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Cyprus – The human cost of the tragedy


The human cost of the Cyprus tragedy

By Ismail Veli

The cost of human life and upheaval in the Cyprus dispute since 1955 has left a scar on all sides that seems impossible to heal. While the actual numbers of deaths compared to other conflicts was low, Turkish Cypriot griefthe percentage of loss to population ratio has been one of the highest since the second world war. The effect of this trauma has been so total that no day in the life of a Cypriot goes by without some discussion of the Cyprus tragedy. Everyone has lost, no one is immune, and no end in sight seems remotely possible.

Turkish Cypriots (TC) and Greek Cypriots (GC) often concentrate on their own sides losses. Downplaying the other side’s losses is an entrenched attitude that almost seems impossible to shift. Each side tends to assume that their own suffering is somehow greater, and quite often tends to downplay the suffering of the other side. The loss of British lives have never been taken seriously. As far as most Cypriots are concerned they were the Colonialists, and therefore deserve what they got. But how can anyone disregard the fact that every individual loss of life effects a mother, father, brother, sister, child spouse and so on.

Can we truly say that our suffering is different to any other person who has lost a loved one? Is it not true that many soldiers simply find themselves stationed in a place not of their own choosing? While one has to acknowledge that the loss of women, children, civilians etc is tragic, does it mean that a young teenager doing his national service is at fault? Far from it. Every loss of human life is tragic. My view of the consequences of the Cyprus problem is to acknowledge that there are no winners, only losers.

3 years ago Embargoed set up a subcommittee comprising of a small team of dedicated people to Greek Cypriot griefresearch the truth behind the losses.

On the Turkish losses every casualty including photographic evidence with all their family details, town of origin, date of birth and deaths were meticulously checked and examined. Letters, mails and interviews were carried out to assess the true and accurate extend of the disaster.

On the Greek losses, mails were written to the GC embassy requesting as much information as possible. Online information, UN reports, P.R.I.O (Peace Research Institute of Oslo) 2004 Pre Annan research findings were cross checked for verification.

The results were staggering. In order for us to understand how outsiders see the Cypriot losses some examples need to be given.

The partition of India between 1946-8 recorded 805.000 fatalities. The Vietnamese wars against Colonial France from 1945 until the American withdrawal and end of that conflict in 1975 resulted in the loss of 2.900.000 lives. In Cambodia between 1975-78 1.156.000. Rwanda over one million lives. The Korean 1950-53 civil war 3 million. (Source; International Institute of Strategic studies).

The list goes on and on. Is it no wonder the International community regards our never ending dispute with scorn and incredulity. As stated the total number of deaths in Cyprus, at just over 7 thousand seems low in comparison to the above countries. A closer look at the statistics however may help to explain the extent of this tragedy.

TURKISH LOSSES

The TC government often gives a total figure of 2200. The Turkish Cypriot deaths from 1st April 1955 until 1975 showed that 1810 people had lost their lives, therefore the remaining 400 must be Turkish troops. Most of the TC are listed at the Milli Mucadele Muzesi” (National Struggle Museum) in Nicosia and at the Sehit Malul Gaziler dernegi.

The names and details for 390 TCs were not found. As for the remaining 1523 individuals the following results were ascertained, including spouses, parents and siblings.

CIVILIANSTRNC Flag

679 Men aged 18-59
72 Women aged 18-59
130 over 60 mixed men and women
132 under 18 mixed boys and girls
——
1013

Military

201 TURKISH CYPRIOT
309 TURKISH MILITARY
——
510

Total 1523

The status of the remaining 287 have not been verified e.g.military/civilian. The details for the remaining 400 have still to be researched by the author of this article.

If we take the 1960 Cypriot census figures for the TC which showed a total of 104.942 people then the figures become even more staggering. 1810 dead and missing equates to about 1.725% of the 1960 census.

If we only take into account the 1523 that we have personal details of, it means that about 80% of losses were civilians. An astronomical number. If we relate the losses to the UK population of 60 million people, the 1.7% deaths would be 1.020.000 with 800.000 of them being civilians.

