Eptakomi: A symbol of illegality, injustice and impunity

Eptakomi graveyard
A looted grave in Eptakomi, in the area of Cyprus under illegal Turkish occupation since 1974. © Eptakomi Association UK

On 18 July 2018, one day after the Day of International Criminal Justice and one hundred years to the day since the birth of the late Nelson Mandela, Eptakomi Association UK and Lobby for Cyprus organised the commemorative event ‘Uprooted: The disappearing community of Eptakomi’ at Theatro Technis, London.  

The event was dedicated to Eptakomi. This is a village in the Karpas Peninsula in the Turkish-occupied north of the Republic of Cyprus. However, it is much more than that. Eptakomi is symbol of the illegality, injustice and impunity which, for far too long, has bedeviled the south-east flank of Europe at the crossroads where the values of democracy end and the forces of tyranny begin.

In 1974, decades before the catastrophe which has been unfolding in Syria since 2011, Turkey invaded, occupied and ethno-religiously cleansed 36 per cent of the territory and 57 per cent of the coastline of the Republic of Cyprus. Turkey achieved these and other crude outcomes in pursuance of a pre-existing Turkish scheme. This Turkish scheme was originally devised in 1956, revamped in 1964 and, thanks to the then United Nations Mediator, brought into the open in 1965.

The pre-1974 Turkish scheme rested on the inter-linked aims of maintaining ‘bi-communal’ segregation, engineering ‘a compulsory exchange of population’, manufacturing an ethno-religiously pure ‘Turkish zone’ to the north of a proposed ‘dividing line’ and legalising these crude outcomes by means of a ‘settlement’ resulting in a ‘federation’. (See UN Security Council Document S/6253, dated 26 March 1965, also published by the UN Digital Library at digitallibrary.un.org)

Because of its location in the north-east of the Republic of Cyprus, Eptakomi bore the brunt of the cruelty inflicted by Turkey, as well as the apartheid-style discrimination required to implement the scheme.

In various phases in the months and years after 1974, Turkey, its armed forces and agents unlawfully evicted each and every one of the Greek and Christian citizens of Eptakomi. They were then forcibly transferred away from the Turkish-occupied areas and, in a naked act of racism, discrimination and apartheid, effectively prevented from returning because of their Greek ethnicity and Christian faith.

As a result, contrary to Articles 49(1) and 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, these citizens became forcibly displaced persons in their own country or refugees elsewhere.

As events were to unfold after 1974, one illegality followed another. To take but three examples, the Christian cemetery of Eptakomi was desecrated. Its church was arbitrarily converted into a mosque. And the icons in the church were looted. All of which took place in flagrant breach of the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict of 1954.

Worst of all, several residents of Eptakomi were arbitrarily detained and, it would appear, murdered or otherwise unlawfully killed. Meanwhile, others officially went ‘missing’ having disappeared in suspicious circumstances which Turkey does not appear to have investigated effectively in line with its legal duties under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights of 1950.

To the achieve the ethno-religous cleansing and de facto Turkification of Eptakomi, Turkey resorted to human rights violations and, it would appear, international crimes, including acts of colonisation contrary to Article 49(6) of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949. Consequently, Turkey has arbitrarily altered the demographic fabric of Eptakomi and other Turkish-occupied towns and villages.

All of which was – and remains – reminiscent of the criminal misconduct of Nazi Germany in places such as eastern France and western Poland where persons of one ethic background were forcibly expelled only to be replaced by persons of another ethnic background. In this context, it is worth recalling that all of the three international treaties mentioned above dating back to 1949, 1950 and 1954 respectively, were adopted, in large part, in response to the practices of Nazi Germany.

Against this background of illegality, injustice and inhumanity, the rest of the world looked the other way and the United Kingdom failed to take any decisive action to honour its ‘guarantee’ to the Republic of Cyprus.

Forty four years after the two Turkish invasions of the Republic of Cyprus in 1974, the wounds of the living victims of Turkey from Eptakomi remain fresh. Accordingly, they are entitled to ask a number of questions, all the more so in view of the Day of International Criminal Justice on 17 July 2018 and Nelson Mandela International Day on 18 July 2018.

  1. Why has the United Nations and, in its capacity as as ‘guarantor’, the United Kingdom failed to prevent Turkey from occupying, ethno-religiously cleansing and keeping control of Eptakomi and so many other parts of the Republic of Cyprus?
  2. Why has Turkey refused to sign and become a state party to instruments of international law which prohibit the crime of apartheid, such as the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid of 1973?
  3. Why has Turkey refused to sign and become a state party to the Rome Statute on the International Criminal Court of 1998?
  4. Why has Turkey refused to sign and become a state party to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance of 2006?
  5. What will the United Nations, the European Union and other parts of the ‘international community’ do to enforce the law, hold Turkey to account and deliver justice to its victims?

One hundred years to the day since the birth of Nelson Mandela, the world continues to close its eyes in the face of the apartheid-style ‘bi-communal’ segregation and ‘bi-zonal’ supremacism imposed by Turkey in the Republic of Cyprus. The world continues to overlook the fate of Eptakomi, its lawful residents and so many other victims of Turkey. Accordingly, with Mr Mandela in mind, it is appropriate to close with a reminder as to what he said upon receiving the Nobel Peace Prize on 10 December 1993:

“This must be a world of democracy and respect for human rights, a world freed from the horrors of poverty, hunger, deprivation and ignorance, relieved of the threat and the scourge of civil wars and external aggression and unburdened of the great tragedy of millions forced to become refugees.”
Source: nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates

icon-camera-13 Uprooted: The disappearing community of Eptakomi. Since the Turkish invasions of Cyprus in 1974, Eptakomi village has been under illegal occupation by Turkish forces. The last remaining members of the Greek community of Eptakomi were forced to flee in 1976. (Click on photos to enlarge)

Eptakomi Association UK was founded to assist the displaced Eptakomides following the invasions and occupation of Eptakomi and to preserve the cultural identity of the Eptakomides

Lobby for Cyprus is a non-party-political human rights organisation campaigning for a unitary Cypriot state without segregation along ethnic and religious lines