1974: The bloodshed caused by the Turkish invasions of Cyprus

Tanks of the Turkish invaders in Cyprus 1974
Turkish invasion forces in Cyprus, 1974. The Turkish military committed appalling atrocities, as documented by the European Commission of Human Rights.

20 July and 14 August mark two blood-soaked episodes in the turbulent modern history of Cyprus: the days on which Turkey invaded and re-invaded Cyprus in 1974.

Following a coup instigated in Nicosia by the junta in Athens, Turkey seized the opportunity to invade the Republic of Cyprus, ethno-religiously cleanse its northern area and manufacture a homogenous de facto Turkish-populated ‘zone’. Turkey had thereby realised a long-harboured plan. If anybody doubts that such a plan existed, they are invited to read the Report of the UN Mediator on Cyprus, dated 26 March 1965 (UN Security Council Document S/6253).

On 20 July 1974, Ankara exploited the coup to cloak its initial invasion of the Republic of Cyprus under the fictitious claim that it was conducting an operation to ‘restore constitutional order’. However, on 14 August 1974, three weeks after the disintegration of the coupist regime in Nicosia and its sponsor in Athens, Turkey had no pretext to re-invade the Republic of Cyprus and proceed to occupy and ethno-religiously cleanse 36 percent of the territory and 57 percent of the coastline of this small sovereign state. Turkey aptly achieved these unlawful outcomes under the military code-name ‘Attila’.

As a result of its two invasions, Turkey forcibly transferred almost all of the Greeks and Christians of what became Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus. This was in spite of the presence of Greeks in that area for thousands of years. In the bloodshed that ensued each invasion, scores of people were killed and buried in unmarked graves, while women were raped and children were abused. Hundreds of other people were subjected to enforced disappearances, persecutions or other abuses. In those days of terror, many citizens of the Republic of Cyprus of Greek, Turkish, Armenian, Maronite, Latin or other backgrounds suffered enormously.

As a result of these inhumanities, approximately 170,000 Greek and Christian citizens of the Republic of Cyprus were forcibly displaced. So, too, were thousands of Turkish and Muslim citizens of the same Republic. To enable Turkey to implement its de facto programme of enforced segregation, they were likewise inhumanely treated and de facto resettled in towns and villages from which their fellow citizens had been forcibly uprooted as part of the same inhumane programme designed to achieve de facto segregation as a prelude to the conclusion of a ‘settlement’ based on the de facto realities manufactured by the use of brute force.

All in all, therefore, more than 200,000 citizens of the Republic of Cyprus were deprived of their homes, their fundamental rights and their dignity as human beings. All were discriminated against because of their ethnicity and religion.

If anybody doubts that Turkey is responsible for unspeakable inhumanities in the Republic of Cyprus, they are invited to read the two brutally frank volumes of the report of the European Commission of Human Rights which was adopted in 1976, declassified in 1979 (also published online at hudoc.echr.coe.int).

Any skeptics are also invited to read the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights in cases such as:
• Cyprus v Turkey [2001] ECHR 331,
Cyprus v Turkey (Just Satisfaction) [2014] ECHR 478,
Varnava v Turkey [2008] ECHR 30, and
Varnava and Others v Turkey [2009] ECHR 1313.

After occupying the northern area of the Republic of Cyprus, Turkey purported to establish an illegal, subordinate and ‘racially pure’ Turkish entity which, since 1983, has been described as the ‘Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’. Turkey also oversaw a de facto programme of de-Hellenisation and de-Christianisation involving various outrages, including the looting of churches, the desecration of cemeteries and the renaming of places. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cyprus:

“More than 550 Greek Orthodox churches, chapels and monasteries located in towns and villages of the occupied areas have been pillaged, deliberately vandalized and, in some cases, demolished. Many Christian places of worship have been converted into mosques, depots of the Turkish army, stockyards and hay barns. … The whereabouts of the ecclesiastical items of these churches, estimated to [be] 20,000, remain unknown.”