GREEK LOSSES

Unfortunately a breakdown of the age group for the GCs has not been easy to come by, but the Greek losses were equally Cyprus Flagstaggering

According to Makarios Drussiotis in his excellent books on the Cyprus conflict the total deaths of GC for the period 1955-59 was 300. The UN statistics for the period 1963-74 recorded 133 while the Cyprus High Commission information booklet gives a figure of 3000 dead and 1400 missing for 1974.

The total for the period 1955-1974 is 4833. The census of 1960 showed a GC population of 441.656. The figures give us at least 1.1% of the population. Again this would equate to 660.000 losses if the same percentage were applied to the UK. Sadly no reliable figures exist for the Mainland Greek troops stationed on the island, finding exact figures for the GC losses has been harder to come by. Hopefully one day a much fuller and more accurate figure of their losses will be officially released.

Names of Greek missing are listed on the following web site

The Missing Cypriots 1619 (alphabetica listl) Click here (Subsequently the numbers of Greek missing was reduced to just over 1400).

BRITISH LOSSES.

Sadly the loss of British lives has all but been forgotten. One has to bear in mind that many young British soldiers were merely conscripts but many civilians also lost their lives. It’s inconceivable to imagine Kyrenia memorial to British Servicemen on active service who died during the Cyprus Emergency in 1955 to 1959 smlthat their families were, or have not been effected by the deaths of their loved ones who were mostly in their late teens or early twenties.

The British governments official figures after the end of the conflict in 1959 gave a figure of 142, but on closer inspection the figure does not stand up to scrutiny. On the “Britain’s small wars” they are listed by regiment, names and rank. And in the British Memorial, Kyenia website, 371 are listed.

For breakdown and role of honour please click here In additions to the 371 lost, an unspecified number of British and Commonwealth Policemen. and many civilians were also killed.

It’s clear that the UK government of the period found it expedient to downplay the figures. We have to bear in mind of-course that not all casualties during a war are the direct result of “enemy fire”. But we need to acknowledge that to die in the line of duty is sufficient for an individual to be considered a casualty of war.

THE REFUGEE PROBLEM

The massive upheaval of both communities may explain further in trying to understand the psychological trauma of Cyprus. Again in percentage terms it probably recorded one of the largest (if not the largest) upheaval of any country since WW2.

P.R.I.O working with the UN published what it called ‘A green book’ in 2004. According to their findings half of all TCs between Peace Research Institute of Oslo1963-74 became refugees. Some were uprooted at least twice and many 3 times during that period. The GCs suffered a tremendous upheaval in 1974 which resulted in at least one third of its population to flee their ancestral homes.

The statistics are about 60.000 for TCs, and 160.000 for the GCs. In comparison to today’s refugees in Syria of over 2 million it seems small. But let’s consider for one moment that half the population of TCs would equate to 30 million refugees in the UK, and at least 20 million for the GCs. It does not take rocket science maths to realise the enormous distress and psychological impact this would leave on any country.

The suffering beggars belief and has created a fertile ground for extreme views, incrimination and propaganda. Each side vies for sympathy, but gives very little in return. The fruitless negotiations that have gone on and off since the 1960s have shown no significant results, and indications are that it will continue on the same path, at least in the foreseeable future. Apart from the Annan plan which almost seemed to have come close in re-uniting the Island in 2004 but rejected by the GCs, the ability to give and take is not forthcoming. Neither side seems to have a leader with the courage to overcome or direct its population towards the path of reconciliation. Opinions seem as entrenched and divided as ever.

IS A SOLUTION POSSIBLE?

The question is valid but anyone who comes up with an idea is more often than not verbally attacked, ridiculed and in their own respective community treated like a pariah. Accusations of treasonous thoughts, appeasement and naivety are preferred to that of an objective counterWill it ever end argument.

The Greek point of view is that the problem is one of invasion and occupation. As they are 80% of the population and therefore the legitimate owners of the Island the TCs should be happy with the status of a protected minority.

