Using a mixture of nationalistic religious fervour, extortion, bribery and corruption the terrorist group had penetrated all the military, religious and political organs of the regime almost up to the highest level. Heavily backed by a foreign dictatorship, plans were carefully laid for the final crusade to cleanse the land of infidel settlers so that God and his people could be united under the warm care of a “theocratic” dictatorship.
Massive quantities of arms and ammunition were clandestinely imported and thousands of foreign fighters quietly infiltrated into the country to back up the terrorists and the suborned local militia groups. They, the local police, and the citizen militia detachments were issued with their targets, in the main unarmed villagers. On being ordered to move all these units were to, simultaneously, erupt into action, like a volcano, sweeping to their death every infidel from the mountains to the sea. The objective was total and immediate annihilation of the enemy. It was to be a repetition of how the Cretan Greeks wiped away the Turkish Cretans in the last century.
That was the Iphestos* plan dreamed up, in the summer of 1974, by the Greek Cypriot EOKA B terrorist organisation, financed and armed by Greece and supported by many Cypriot leaders. It aimed to wipe out overnight, in a co-ordinated assault, all Turkish Cypriots living in Cyprus leaving none to be rescued by Turkey.
Luckily, if that is an appropriate word, the plan was botched right at the start. The so-called President of the Cypriot regime, Makarios, was to be assassinated so that the administration could be totally taken over by EOKA and its leader. However, Makarios escaped death going first to London and later speaking at the UN to denounce this invasion of Cyprus by Greece (not a misprint)**.
The plotters had underestimated the opposition to their plan, to unite Cyprus with Greece, by many Greek Cypriots. A mini but vicious civil war erupted between the Greek factions resulting in many Greek-on-Greek deaths. The terrorists even stormed hospitals to kill their Greek opponents in their hospital beds.
This civil war did not entirely prevent the many Greek detachments that continued with the genocidal Iphestos plan. Thousands of Turkish Cypriot men were rounded up as hostages. Turkish homes and villages were destroyed. Thousands were locked into Famagusta’s old city without food, power, or water. Unarmed old men were killed and their women were raped and killed with their bodies being ploughed into the ground by bulldozers. Perhaps as many as 3000 Turkish Cypriots died as a result of this conflict.
The confusion surrounding the coup d’état gave time for Turkey to intervene to try and stop the genocide. The intervention was ultimately successful although a lot of lives were lost on both sides. The leader of the Greek Cypriot militia in 1974, and later, briefly, “President of Cyprus”, Nicos Sampson, said in 1981 “Had Turkey not intervened I would not only have proclaimed ENOSIS—I would have annihilated the Turks of Cyprus.“
In 1974 the two Communities (recognised bodies in the Cypriot Constitution) effectively partitioned the country with an agreed (there being no alternative) exchange of population. Since 1974 there has been 50 years of a sort of peace. There has been no inter-communal violence but this is because the communities are separated and the Turkish side shelters under the protection of the powerful Turkish army.
Despite the lapse of time, the Greek Cypriot rhetoric is still violently anti-Turk and pro ethnic cleansing, by one means or another. As summarised by Professor Michael Moran, of Sussex University, Greek Cypriots were “brainwashed through at least a hundred years of school-teaching and sermonising into a set of beliefs pathologically at odds with any plausible account of historical and political realities; lacking contact with a counterbalancing tradition of rational criticism; for the most part incapable of ironic scepticism towards theological obfuscation—the Greek Cypriot leaders were effectively de-sensitized to the equally important rights of the Turkish Cypriots”.
A major reason for this lack of sensitivity continued for 50 years, since 1974, is that the aims of the Greek Cypriot are tacitly supported by the UK, Greece, the EU, and the UN. These bodies believe that it is a good idea to force Turkish Cypriots to be subjugated to a regime, that is constitutionally illegitimate, which has twice attempted to exterminate them (1963 and 1974), and which also conducted an 11-year campaign of ethnic cleansing against them. They believe that putting a mouse in a cage with a cat will be good for the mouse. Turkish Cypriots are not in favour of this.
This sad history echoes the events in Gaza today but with a major difference. For hundreds of years, Cyprus (which has never been part of Greece or its antecedent parts) has been the home of Turkish-speaking Cypriots and of Greek-speaking Cypriots.
By contrast, in Palestine, the Arab population has had a chunk of its ancestral home taken away to provide a home for a newly created state, Israel, and to receive the world’s persecuted Jewish people, including those already in Palestine. The Arabs did not agree to this, even though there was enough land for all.
From the Balfour declaration onwards it has been internationally recognised that there must be a secure home state for the Jewish populations of the world. Nothing underlined this more than the atrocities against the Jewish populations of Europe during the Second World War. Maybe the creation of Israel could have been better managed but the actions of Hamas and its sponsoring states is also a case of them being “brainwashed through at least a hundred years of sermonising into a set of beliefs pathologically at odds with any plausible account of historical and political realities” thus being totally de-sensitised to the equally important rights of the Jewish state and all its inhabitants.
The ancient home of Turkish Cypriots is Cyprus. They are entitled to manage their own lives in the security of their own state free from the fear of eradication. However, the world denies them this instead it insists they submit to a regime that wants their total destruction.
By contrast, the new home of the Jewish people, carved out of Arab land, is recognised as a legitimate state and has been internationally accepted by many nations and the UN. In its endeavours to maintain its security against groups and malign actors who wish for its destruction. Israel is not being urged to give up its security nor to submit to its own destruction. Its right to a home is totally accepted even within the Arab world.
It is a major achievement of the political brain simultaneously to accept as correct two opposite concepts. The three religions in the region all worship the same God. It is time He said, “You are all my children. STOP SQUABBLING IN MY NAME”.
Accepting that there is a need for two states in Cyprus and two states in Palestine must be obvious even to brain-dead politicians. Creating an environment in which each pair of states begins to trust the other is, though, much more difficult and requires courage, direct communication, trade, education, and transparency, and that is just for starters.
This hurdle is not so difficult in Cyprus. Whilst the parties have lived apart for 60 years, since 1963, but mainly peacefully after 1974, they had lived together for centuries before that. A simple recognition of the rights of the Turks in Cyprus and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus to exist will enable the reconciliation of all Cypriots to begin.
* In Greek the word for volcano is ηφαίστειο, pronounced ifaísteio
** Makarios speech denouncing Greece can be seen below