The theft of icons and other ecclesiastical items forms part of a much bigger picture of illegality and, indeed, criminality. To quote the same official source:

“The Cyprus Police estimates that since 1974 more than 60,000 cultural artifacts have been illegally transferred to different countries around the world. The most significant and priceless icons came in possession of auction houses and were illegally sold by art dealers abroad.”
Source: www.mfa.gov.cy

Today, in the occupied north, citizens of the Republic of Cyprus from the Turkish minority find themselves misruled by an illegal regime under the iron grip of President Erdogan and his autocratic Islamist regime. They also find themselves outnumbered and swamped by colonists who are citizens of Turkey without any moral, legal or historical right to inhabit the ethno-religiously cleansed occupied north. Under Article 49(6) of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949:

“The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”

By these and other crude, immoral and illegal means, Turkey has been propagating the false idea that the occupied northern area of Cyprus is and always was Turkish. Worse still, Turkey has overseen the transformation of the occupied north into what the US State Department has described as ‘a zone of impunity for human trafficking’ and an exceptionally dangerous place where women and even children are at risk of sexual exploitation.

The ‘bloody map’


It is for the reasons outlined above that the Turkish-occupied north of the Republic of Cyprus is often depicted as stained in blood. This image resonates with those whose loved ones have been killed, with those who were forced to flee from their homes, with those who long to return to their ancestral lands and with those who will never forget the abhorrent acts of inhumanity committed by Turkey since the first invasion commenced.

Nikos Dimou, the original designer of the image of the blood-stained occupied area, provided the following explanation as to its historical and intellectual origins:

“The ‘Δεν ξεχνώ’ [Do not forget] symbol was created on August 14, 1974, the day “Atilla II” [i.e. the second Turkish invasion] cut Cyprus in half… I had an image of Cyprus being stabbed, and I visualised the Attilla line as a slow flow of blood ebbing down the island… We printed a few thousand stickers, sent them to the media, and were overwhelmed with requests for more… students all over the world asked for them. And we received hundreds of letters, the most notable being from Archbishop Makarios [the then President of the Republic of Cyprus]. The symbol has now become public domain… [I]t remains something very personal: A tribute to the parts of Cyprus – Kyrenia, Bellapais, Salamis, Famagusta – which I visited and loved three years before the invasion.’
Nicos Dimou: I will not forget, Odyssey Magazine, Summer 1994

For these and for other reasons, the visual image of a blood-stained occupied area is a legitimate artistic response to the bloodshed created by Turkey with the aims of invading, occupying and ethno-religiously cleansing the Turkish-occupied area. The image symbolises the bloodshed caused by the armed forces of Turkey and by the tit-for-tat massacres provoked by each Turkish invasion to the detriment of far too many citizens of the Republic of Cyprus, including those of Greek and Turkish heritage. As such, the image reflects the mourning of all those who lost loved ones and all those who endured the anguish of being forced out of their home so that Turkey could de facto partition the Republic of Cyprus.

Since 1974, the image of a blood-soaked occupied area has gained added resonance on account of the sustained failure to deliver international criminal justice and the additional blood which has been shed from time to time along the cease-fire lines across the Republic of Cyprus. The most horrific examples of such additional bloodshed are provided by two unlawful killings. Anastasios (Tassos) Isaak on 11 August 1996, died because:

“[d]uring a period of approximately five minutes he was kicked and beaten continuously on every part of his body and his head with metal and wooden batons.”

The second is the unlawful killing of Solomos Solomou. On 14 August 1996, he died after being:

“hit by five shots fired by at least three persons…”

These and other details are drawn from the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights in Isaak v Turkey [2008] ECHR 553 and Solomou and others v Turkey [2008] ECHR 552. Each judgment refers to the spilling of blood by the deceased. Each also confirms that Turkey is responsible for violations of Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights on account of each killing and ‘the failure to conduct an effective investigation into the circumstances’ in which each of the deceased died.

To sum up, the image of the occupied area as stained in blood is an appropriate symbol of the sustained inhumanity and systemic injustice faced by all of Turkey’s victims irrespective of ethnicity, religion or other background.

Even so, in a recent article in the media, which was akin to a hit piece calculated to restrict artistic freedom of expression, an initiative was launched with the obvious aim of targeting the historic image depicting the occupied area as one which is stained with blood. In a bizarre Orwellian-style twist of logic, it was even claimed that this image is ‘racist’.  For the reasons outlined above and for other reasons, nothing could be further from the truth.

Far from being racist, the image of a blood-stained occupied area symbolises the racism, segregation and supremacism achieved by the two Turkish invasions and exhibited by the so-called ‘Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’ (the ‘TRNC’), the unlawful entity purportedly established in the occupied area in 1983.