The Turkish viewpoint is that the 1960 treaty of establishment was formed on the basis of a partnership. The GCs have always disputed this as being unfair, while the TCs felt that the Greek argument was based on their desire for Enosis (Union with Greece) Enough of these two viewpoints have been discussed since 1960 so I will not attempt to rehash the same old story. Clearly the question of a solution seems as remote as ever.

CAN WE HEAL THE WOUNDS OF THE PAST?

Healing the wounds of the past has been an elusive target which has had a direct effect on the failure of a negotiated settlement. Fortunately the missing persons committee has had some success on working to discover the whereabouts of many missing persons. This humanitarian mission is still under way and has brought closure to many families in finally discovering the fate of their loved ones and giving them a final resting place. The work of identifying the victims by genetic DNA is an arduous and time consuming process fraught with pain and emotion. Many people on both sides have worked tirelessly and with amazing dedication and sensitivity in searching for the victims which in many cases have been missing for 50 years.

An acknowledgement of past failure, brutality and ideology can help to finally heal the wounds of the past. Only by admitting our Peace dovefailure and acknowledging each other’s suffering without the ‘ifs and ‘buts’ can we truly begin the inexorable road to a reconciliation. For that to happen the education system which is based on heroism, the portrayal of the other as the barbarian, while basking in self pity and endless reminders of the other side’s never ending deviousness has, and will continue to pay zero results. No problem in history has been solved by recrimination and counter propaganda. An indisputable fact is that all sides have experienced prejudice, hatred, homelessness, bloodshed and destitute on a scale that our forefathers would have never imagined.

It’s possible that Cyprus will never re-unite in the way some dream of, but there is no logical reason why we cannot co-exist in peace based on mutual respect for our diverse and rich cultural heritage. We are destined to share this Island forever. Would it not be better to share it in peace?.

With unlimited potential for economic prosperity as a result of a peace dividend, it’s no wonder the International community looks at our dispute with incredible bewilderment. If and when we all realise that the futility of past hatred and war has been nothing short of suicide perhaps we can finally learn to bury the hatchet.

That much we owe to our children and grandchildren. The alternative is unthinkable, and means a continuation of eternal enmity which benefits no one except the fanatics who will find that in the event of peace their rhetoric and hatred will become redundant. Wouldn’t that make a welcome change?

At time of publishing this article The reseach is still ongoing. Future publications on new findings will hopefully be made available.

We must concentrate not merely on the negative expulsion of war but the positive affirmation of peace.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

18 replies »

  1. Dear Ismail abi.

    What an incredible article. Such balance is hard to come by when one talks of the Cyprus Problem and what makes me personally more proud than anything, as chair of the Embargoed! group, is this classic case study, which underlines our efforts to be fair, promoting dignity and respect on such a sensitive subject.

    The figures are staggering. In the context you have placed them, hopefully those not really up on their Cyprus studies, will see the true extent of the tragedy for both of the Cypriot communities. I sincerely hope that a solution comes to our island. On the eve of the beginning of yet another round of talks let us hope and pray for something positive to come of these, whatever form a settlement might like look.

    Dearest Ismail, your days as a writer may not be long and established but you are certainly making a wonderful impactso long may it continue.

    Fevzi Hussein
    Chair, Embargoed!

  2. I commend you on your excellent article Işmail Veli. Recognition of wrongs needs to be acknowledged before one can expect reconciliation between formerly conflicting parties. Restoration of trust will never happen without it. I would like to know whether or not any of the leaders of both Cypriot communities have considered this.

  3. Ismail, I don’t know how you worked out as Greeks being the legitimate owners of Cyprus.
    “IS A SOLUTION POSSIBLE paragraph”. Do some research and you will find that Cyprus was linked together with Turkey many many years ago.

