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Part I: The Turkish Invasion of Cyprus in 1974: The Cypriot Citizenry Victim to Larger, More Powerful Forces

Updated on April 7, 2015

What this paper will attempt to accomplish is to give a voice to the T.C. and G.C. who lived in mixed communities during World War II, after the War, and up to the 1974 invasion; it will, thus, differentiate between the voices of the average villagers and the voices of those involved in the politics of Cyprus. Their voices, although seldom considered until recently, are more important than the countless books that have been written about Cyprus leading up to the invasion. It is their voice that offers us insight into what life was like for the average G.C. and T.C. Were animosities expressed between them while living in mixed communities? Did they view themselves as strictly G.C. and T.C., or did they feel as though they belonged to an independent community exclusive only to Cyprus? Was there any support for a Cypriot community where cultural ties to Greece and Turkey were not as important as the mixed culture that was created in mixed communities? These are some of the questions this project will attempt to answer.

Before introducing personal experiences from G.C. and T.C. citizens during and after the war, it is important to note where these sources are coming from: who conducted them, when were the conducted, why did they conduct them, and for what purpose? All of the interviews between the 1920s and up to the invasion come from one source called the Cypriot’s Bi-communal Oral History project. This project was conducted by IKME, a socio-political studies institute, and BILBAN, an information bank. According to their website, the project is made up of four bodies: a steering committee, an advisory body, management, and the researchers. Although both organizations worked together on this project, there is a palpable split between IKME workers and BILBAN workers, between GC and TC, respectively. The numbers favor the G.C. in that there are more of them working on the project than T.C. This should not imply that these conditions, in any way, hampered or inhibited the goals of their project. They were conducted from December to August of 2003. What both of these organizations strive to accomplish is to create a relationship between G.C. and T.C. that promotes civility, good relations, and dialogue with one another. Therefore, many of the interviews describe relations between G.C. and T.C. in friendly terms, although many detail the conflicts that arose in 1963 and the atrocities that occurred during the invasion. People who continue to harbor negative feelings towards one group or the other were, naturally, left out. Although the scope of their project is limited because of their objectives, the interviews are important because they offer perspectives on how some G.C. and T.C. felt towards one another during and after the war. However, as is typical in times of inter-communal conflict, atrocities did occur and they cannot be ignored. Using other sources, this paper will also discuss those atrocities and how they affected G.C. and T.C. refugees.

For the period after World War II and before the invasion, I will use three interviews from IKME and BILIBAN. Unfortunately, none of the T.C. interviews are translated to English, and since I cannot read Turkish, all three interviews from this project will come from G.C. Although T.C. will not have an active voice in this part of my project, their stories and some of their experiences can still be experienced through G.C. eyes; they offer insight into what life was like for T.C. living in mixed villages. Since they were the minorities in such villages, most of them spoke Greek and celebrated with the G.C. during their religious holidays, not to worship but to enjoy the festivities alongside their G.C. neighbors and friends. The purpose of doing this is to try to paint a picture as to what life was like for many G.C. and T.C. living in mixed communities. Although only using three interviewees to do so may seem impossible, the interactive and social nature of mixed villages allows for the three peoples perspectives to branch out into their neighbor’s experiences and to paint a broad and detailed image of how they interacted and socialized within their time there.

This project will also discuss what occurred between G.C. and T.C. during the Turkish invasion of 1974. To do so, it will use another source called The Cyprus Oral History & Living Memory Project. Their aim, similar to the aims of IKME, “is to address the controversy in teaching historical events in Cyprus regarding independence, the coup, and the invasion in 1974 that emphasize a single narrative and interpretation and to illustrate alternative approaches in ‘teaching the conflict’ and doing peace education by engaging a wide range of people’s narratives.”1 In other words, they want to rework the standard methods of teaching people about the conflict so that multiple experiences from both sides of the conflict are discussed and compared in a peaceful manner. This portion of my project will use one G.C. interview and two T.C. interviews that were conducted in English. The Cyprus Oral History & Living Memory Project has a webpage dedicated to its own limitations. Something that is of interest to this project is regarding some of the troubles the researches had when attempting to contact G.C. and T.C. refugees to interview. Many of them, according to their site, were hesitant to do so from fear of familial and social repercussions. They state, “This was mostly true for people working for the government, in the public sector. These people said they could talk to us, but they did not want to be recorded or use their real name.”2 What does this imply? Were those working in the government and public sectors fearful of alienating themselves from their respective ethnic group? For example, were G.C. politicians fearful of angering potential G.C. voters if he or she veered too drastically to the side of T.C. instead of representing his or her “own” people? It can be implied that, whatever the reason, they were cautious to lend too much accountability to their own side. However, those who did participate did so with keeping in mind that the project aimed to establish a new standard of conversation and education regarding the invasion.


The Island of Cyprus has almost always, through its long history in the eastern Mediterranean, been an island of conflict and turmoil. The Greeks, English, French, Byzantines, Romans, Ottomans, and then the British once again have conquered it. Although the Island has seen these empires come and go, remnants of their stay are still visible to this day, especially in regards to the Greeks, British, and Ottomans. However, because of early domination by the Greeks and long domination by the Turks, Cyprus is primarily divided between Greek and Turkish ethnic lines. According to a 2012 census, Cyprus enjoys a population of 956,00 people.Of this total, 688,100 (71.9%) of the population identifies with the Greek community and 90,600 (9.5%) identifies with the Turkish community.3 A dichotomous population between Greek Cypriots (G.C.) and Turkish Cypriots (T.C.), although both their population sizes were lesser in the past, has almost always existed.

In that regard, Cyprus, especially during World War II, witnessed rising tensions between the political forces of the G.C. and the T.C. During World War II, the majority of G.C. chose to fight alongside their British masters. Although Cypriots had already begun to grow weary and resentful of British rule due to mishandlings and exploitation of Cypriot money, they felt kinship for their Anglican friends who allied with their Greek brothers in their fight against Italy and Germany. T.C., on the other hand, did not side with the British for fear that a G.C. win alongside the British would mean independence of Cyprus from England and eventual annexation with Greece-this was to later become known as “Enosis,” which means union. In “A History of Cyprus” written by Sir George Hill regarding Turkish sentiments towards the political front during World War II, he writes on page 560-561, “while the Turks were opposed to both parties on nationalistic grounds and even showed signs of favouring Germany, since a British victory would, they feared, lead to Enosis.”4 According to Doros Alastos in his book titled “Cyprus: Past and Future,” he writes on page 63, “When in the early spring of 1941 the victorious Greek armies in Albania were threatened with a German attack in their rear via Bulgaria, Greece after five months of fighting single-handed against the Italians, was obliged to ask for the help of Great Britain. One of the first units to be sent to Greece was the “Cyprus Regiment.”5 This is just one example of the split opinions between G.C. and T.C. Where the G.C. volunteered in large numbers to fight alongside the British so that they could help Greece, the T.C. opposed fighting with England. They were taking their cues from Turkey who remained neutral during most of the war.

The Cypriot Regiment
The Cypriot Regiment | Source


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