By Chris Elliott…….
When I first came to North Cyprus I spent time exploring the many fascinating places in Lefkosa, and I soon discovered a museum near to the Kyrenia Gate and this was the Museum of National Struggle and I decided I would go back again as I wanted to write about it, and with the anniversary the 20th July Turkish Intervention in Cyprus 1974 now seems an ideal time to publish what I learned.
For those readers who want to learn more of this intervention and the plea for help by President Makarios on the 19th July to the UN regarding his claim that Cyprus was invaded by Greece, please click here.
In preparation for this article I wrote to the TRNC Public Information Office to request permission as a foreign journalist to visit the museum and take photographs and in due course permission was granted and the necessary arrangements were made.
Driving through the Kyrenia Gate I turned left and drove down Istanbul Caddesi and after parking, walked into the Mücahitler Sitesi in the Barbaro Bastion which contains the museum and to my surprise there was no longer army personnel to take my identity papers as they had moved away, which meant I was more relaxed carrying a camera.
Travelling with me was Şerkan Çakir who as a 9 year old boy had seen his father Hassan Çakir and other members of his family, who were local TMT regional commanders etc, killed in front of him by Greek Cypriot Eoka killers supported by Greek regular troops in Poli in the latter days of July 1974.
Waiting for us was his Uncle Mehmet Çakir who was shot and survived on that fateful day together with Cemal Kilic another local regional commander from the same area.
So you may ask who were TMT?
TMT or the Turkish Resistance Organisation was given approval for its foundation by the Turkish Special War Department of General Staff in 1958 and plans were implemented by Turkish Colonel, Ismail Tansu who also wrote the fine book about TMT “In Reality No One Was Asleep” from which information quoted here has been taken and this article is intended as a general outline of TMT and for serious students of history what finer place to learn more than visiting Milli Mucadele Muzesi “The Museum of National Struggle” in Lefkosa.
The TMT organisation was formed in Cyprus in 1958 and recruited young Turkish Cypriot men and women commanded by Turkish Officers but kept a low key secret profile whilst it grew in strength of numbers and equipment in preparation to combat the threat of the Greek Cypriot Eoka terrorist organisation and the growing influence and aggression of mainland Greek military in Cyprus.
On 21st December 1963 TMT came out into the open to combat the savage killings of Turkish Cypriots being perpetrated by Eoka as they pushed forward with their Akritas plan (click here) which determined that all Turkish Cypriots be driven from Cyprus and also the Enosis plan which called for union with Greece. The TMT actions to counter these threats and attacks by the Greek Cypriots through Eoka and also mainland Greece continued until the 20th July 1974 when Turkey mounted a Peace Operation, Attila 1 in Cyprus when the United Kingdom, as another Cyprus guarantor power, declined to lend help and support to put a stop to the aggression and killings by the Greek Cypriots.
It is worth noting here again that on the 19th July 1974, Greek Cypriot President Makarios appeared before the UN Assembly to appeal for help and support claiming his country had been invaded by Greece (click here)
Such was the reaction of the Greek Cypriot Eoka organisation and mainland Greek military to the Turkish intervention, that they went on a killing spree as Serkan Çakir and his family experienced and this was finally stopped by the Turkish Attila 2 military operation that drove the aggressors back to a line, that was negotiated by the UN as the Green Line and since then until now, peace has been maintained with the presence of the UN contingent and also the Turkish Troops who have remained in Cyprus to ensure there is no further intercommunal fighting between the two sides until a peace deal is agreed.
In 1967 the TMT organisation was renamed the Mücahit (fighter), and then the Mücahit was renamed again in 1974 as the Turkish Cypriot Security Force.
So, let’s take a look at The Museum of National Struggle which when you enter gives a brief account of the Ottomans when they came to Cyprus and then features many fine displays of firearms, some which looked far more dangerous to the user than the intended victim. Considering at the start of the Cyprus conflict the Turkish Cypriots had mainly a few hunting rifles and through sheer need to survive, they created some of these crude mind blowing firearms.
As the years rolled on and the weapons of TMT became more sophisticated, so did those of Eoka and the Greek mainland troops supporting them so the fire power as displayed by both sides was very advanced in the later days of the conflict.
Also there are many fine pictures showing those young people from years ago who answered the call to defend their people and I found it very touching to stand there surrounded by those mementos of the past and be talking to some of the TMT fighters and family who lived through those desperate days when no-one but Turkey would lift a finger to help.
To learn more of the Turkish Cypriots, who to this day do not seem to have a national hatred for their aggressors but remain friendly and welcoming to all that they meet and proud of their country, then a visit to this museum is a must for anybody visiting Northern Cyprus.
The most famous account of the defence by Turkish Cypriots against Greek and Greek Cypriot aggression was that of the defence of Erenkoy which we recorded with a video interview with UN platoon Commander Willy Lindh who was stationed in Erenkoy during the ongoing fighting.
You can read click here and only wonder what may have happened if the defence of Erenköy had been unsuccessful, could it have been another Srebrenica type disaster with the word genocide entering the history of Cyprus yet again.