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

Updated on April 7, 2015
The top banner reads "Union." The bottom banner reads "Greece-Cyprus-Union." The man pictured is Cypriot General Georgios Grivas.
The top banner reads "Union." The bottom banner reads "Greece-Cyprus-Union." The man pictured is Cypriot General Georgios Grivas. | Source

After the War, the demand from G.C. for independence from England and Enosis with Greece grew vociferous enough to finally yield results. On August 16, 1960 president Makarios became the first Cypriot president of the new Cyprus Republic, an independent nation.6 A complex constitution, continued ethnic battles between G.C. and T.C., two coups, and meddling and inaction all led to the Turkish invasion of 1974 that saw the top 1/3 of Cyprus become occupied by the Turkish military and over 200,000 refugees dislocated from their homes. T.C. and G.C. simply could not live alongside one another in peace as long as larger political movements acted on behalf of their own agendas.

While conducting research using IKME’s site, I came across one G.C. interviewee who shared a few personal stories about his early life living in a mixed village. He expresses multiple times, throughout the interview, that G.C. and T.C. coexisted peacefully and even collaborated with one another regarding village work. Born in 1923, Anthimos Shiakidies spent much of his life, until the invasion forced him out, in the city of Lapithos. Today, Lapithos is well above the Green Line-the line that divides Cyprus between the Turkish Republic of Cyprus and the Republic of Cyprus-and is now home to predominantly Turkish and T.C. people. Before the invasion, however, Shiakidies describes the situation in the village-predominantly G.C. but with many T.C. too-as follows, “The situation was very good. In fact, I can say that they were extremely good. We worked together in the fields, and with the arts, and with the water, because it had to be divided every year.”7 What Shiakidies expresses and emphasizes in the first two lines is that the situation was very well, meaning that there was very little trouble between G.C. and T.C. He elaborates furthers by mentioning the collaboration between G.C. and T.C. that occurred within all facets of life, including farming, art, and the fair division of water for crops. In regards to field work, Shiakidies continues, “When we worked in our fields, in our orchards, and during harvest time, Greeks and Turks did these things together; in other words, we did the work of the village together. They occurred together and not apart.”8 In this revealing admission, he says that both Greeks and Turks worked together in their fields and orchards. They helped one another and did not let their cultural differences divide them. He finishes his statement by emphasizing that the village work occurred together, not divided. Take note that he does not refer to Greeks and Turks as G.C. and T.C. He refers to them in reference to their mother countries-Greeks from Greece and Turks from Turkey. In fact, throughout the interview, he also refers to the Greeks in the village as “Christians.” Therefore, although G.C. and T.C. lived peacefully amongst one another before the invasion, there was still a divide between Greeks and Turks, Christians and Muslims. There was also another dividing factor between the villagers-language. This, however, did not seem to trouble either Shiakidies or the other G.C. villagers. He makes a point to note that most of the T.C. in the village, being surrounded by a majority Greek speaking population, understood and spoke Greek themselves. He states that, “I think the Turks had an interest to learn Greek. To speak they knew. This was the case because they were mixed well within the villages.”9 The G.C., however, did not make an effort to learn Turkish, outside of the few words they might have learned from simply being around T.C.

Famagusta was once a mixed city occupied by both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots
Famagusta was once a mixed city occupied by both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots | Source

What does this all mean in terms of understanding what life was like for G.C. and T.C.? To begin, the animosities that came to symbolize G.C. and T.C. relations in the future, although they existed during and after World War II, may not have been as deeply rooted in Cypriot culture as one would expect after reading historical books about the island. Clearly, as Shiakidies experiences can attest, many G.C. and T.C. all across the country-it is doubtful that only a small village in the northern most part of Cyprus can be described as he does-not only occupied the same villages but lived together, and experienced together, and befriended one another. Even so, Shiakidies makes it quite clear that there was a palpable divide between G.C. and T.C. because of cultural idiosyncrasies.

It is important to bring to attention to the reader that Shiakidies mentions the winter of 1963, a time when those animosities boiled into massacres and mass exoduses, primarily of T.C. from mixed villages. About the exoduses that occurred in Lapithos, Shiakidies remembers, “They took them; they came with buses and they took them.”10 What Shiakidies remembers is that somebody-he does not mention who, but those who did come were hostile-came with buses and removed the T.C. from their homes. He continues by stating that, “They killed two of them. And the ones who they killed were sons.”11 Here he says that those who came to remove the T.C. killed two men while doing so. What is interesting is that Shiakidies describes the young T.C. men who were killed in loving terms, using words like “young lads”12 and “brave.”13 What this implies is that the G.C. who conducted the killing and the G.C. who lived in Lapithos were alienated from each other, the former harboring extremist Greek national views and the latter sympathizing with his T.C. neighbors. One of the questions that I asked earlier was: Were animosities expressed between them while living in mixed communities? Shiakidies has offered us one answer to this question: yes, animosities were expressed in mixed communities. But, in this case, they were expressed by outsiders who came into Lapithos, disregarded the relationships G.C. and T.C. developed from living in close proximity with one another, and set out to fulfill their Greek national agenda. He does mention that many of the T.C. who were forced out of the village did come back occasionally to tend to their homes. Therefore, there was yet to be designated strict borders between G.C. and T.C. like the one created in 1974.

