Following on from yesterday’s article I was prompted to read up on the history of the Greek and Turkish Cypriot conflict and remind myself about the events that took place.
There have been countless decades of animosity between mainland Greece and Turkey. However in more recent times the United Kingdom had promised Greece unification with Cyprus if Greece would support the Allies in World War I, but the Greeks did not accept this offer and so the promise was never realised. In 1949 the Greek Orthodox Church held a referendum which showed that 96.5% were in favour of Enosis (union with Greece) but the opinion of the large Turkish Cypriot community, who made up approximately 20% of the island’s population, was completely ignored.
Makarios’ Petition 1950
In 1950, Archbishop Makarios III of the Greek Cypriot Church initiated a petition which any inhabitant of Cyprus could sign which stated “we demand unification of Cyprus with Greece.” Presenting their appeal to the UN General Assembly in 1950, it was believed that ‘Cyprus belongs to the Greek world; Cyprus is Greece itself’ the Greek government called for self-determination to assist in the unification. However, despite 215,000 of the 224,000 inhabitants having expressed support for Greek union, there was no response from either Greece or Britain as they did not want to disrupt their bilateral relations.
EOKA, the Greek Cypriot nationalist paramilitary organisation, prepared itself to mount a military campaign to combat British Forces with the aim of unifying Cyprus with Greece thus ending its status as a British crown colony. The leadership of AKEL at the time (a political party with communist roots), opposed EOKA’s military action, and instead advocated workers’ strikes and demonstrations. AKEL wanted rapprochement with Turkish Cypriots and an independent and non-militarised Cyprus.
Turkey, meanwhile, responded to the Greek appeal to the UN by acting against the Greek community in Turkey. Property was confiscated and thousands of people were expelled. Turkey accused Greece of trying to expand its territories by claiming Greek majority. Turkey thus proposed that Cyprus was very important to Turkish security and that the island should be put back into Turkish control as it had been for nearly four hundred years. While not in accordance with UN principles of self-determination, Greek and Turkish governments negotiated settlement under British directorship in 1959.
Proposals by Lord Radcliffe 1956
By 1954, the situation inspired military resistance from EOKA. Proposing a resolution to condemn Greek support for this “terrorist organization”, the Greek government issued a counter-proposal stating that the people of Cyprus should be granted the right to self-determination of their future. Having established the need for a peaceful solution in accordance with the principles and purposes of the UN, in 1956 Lord Radcliffe of Britain proposed that;
‘When the international and strategic situation permits…Her Majesty’s Government will be ready to review the question of application of self-determination… exercise of self-determination in such a mixed population must include partition among the eventual options’.
Macmillan Plan 1958
In the spring of 1958, unable to come to an agreement on a system of self-government, the Greek and British governments presented the Macmillan Plan which stated that the United Kingdom, Greece, and Turkey would jointly administer Cyprus.
Meanwhile,some 136 British service personnel were killed by EOKA terrorists. Buildings were bombed by crude, amateurishly constructed bombs. Turkish Cypriot villages were routed by Greek Cypriot police. Men, women and children were slaughtered in the villages of Aloa (Atlılar), Maratha (Muratağa) and Sandalari (Sandallar).
EOKA also murdered their own compatriots if they were not right-wing enough and were dissenters of the ’cause’.
At the end of it all war is a savage way to settle differences. The innocent as well as the arms bearers suffered pain, loss and death. Now yet again the unhealed wound of the Cyprus Conflict raises its head. Sixty years on, ex-EOKA veterans claim that they were tortured by the British.
It is reported that The International Committee of the Red Cross documented hundreds of cases of torture during the 1950’s Eoka insurgency. One Red Cross inspector said he had seen broken fingers and limbs, missing fingernails and traces of whip marks. Some prisoners complained they were waterboarded with kerosene mixed with water. “The British policy is to break the back of Eoka by any means,” the inspector told his superiors in Geneva.
After Amnesty International’s first-ever investigation concluded that British forces were torturing prisoners in the mid-1960’s, an official investigation was mounted. Huge tracts of documents kept by the British Foreign Office at Hanslope Park in Milton Keynes were kept under lock and key until now. Currently the files are being moved to a new location in Kew. Some of the documentation from this investigation was destroyed, but a few papers survived and have since been declassified. They suggest that the torture of suspected insurgents continued despite the official investigation, ending only with the British withdrawal in 1967. Historians eagerly await their opportunity to access these documents.
It is known that many papers relating to British Colonial rule were ordered to be destroyed by Ian Mcleod in 1961. This was in order not to “embarrass Her Majesty’s government”, or “embarrass members of the police, military forces, public servants or others eg police informers”, that might compromise intelligence sources, or that might “be used unethically by ministers in the successor government”.
What if the allegations of torturing EOKA terrorists goes to trial? What if the British Colonial Government of the time is found to be culpable? What reparations will be made? Will these veterans be satisfied? Even if the British Government is found guilty how will it square with the deaths of all the Turkish and Greek civilians who died over the decades during this period? Greek and Turkish governments still cannot agree on a solution to the seemingly intractable Cyprus Problem. Will not a trial at this point in time merely stir up old grievances and sad memories? The old guard surely must give up.
Many Greeks and Turks want to see an end to this divide; that old resentments must be buried. Greeks and Turks alike acknowledge that there was pain, suffering and loss on both sides. To take these allegations to trial may satisfy the letter of the law and embittered Greeks, but how can Greeks and Turks move on and live peacefully when prejudice is still being instilled into the next generation who may continue that fight if only by proxy?