between 2011 and 2013, during the Demetris Christofias government.
“I have always felt this way. Today I have the ability, now that I am fully independent, to express my opinion,” Markoullis told the Cyprus Mail.
She added that she did not regret doing this.
“Turkey’s crimes in Cyprus have been condemned internationally, but there are unfortunately crimes, isolated ones, carried out by extremists, against Turkish Cypriots,” Markoullis said.
She added that she has received many calls and messages from Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots who expressed their support.
“It is very encouraging. I am satisfied that many of our compatriots feel the same,” Markoullis said.
The appointment of a Truth Commission, she said, in which members of both communities will participate, would be a way to build trust among the two communities and help heal wounds of the past.
“I have been studying for a long time many models of similar committees assembled in Canada, Latin America, and Africa, in countries where there has been conflict,” Markoullis said.
Especially the South African model, Markoullis said, helped thousands heal their wounds.
She added that it had received more than 18,000 requests, both from victims and perpetrators. Perpetrators had admitted to their crimes, she said, under the shield of amnesty, but the South African commission had also decided in some cases to bring people before justice depending on the severity of the crime.
In Cyprus, even though it would be more difficult, as 42 years have passed and perpetrators may not be alive, Markoullis said, the Truth Commission would also help shed light on the fate of many people from both communities who are still considered missing.
Markoullis said that she is working on a proposal which she aims to submit to both sides.