Cypriot President Makarios, left, walks with American President John F. Kennedy, right
Cypriot President Makarios, left, walks with American President John F. Kennedy, right | Source

These attacks all occurred after President Makarios attempted to amend the Cypriot constitution so that G.C. had more political power and T.C. less. This exemplifies the divide between the political body, the ruling classes of Cyprus and the average Cypriot citizen.

A second interviewee that re-sounded the sentiments expressed by Shiakidies is an 83 year old G.C. woman by the name of Theodora Afxentiou who lived in Limassol, a city in Cyprus as south as Lapithos was north. Mrs. Afxentiou’s experiences are rather similar to Mr. Shiakidies’ in that she describes her life living in a mixed village as peaceful and friendly with her T.C. neighbors. In her interview, however, there is no mention of the conflict of 1963. She very briefly brings up the invasion of 1973 but only as a response as to why G.C. and T.C. children did not grow up and marry one another; it was impossible because of the forced separation of G.C. and T.C. during the invasion. According to Mrs. Afxentiou, there were many T.C. people and families living in Limassol at the time, just as many T.C. as there were G.C., she states. When asked how they all got along, she responded, “Very well; beloved like siblings.”14 She endearingly says that they all got along very well and that they all loved one another as if they were siblings. I believe that she is mostly referencing her close T.C. neighbors and the T.C. women she worked with for ten years. What Mrs. Afxentiou does differently than Mr. Shiakidies is use labels such as “Turkish-Cypriot” and “Greek-Cypriot.” Whether she naturally hyphenates those two words or if she does so after years of peaceful existence and reeducation about the invasion is not known. What is known and obvious during her interview is that she highly regarded her T.C. counterparts and experienced very little if any trouble with them. When asked if T.C. women ever visited her home, Mrs. Afxentiou states, “We sat together to drink coffee; all was good. And if they had something to be done and they needed help, they would come to us and ask us how to do it."15 One of the questions this project proposed earlier was : 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? Through Mr. Shiakidies interview as well as Mrs. Afxentiou’s, the reader cannot help but imply that there really was a mixed culture that was created in mixed villages. Although both G.C. and T.C. did continue to practice rituals and celebrate events that were exclusive to each ethnicity-Mrs. Afxentiou mentions the month of Ramadan when her T.C. counterparts fasted and continued to work-many of them, especially in regards to weddings, were celebrated together. An intermingling of two cultures could very well have produced a third, exclusively Cypriot culture.

The last portion of this project regarding the time period before the invasion will be composed by a G.C. interviewee known as Georgious Christoforou, born in 1924, from Tochni, a city in southern Cyprus. Mr. Christoforou’s interview begins, in a similar fashion, to Mr. Shiakidies and Mrs. Afxentiou, in that he states and reiterates many times that the relations between G.C. and T.C. were “very good.”16 His story is slightly different than the others because he remembers that he did not have many T.C. neighbors, but he worked with many of them in the fields. Regarding life in the fields, he says, “we had fields where there were Turks right next to us, and we got along very well. We helped them, and they helped us. I owned a field that contained water and we planted potatoes, onions, etc., and they would water them, and we would bring our wives to pick the vegetables and smell them. We got along very well.”17 It seems as though he cannot emphasize that last point enough in his interview. In terms of social interaction, Mr. Christoforou says, “We didn’t speak Turkish because they knew Greek, and they spoke Greek.”18 Again, this is a consequence of T.C. being the minority ethnic group in mixed villages. He continues, “In our churches (Greek Orthodox churches) they would come; for example, when we celebrated large religious events such as on the 21st of May to celebrate Saint Constantine and Saint Eleni.”19 The image Mr. Christoforou paints is one that both Mr. Shiakidies and Mrs. Afxentiou produced as well. It is as though the three interviewees were aware of the cultural differences between G.C. and T.C., but those differences did not prohibit them from enjoying life with one another. There is more proof in Mr. Christoforou’s account that there was an intermingling of cultures between G.C. and T.C. He remembers how T.C. visited and prayed in Greek orthodox churches often. They were not converts, however. He speaks of one woman who visited the church whenever her children were sick and would light a candle and pray for their well-being. About this woman he says, “And many times, I remember, when they had sick children, there was a woman who would light candle and prayed for her daughter and her son.”20 G.C. and T.C. living in mixed villages seemed to have gotten along very well with one another, almost as if their differences interwove between the two worlds to create an exclusive Cypriot culture. There was shared work between G.C. and T.C.; there were shared celebrations; there were shared experiences; and there was shared suffering, especially when the people of mixed villages were torn apart from their homes, their families, and their neighbors-both G.C. and T.C.-by the invasion of 1974.

Newspaper headline regarding fighting between Turkish and G.C. forces
Newspaper headline regarding fighting between Turkish and G.C. forces | Source


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