As its name suggests, the so-called ‘TRNC’ was de facto manufactured by Turks and for Turks. It was purportedly established in a Turkish-occupied area from where almost all Greeks and Christians had been forcibly expelled because of their ethnicity or religion. Worse still, in a naked act of indirect discrimination, upon its purported establishment in 1983, the ‘TRNC’ purported to confiscate all of the properties of all of those Greeks, Christians and others who were unfortunate enough to have been forcibly transferred out of the occupied area before 13 February 1975. This arbitrary act of racism arose by virtue of ‘Article 159 (1) (b)’ of ‘the Constitution‘ of the so-called ‘TRNC’.

The racism which has scarred the Turkish-occupied area since 1974 is hardly surprising if one considers the stance adopted by Turkey in relation to the Crime of Apartheid. Turkey has not signed, let alone ratified, four instruments of international law which deal with this crime: the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid of 1973; the First Additional Protocols of 1977 to the Geneva Conventions of 1949, the International Convention Against Apartheid in Sports 1985 and the Rome Statute on the International Criminal Court 1998.

Those who seek to legalise the enforcement of apartheid in Cyprus may seek to censor an artistic image and they may hope to stifle any criticism of Turkey and its unlawful puppet regime. They may even seek to normalise the occupation and whitewash the bloody invasions. However, Lobby for Cyprus objects to any attempt to curtail freedom of expression, especially the freedom of expression of the victims of Turkey who hail from the Turkish-occupied north of the Republic of Cyprus or, for that matter, anywhere elsewhere else.

Any attempt to censor the victims of Turkey would be an affront to democratic values and a triumph for the undemocratic autocracy espoused by President Erdogan and his illiberal regime in Ankara. In this context, it is worth adding that, as Reporters Without Borders pointed out as long ago as 2012, Turkey has become ‘[the] world’s biggest prison for journalists.’

44 years of illegal occupation
Pentadactylos mountain rainge, Turkish-occupied Cyprus
“How happy is he who calls himself a Turk”: a Turkish supremacist statement alongside the flags of Turkey and its subordinate apartheid regime cover an area of more than 200,000 square meters on occupied Mount Pentadaktylos. Clearly visible from the government-controlled areas of Cyprus, the flags and slogan serve to taunt and offend those Cypriots who are denied their right to return by Turkey.

Forty four years after Turkey invaded the Republic of Cyprus, its northern area remains under unlawful Turkish occupation and no sovereign state, with the exception of Turkey, de jure recognises the so-called ‘TRNC’.

Citizens of the Republic of Cyprus – of all ethnicities and religions – are still paying a high price for Turkey’s heinous attempts to partition their sovereign state. Efforts to settle the Cyprus issue have been unsuccessful. That is unsurprising, considering the winner-takes-all maximalist approach and ever-increasing demands of Turkey and its powerful supporters who, via unjust and unworkable settlement ‘plans’, seek to rubber stamp the de facto Turkification of Cypriot lands at the expense of legitimate Cypriot citizens, including the indigenous inhabitants of the Turkish-occupied area.

To this day, refugees and displaced persons are denied their right to return and reclaim their homes and properties; citizens of the Republic of Cyprus are not free to reside wherever they wish in their own country; hundreds of citizens remain missing, having ‘disappeared’. In other words, the rule of law continues to be ignored and injustice continues to prevail.

Lobby for Cyprus strenuously objects to the sustained de facto partition of the Republic of Cyprus and the 44 years of injustice which have arisen since 1974.  By the same token, however, we will not countenance the formation of any ‘bi-communal, bi-zonal federation’ in which its citizens are segregated on ethnic or religious grounds in line with the long-standing demands of Turkey. We call for a democratic and truly unitary Republic of Cyprus which not only protects the fundamental rights and freedoms of all of its legitimate citizens and lawful residents but also frowns upon any form of ‘bi-communal’ segregation or ‘bi-zonal’ supremacism.

As many states continue to stand by, as others portray themselves as honest brokers while keeping quiet about their motives and as Turkey continues to strengthen its grip on the occupied north of the Republic of Cyprus, each member of Lobby for Cyprus echoes the slogan on the original image portraying their beloved island as stained in blood: “Δεν ξεχνώ”. “I will not forget”.