Following the publication of an outstanding article in CYPRUS TODAY a leading North Cyprus newspaper recently, the author and local historian John Hughes-Wilson has asked cyprusscene.com to publish his article on the internet to ensure it has the opportunity of worldwide reading and sharing.
DON’T BLAME THE BRITISH
By John Hughes-Wilson…….
This July marks the 40th anniversary of the explosion that blew Cyprus and its problems onto the world’s headlines. For once you can’t blame the British. If you really want to look at the source of the problem all along, this time it’s the Greeks.
Of course, it’s hard to get at the truth. For example, the Observer recently carried a heart-rending article about the unhappy memories of some poor Greek teenager who spent July 1974 cowering in a hastily dug trench as “NATO’s biggest army rampaged overhead.” For the ‘right on’ London Liberals it was, as Greek propaganda has so effectively proclaimed for 40 years, “all Turkey’s fault.”
No, it wasn’t.
We have a real duty to nail that big fat Greek lie once and for all on this 40th anniversary of the Greek invasion and Coup to overthrow President Makarios. It was the Greeks that started it on the 15th of July 1974, forty years ago, when they tried to murder Cyprus’s elected President Makarios and his supporters at the behest of the Greek Junta in Athens.
Why did the Greeks do it?
To get an honest answer we have to go back to the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after the First World War. The victorious Greeks pounced on Asia Minor – Turkey – greedy for what they regarded as the spoils of war. For a century since they had thrown the Ottomans out of Greece, Greeks had been fed on a propaganda diet of some great new Byzantine Empire in the Eastern Mediterranean. Now Athens saw its chance to create ‘Mega Hellas’ – ‘Greater Greece’ – in the Eastern Mediterranean, and invaded Turkey.
Ooops! The Turks were far from defeated. Instead they rose up under Ataturk and drove the Greek invaders from Turkish soil, utterly routed and abandoning Smyrna (now Izmir) in flames. In 1924 the new Turkey was enshrined in international law by the Treaty of Lausanne and the Greeks were for ever evicted from Asia Minor.
Casting around, Greek territorial ambitions now shifted to Cyprus, which the victorious British had annexed as a Crown Colony in 1925. Athens reasoned that it could turn the island into part of a Greater Greece by calling for ENOSIS – Union with Greece. That is precisely what had happened in Crete between the 1830s and 1922. A sizeable Turkish minority had been turfed out of Crete and the island, by then fully Greek, annexed by the Motherland.
However there were two problems with the Greek plan to annex Cyprus: first, the British were in charge. That was no great problem; the easy- going British colonial rulers could be harassed and intimidated by the Greek Cypriots. The Greek Cypriots set about their task with a will, with serious riots and even burning down the Governor General’s residence in 1931.
The second problem however was less easily dealt with. The Turkish minority on the island were reluctant to leave Cyprus.
Unlike the cowed Cretan Turks, most Turkish Cypriots were determined to stay, and were not going to be shoehorned out of their farms by their Greek neighbours. The communities polarised and, with an interruption for more important events between 1939 and 1945, in the late 1940s political hostilities were resumed, culminating in Archbishop Makarios’s swearing in as the Ethnarch of the Cypriot version of the Greek Orthodox Church in 1950.
Now, Makarios was a committed ENOSIS man. Indeed, he swore a second, very secret, oath on his inauguration. It was an oath that would dog him to the end of his days. Because Makarios swore that as the Head of the Greek Cypriot Orthodox Church he would do everything in his power to bring about ENOSIS, union with Greece. This was a sacred, binding oath in the twilight world of Greek Cypriot politics, where the Greek Cypriot church still wields enormous political power.
We now know that Makarios kept his word. From the moment he became Ethnarch he worked tirelessly to bring about ENOSIS. The Greek terrorist motto of the early 1950s was, ‘First the British and then the Turks.’ With Makarios’s connivance an undercover military guerrilla group, EOKA, was formed under Colonel Grivas and in 1955 ruthlessly set about their campaign of murder and terrorism to force the British off the island.
By 1960 the war-weary Brits had had enough. At Zurich and London in 1960 Cyprus got its independence. The treaties were guaranteed by Britain, Greece and an increasingly suspicious Turkey. But ENOSIS was not forgotten; on the contrary, having got rid of the British, the advocates of ENOSIS now turned their malevolent attention on the Turkish minority population. It was time for a re-run of Crete.
The statistics for Crete tell their own grim story of Greek ethnic cleansing. In 1821, 47% of Cretans were Turks. By 1920 that had shrunk to 7%: and in 1924 the rump Turkish population was forcibly deported to Turkey, leaving no more Turks on Crete. Makarios and his friends had just such a solution planned for getting rid of their Turkish Cypriot neighbours. It was called the ‘Akritas Plan’ and it was unadulterated ethnic cleansing. The first step was at Christmas 1963, when Makarios announced a change to the Zurich Constitution to give the Greek Cypriots more power. The Turkish Cypriots objected and serious inter-communal violence broke out. Britain as a guarantor power flew in troops to keep the peace. Within months that had turned into UNFICYP and the frightened Turkish Cypriots withdrew into their enclaves.
For ten long years from 1964 to 1974 that was the situation on Cyprus: Turkish Cypriots huddling together for protection and building a secret resistance army to protect themselves; and Greek Cypriots claiming that they were the only real government on the increasingly polarised island and trying to get rid of the Turkish Cypriots once and for all.
Makarios then became the problem. He looked at the Greek Junta in power in Athens in the early 1970s and began to drag his feet over the whole idea of ENOSIS. He enjoyed strutting his stuff on the Cold War world stage as one of the leaders of the ‘non-aligned bloc.’ The idea of being tied to the petty gang of Fascist American puppets in Athens was never going to appeal to the egotistical ‘holy hypocrite.’ So Makarios broke his solemn ENOSIS oath, much to the fury of EOKA’s Grivas and his murderous thugs.
A new Greek civil war broke out between 1970 and 1974 as ‘EOKA B’ tried to murder Makarios and seize power with Athens’ support. Matters came to a head that hot July day in 1974 forty years ago when the Greek officers of the Greek Cypriot National Guard staged their infamous coup.
The coupists proclaimed the establishment of “The Hellenic Republic of Cyprus” and installed the ex-EOKA gunman Nicos Samson, who had been responsible for murdering many British and Turkish Cypriots in the 1950s, as the president of the “Cypriot Hellenic Republic”.
In the next five days, more than 3,000 Greek Cypriot supporters of Makarios and the Communist party AKEL were killed in an orgy of Greek on Greek blood-letting. At the same time Samson gave the notorious Akritas plan full rein to exterminate Turkish Cypriots ‘once and for all’.
Britain did nothing. Not so the Turks. Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit flew to London and begged British Prime Minister Harold Wilson to intervene. Wilson puffed his pipe, made airy excuses, and played for time. PM Eçevit ordered Turkey to intervene as a Guarantor Power to separate the combatants and restore peace.
On 20 July 1974 the first Turkish Marines splashed ashore, perfectly legally, as both Makarios at the UN and the Greek High court later acknowledged. The rest, as they say, is history. But you won’t read about this story in Greek Cypriot schoolbooks.
Forty years on, facts are facts.
Blame the Greeks.