Nikolaos Stelgias

Nikolaos Stelgias

Cyprus remembers the crimes of 1963-1974: Testimonies and confessions from the period of forced partition

Wounds still fresh after half a century in Cyprus, testimonies show
48 years after the dramatic summer of 1974, the crimes of the period 1963-1974 come to the forefront of Cyprus' news. Former members of nationalist Greek Cypriot armed groups made public statements claiming responsibility for the execution of civilians. At the same time, Greek Cypriot citizens share with public opinion the tragic experiences which they had after the deployment of Turkish forces on the territory of the Republic of Cyprus in the summer of 1974.

A short time ago, two former members of the Greek Cypriot armed groups gave their views on the reprisals that followed the execution of Greek officers in 1964 by armed Turkish Cypriots. The admission of this crime was followed by the testimony of a woman who was raped in the summer of 1974.

Cyprus has been de facto partitioned since August 1974, whilst the international mediation of the period 1974-2017 has failed to pave the way for the creation of a bi-communal federation. Prior to the de facto partition of the island, the tragic events of the period 1963-1974 took place.

During this period, crimes against humanity took place on the island. Cypriot analysts and columnists express discomfort with the obscuring of the crimes of the 1963-1974 period and insist that their exploration and the restoration of reality is a one-way street for the solution of the Cyprus Problem.

The new confession

The confession of two members of Nikos Sampson's groups for the murders of Turkish Cypriot citizens during the intercommunal conflicts of 1964 caused an uproar in Cyprus.

The confessions were made on the Aixmes show on Omega TV by group members Athos Petridis and Neoptolemus Leftis. According to the Cypriot news website Dialogos, the former referred to the killing of Turkish Cypriots who were being taken off buses, while the latter, admitting to the crimes, referred to the murder of dozens of Turkish Cypriot citizens.

The video document available to +GercekNews starts with reference to the execution of a group of Greek officers in May 1964 in an area of Famagusta controlled by Turkish Cypriot armed groups. According to the video, the team went to the area to collect information about Turkish Cypriot positions.

After the killing of the Greek officers, nationalist groups retaliated. Armed Greek Cypriots dismounted Turkish Cypriots from vehicles and then shot them in cold blood.

In the video, Lefti is shown stating that there are mass graves where Turkish Cypriots were crudely buried. On these mass graves, he continues to say, there are now apartment buildings.

The video also states that, according to the Turkish Cypriot leadership, 39 Turkish Cypriots have died as a result of the retaliation of the nationalist Greek Cypriots. The UN reduces the number to 38 while the Greek side insists on the number of 33.

It is noted that the new revelation has caused a storm of reactions across Cyprus, with the families of the unfortunate Turkish Cypriots preparing to take legal action.

Greek Cypriot woman speaks about rape

Introduced by the Cyprus News Agency (CNA) as M, a 62-year-old Greek Cypriot woman says that summer of 1974 has wounded her soul and overshadowed her life. The unfortunate woman gave her testimony about her rape after the deployment of Turkish forces in the village where she lived with her family until mid-1974.

According to the CNA, speaking with tears in her eyes on the 48th anniversary of the 1974 war, M explains that back in the 1974 her family was living in a village of Cyprus. When the deployment of the Turkish army begun her father, who was a farmer, did not want to leave his livestock behind so the whole family stayed in their village and became enclaved.

According to M, the families were spending the nights hiding on nearby farms outside the village. Around 100 people were hiding for four days, and the Turks were setting up fires intentionally to find them. “They knew we were hiding. We could hear the tanks on the roads that kept going up and down. They were dropping leaflets from helicopters showing one part of Cyprus painted white and the other red and urging us to come out otherwise they would kill us,” she adds.

Eventually, her and her co-villagers returned to their village with their hands raised in the air as a sign of surrender. “We could see dead people on the streets. They rounded us up in the school yard, pulling us from one side to the other. They separated the men, women, children, those over 60 and put us in school classes. They loaded two trucks with prisoners of war. My father was captured,” M says.

Together with her mother, young sister and other women and children, they were taken to one of the last houses of the village. The first night, the soldiers came to count the women.

“They took me and some other young girls and pulled us outside in the dark and took us to some fields. My mother was trying to stop them, but they hit her with the gun stock. They pulled me outside and dragged me far from the house. They were raping me, one by one, and I was bleeding. I was begging God to help me. I was screaming, I was only a 14-year-old child. But they cheered on and only when they were done they would take us back. Some of the women were thinking of ending the torture by turning on the kitchen gas, to escape from the torment.”

According to M’s testimony to the CAN, the same was repeated every night. Even if they were hiding at the house storage, the soldiers managed to find them and pulled them outside by the hair. The horror continued for two to three months.

Time to demolish the taboo

48 years after the 1974 war, the bloodshed in Cyprus during the period 1963-1974 remains a taboo subject. In both communities, no perpetrators have been brought to justice for the crimes of that period. This is despite the fact that there have been several allegations in previous years.

One of the Greek Cypriot journalists who insists on the importance of exploring the crimes of the 1963-1974 period is the experienced journalist, Andreas Paraschos.

Some 20 years ago, the Cypriot journalist was the first Cypriot journalist who clarified his position on the subject in the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot press. Paraschos also conducted a search for the identification of several missing persons.

In 2003, Paraschos noted that "In the context of a debate (on a Turkish Cypriot TV channel) on the issue of the missing persons, I pointed out how important it is to clean up the blood between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities. I said that we should all contribute to clarify the fate of all the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot missing persons and I added that for this purpose the families of the Turkish Cypriot missing persons should donate blood for identification, initially for those Turkish Cypriots buried in the free areas."

Paraschos also mentioned the following: “In this list one can see with a simple reading, for example, what specifically happened in Tochni on 14 August 1974. 83 Turkish Cypriots, men, are buried in a mass grave. According to the dates of birth given on the list, the youngest was 14 years old and the oldest was 75. It is well known that these Turkish Cypriots were executed in cold blood. Like this case, there are others on the list, such as the one of 20 July 1974 in Alamino.

But there are even worse cases, such as those of Maratha and Aloa, where the list includes women and children. The birth date of the youngest victim is 1974, and the oldest is 1894. All were executed on 14 August 1974.”

“The missing persons are a matter for all of us, both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots,” Paraschos concluded.

*Dr Nikolaos Stelgias was born in Istanbul. He is an independent researcher, writer, historian and journalist. His doctorate is in the field of the modern Turkish political system (Panteion University, 2011). His latest book “The Ailing Turkish Democracy” was published by the Cambridge Scholars Publication in 2020. Dr. Stelgias was a correspondent of the newspaper "Kathimerini (Cyprus edition)" for Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot community from 2009 to 2021. Currently, Dr. Stelgias works at the Cyprus News Agency. Dr. Stelgias publishes in Turkish news articles and analyses on Cyprus and Greece on the news website 'Duvar". 

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