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Part III: The Turkish Invasion of Cyprus in 1974: The Cypriot Citizenry Victim to Larger, More Powerful Forces
As this project transitions from the experiences of G.C. and T.C. living in mixed villages before the invasion to the experiences of G.C. and T.C. during and after the invasion, a personal experience of my own, I believe, would fit well into this narrative. My mother was born on November 20th, 1968 in Cyprus. When the Turkish army invaded in the summer of 1974, she was only six years old, but she still remembers the experiences that arose from it quite well. She and her family lived in a small village called Acheritou. My mother remembers hearing the sirens sounding as the Turkish Army approached and how the British soldiers, who attempted to defend the villagers, urged them to evacuate the village. She remembers how they were forced to flee their home and live in a temporary shelter. She remembers that many of the people from her village made camp in an orange factory; through my research, I was able to find that the factory they were housed in was owned by SEDIGEP, a “co-operative grower’s union established in 1964 with the purpose of treating, packing and marketing the agricultural products of its grower members.”21 Eventually, many of the G.C. villagers made their permanent homes in a town called Vyrsoulles where my Grandmother and other family members continue to live and a village I have visited many times. My mother was the youngest daughter out of six children. She did not lose any loved ones during the invasion. One of her brother-in-law’s was captured by the Turks during the invasion but was released after a short period of time. I have heard my mother speak about the Turks in both friendly and hostile terms, and from this, I have concluded that my mother’s views of the average Turkish man and woman are friendlier than her views on Turkey as a whole and its army. Naturally, she detests the Turkish army that invaded her village and forced her from her home. However, both she and I had the opportunity to visit Acheritou after the Turks opened the border to G.C. in the mid-2000s, and after she visited it again, she expressed sadness that her village remained unchanged throughout the thirty years since she was forced out; the only thing that had changed was that her home and the homes of her neighbors were now occupied by Turkish families. She did not express ill will towards them, though. In fact, I remember passing by a young Turkish boy drinking from a water spout outside of the village mosque. My uncle walked up to the boy and cupped some water into his own hand and jokingly washed the boy’s face with the water. Enemies do not wash each other or smile with each other. My mother, along with the rest of her family, does not blame the T.C. villagers for making her home theirs. She, like Mr. Shiakidies, Mrs. Afxentiou, and Mr. Christoforou does not feel as though T.C. villagers played a part in her being forced from her home. Like herself, they were simply pawns in a larger conflict, a conflict that neither she nor they had much of a say in. The Cypriot conflict was, in this regard, a conflict between politicians and extremists.
The first Turkish invasion of 1974 occurred on July 20th, 1974. The following interviews detail the events that occurred during the invasion for the interviewees. They detail how they themselves reacted to the invasion, what happened to their families during the invasion, and how the invasion affected not only their lives but their character.
The first interviewee is a T.C. man by the name of Akansoy Huseyin. Born before 1960 and living in Famagusta-now located above the dividing Green Line-during the invasion, Huseyin was not forced from his home like many other G.C. and T.C. were. According to Mr. Huseyin regarding the location of his village and other T.C. villages in the area, he says:
We had very small Turkish villages as well next to each other. And altogether the population was 200, the 3 villages. We were surrounded by the Greek Cypriot villages but we had very good relations with those people. We had to, we had no other chance. We had animals, we were milking the animals, giving the milk to the cooperative. We harvest our wheat and….whatever, and gave them to the cooperatives. All Greek Cypriots, this was how it worked at the time. So we had lots of good relations, we knew each other.22
His description regarding the relations between G.C. and T.C. as being on friendly terms supports the descriptions of the previous G.C. interviewees and their relations with T.C. living in mixed villages. He states that they provided agricultural goods to the cooperatives. This implies that T.C., even as the minority, were not marginalized in society and were incorporated into daily business with their G.C. counterparts. His statement that “we had no other chance” can be interpreted in two ways: the first is that the T.C. living in Famagusta, being surrounded by a mostly G.C. population, understood that if they wanted to survive and thrive as the minority ethnic group in the area, they had to cooperate with the G.C., or else be marginalized and excluded from interactions that could have potentially benefitted their T.C. communities as a whole. There is no reason to believe, however, that what he meant was that they were forced to cooperate or else face violent repercussions from the G.C. The second interpretation of his statement is that he meant to say “we had no other choice,” which implies that they absolutely had to cooperate with the G.C. or else they would have been excluded from the cooperative and missed out on any goods or products that they were unable to yield themselves. Again, it does not imply that they were forced to do so under threat of violence, especially because he states that “we had lots of good relations, we knew each other.”