    • Hi Bill,
      With respect, I think you misinterpreted Işmail’s paragraph :-
      “The Greek point of view is that the problem is one of invasion and occupation. As they are 80% of the population and therefore the legitimate owners of the Island the TCs should be happy with the status of a protected minority.”
      This is simply stating what the GC point of view is/was especially in the Makarious era. He was always an advocat of majority rule hence his resentment of the imposed 1960 constitution.
      Hardly a gracious invitation to ask Işmail to study the history. Bit like telling granny to suck eggs don’t you think?

  4. I would like to thank readers for their comments. Raising awareness on the human cost is essential. All sides need to acknowledge the pain and suffering caused in order to bring about a reconciliation.
    Mr Bill I’m completely at a loss as to what you are referring to.

    • I’m sorry Ismail but i completely disagree with the 80% of population and “legitimate owners”.
      Go years back and you will see that the whole island of Cyprus was completely linked with Turkey. Kibris ve Turkiye hep bir ada.

  5. Bill the paragraph you are referring to is giving each sides perspective on the issue. I tried to present each sides views as “they see it”. My article is neutral and I have no desire to enter into who is right or wrong.
    I think John has explained and interpreted perfectly what I wrote

  6. Distressing indeed for both sides, what really gets me is that the G/c has never taken responsibility for what they allowed to start, enosis. The whole G/c population must have been behind this movement otherwise surely the powers that be, Government forces would have stopped this terrorist group, Grevas & co.

    They should apologise to the T/c for attempting genocide on their population, instead they deny it happened and teach their children a different story.
    The G/c is still the bully in the playground and the world should tell them they were wrong totally to blame and guilty for ruining this beautiful part of the world.

  7. Thank you ismailveli,for such a comprehensive, neutral, unbiased and truthful article. It is only from such a foundation, with tons of mutual compassion, that we can seek to go positively forward. ‘Brenda in Cyprus’ is trying very sincerely to do just that. She has already had many meetings including in the ‘buffer’ zone where she works wholeheartedly to help mend the psychological damage in war zones on our planet. We hope to have a relevant FB page ‘Brenda in Cyprus’ up shortly where we will hold regular all inclusive meetings for those who wish to join and share their trauma and meet new co-linear friends.

    Brenda also hopes to come back to our island shortly where those that missed the great work she is doing, will be able to attend, participate and meet her.

    Many people, who found much benefit from the meetings, have requested that we continue to share and meet up. That the good work carries on by the islander’s themselves. Thus, hopefully the FB page will be up shortly and the meetings will be posted on there.

  8. Good on you Ismail Veli very sensible research and analysis of our beloved island of Cyprus and where we stand as Cypriots wether from Greek or Turkish origin . Congratulations and thanks for many hours of work you did for this article and enlightenment you provided for us the readers. Selamlar, from Melbourne Australia.

  9. Blame culture is at the basis of the problem. The rest of the world would do well to learn from the experience of Apartheid in South Africa. Both sides agreed to deal with their problems through TRUTH and RECONCILIATION. OK, it isn’t perfect but it does take ‘blame’ out of the equation.

  10. I find myself totally agreeing with you Ismael.It is long overdue for our communities to stop the blame game, try to heal the hurt of the past and look at how we can improve our future.We have so much to gain and nothing to lose.I know we are not supposed to discuss politics on the “Frozen Cypriots” group on FB but I congratulate you on providing this link.I hope everybody sees it -especially our politicians.I realize that it must be a hard process to put down in writing all the different facets and details of a settlement but with good will,respect and bravery on both sides I believe it’s not only possible but imperative.I think of you as a brother,as we share the same Mother -CVPRUS !! I finish by thanking you for all your hard work for our Mother !

  11. Thank you everyone for your kind and balanced comments. We all have our faults but excepting our mistakes and learning from them is one of the first prerequisites for reconciliation and an eye to a future free from the tragedy of the past. Lets hope this will come sooner rather then later.

  12. Thanks for your well researched Article Ismail. I hope more of the local Cypriots, Turkish or Greek get to read and digest it.
    Also, let’s hope both communites learn to co-exist and live in harmony in this beautiful warm island!

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