Nikolaos Stelgias

Nikolaos Stelgias

Nationalists of Turkey, Greece, and Cyprus, I will never forgive you!

The culmination of nationalism in Greece, Turkey, and Cyprus (partly in response to the supposed communist danger) led to the destruction of an ancient Anatolian civilization.

Forty-nine years ago, a bloody war shook Cyprus and the region. The coup of the Greek putschists on July 15, 1974, was followed by the attack and invasion of Turkey on the island. Before and during the war, thousands of people lost their lives, were injured, or disappeared with their traces.

Last year, while covering the bloody events of the summer of 1974 in Famagusta for the Cyprus News Agency, I had the opportunity to discuss the tragedy with the witnesses. Turkish Cypriot victims described the vandalism they suffered in Santalari, Aloa, and Maratha (Murataga, Sandallar, Atlilar). They also confessed to the murder of innocent co-Cypriots in orange trees. Innocent Turkish Cypriot women and children were raped or murdered. At the same time, a few miles away (and a few days later), Greek Cypriot families came under fire as they tried to escape from the Turkish army and a group of nationalists.

The tragedy of Cyprus did not begin in the summer of 1974. It began decades ago when Greek Cypriot nationalists and Greek and Cypriot adventurers with dark connections to the Nazi occupation of Greece tried to achieve the union of Cyprus with Greece through armed struggle. The British opposed this attempt. And Turkey responded in the same way as the Young Turks, who were responsible for 1915, tried to prevent the loss of the territories of the old Ottoman Empire. Ankara organized a cell of Turkish Cypriot nationalists supported by contra-guerrilla forces and tactics. The clash of nationalists gradually brought Cyprus to the brink of disaster. The big losers of this period were the short-lived bi-communal Republic of Cyprus, the peoples of Cyprus, the democracies in Greece and Turkey (the Greek and Turkish military officers who played a leading role in the Cypriot drama were the ones who overthrew democratically elected governments in their countries) and logic itself. The Greek Cypriot nationalists have failed to understand that the Turkish Cypriots, with the help of Turkey, a medium-sized regional power, will not accept minority status in a bi-communal democracy. And the Turkish Cypriot nationalists have persistently ignored the principle that in the era of nation-states and bourgeois democracies based on numerical alchemy, majorities carry certain privileges.

The Cypriot tragedy also had another victim. A victim that the history books continue to ignore to this day. The culmination of nationalism in Greece, Turkey, and Cyprus (partly in response to the supposed communist danger) led to the destruction of an ancient Anatolian civilization. Without any inhibition, without any trace of shame, the Turkish government attacked its Greek-speaking citizens with insidious strategies. In Istanbul in 1955, out of a population of about 2 million, the Greeks were about 100,000. After the first organized attack on September 6-7, 1955, the number of Greek-speaking citizens of Turkey began a rapid downward trend. The attacks of the 1960s, and the 1974 war in Cyprus, destroyed the Anatolian Greeks.

Along with them, Armenians and Jews paid a heavy price. Dark practices later tried on the Kurds, were first applied to the Greeks, Armenians, and Jewish citizens of the Republic of Turkey. And until today, no politician or military officer has ever apologized for this crime.

The Turkish state is not only responsible for the destruction of the Greeks of Istanbul, Imbros, and Tenedos. There are other actors in this drama. The role of the Greek government is equally sinister. Why did Athens invest politically and militarily in the Cypriot nationalists when an ancient civilization was in danger at the Dardanelles and the Bosporus? Why, to this day, have the Cypriot nationalists not accepted their indirect contribution to the destruction of the Greeks of Constantinople? There are many unanswered questions.

There is something else that stands out in this drama. The responsibility of the Greeks of Polis (Istanbul) themselves. How is it possible that 1920 some of them applauded a king, representatives, and politicians of the Greek state who led to the destruction of Asia Minor and Greek civilization? Why did they not stand up for their homeland? Why did they not resist the pressure with the citizenship of the Republic of Turkey as a weapon? And what was the role of the Ecumenical Patriarchate while all this was happening? Are the thrones, the alliances behind the scenes, more important than promoting the rights of an ancient civilization? And what are we doing today to save it from what could have been saved from the historical 'fire'?"

The destruction of the Greeks in Istanbul is a drama that always reminds me of the music and lines of the Kurdish artist, fellow citizen Ahmet Kaya... “This time, I won't complain; I’ll grit my teeth and go. Do you think the pain will spoil me? I'll get into trouble.” After all, we, the proud citizens of the Republic of Turkey, are used to pain and trouble...

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