The tone of his interview changes, however, as the invasion begins and G.C. and T.C. alike are being captured by opposing sides. About these events Mr. Huseyin says:
The first day of the invasion. 20th of July. They were using the excuse that there were some Greek Cypriots as prisoners in Turkish army. So they have to keep us as, you know, the exchange. Okay, that’s understandable [laughs]. But they gathered all the people, women and children as well. We argued a lot to convince them to let women and children go back to the villages. We used to think, at least they are safe.23
The change that occurs between G.C. and T.C., in Mr. Huseyin’s experience, is dramatic and quick, like the invasion was. What the invasion did, in this case, was make the racial and cultural differences between G.C. and T.C. a point of contention. All of a sudden, people became aware that some of their own were being held by an enemy, a foreign army. Therefore, there immediate reaction was to capture and hold for ransom those who were closest to the Turkish army in hopes that they would release those already captured. This was not always true, however. I have heard stories from my mother that there were many G.C. who defended their T.C. counterparts when hostile G.C. forces came to take them away. Although the G.C. did allow for the women and children to return to their villages, most of them were tragically murdered by members of EOKA B and buried in a mass grave.
The tone of his interview changes again and for the first time in this project, we are introduced to the atrocities of the inter-communal conflict. He remembers:
I had 2 sisters, 2 brothers, my father and mother. My mother, 2 sisters, 2 brothers were sent to the villages. We were taken to the [unclear] in Famagusta, that was a military camp. And then on the day of second invasion, that was the 14th of August, we were taken to Limassol. At that day, a big catastrophe has been experienced in our village. We didn’t know that at the time. They took us in the lorrys. We knew that Turkish army was moving, but there was no indication that there was village would be massacred at the time. We learned that later.24
What Mr. Huseyin is referencing is the massacres that occurred in Aloda, Maratha, and Santalaris, the three T.C. villages he referenced earlier in his interview. After the massacre, it has been estimated that over 12425 T.C.-some sources place the rate closer to 200-were murdered and buried in a mass grave; Mr. Huseyin’s family, excluding his father, were some of those who were killed by EOKA B, a G.C. nationalist group fighting for Enosis with Greece.
My Huseyin’s experience, so far, begs the questions: why were those G.C. villagers so willing to take him and other T.C. villagers hostage? Does Mr. Huseyin’s experience imply that G.C. and T.C. relations were shallow at best? The answers to these questions are not easily achieved, for there are many G.C. and T.C. who had very different experiences than Mr. Huseyin. They would answer those questions rather differently than he. But if continuing with Mr. Huseyin’s experiences, we can imply that the villagers were willing to take him and other T.C. hostage for two reasons: the first reason is because Mr. Huseyin lived in an area that was more heavily populated than other parts of Cyprus. Therefore, although he and other G.C. may have had good relations when times were good, they were too shallow and unattached to warrant understanding and protection during times of hostilities; the second reason is that, although the G.C. villagers initially took hundreds of T.C. villagers hostage, they later released all of the women and children back to their villages. They only kept the men. It was EOKA B who executed the murders, not the G.C. villagers. In other words, the G.C. villagers never meant to hurt the T.C. villagers. They simply wanted to use them to help free other G.C. villagers.