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Cyprus: Coexistence

Accounts of Greek & Turkish Coexistence in Cyprus


"There are many examples of joint upsprings against the Sultan and the Pashas. We shall only mention the uprising of Halil Agha in 1765, of the Messaoria peasants in 1804-1805 and of Giaour Imam in 1833. In these upsprings Greeks and Turks fought jointly for better living conditions, but they were put down through the co-operation of aghas- landlords and the higher Greek Clergy. This brief survey of the circumstances that enabled the Ottoman Empire to impose itself upon Cyprus accounts for the main causes that led to the cooperation of the Greek and Turkish masses."
Ibrahim Aziz, The Historical Course of the
              Turkish Cypriot Community, 1981.

For hundreds of years Greek and Turkish Cypriots lived in social harmony and economic interdependence in the villages and towns of Cyprus.

This web of interdependence was only disturbed after protracted and violent attacks against it. Even after incidents, planned and instigated to prove that Greek and Turkish Cypriots could not live together, ordinary people again and again proved the opposite until they were torn apart by the Attila operation in 1974.

The Turkish Cypriots originated as a Muslim population during the period when Cyprus was ruled by the Ottoman Empire between the 16th and the 19th centuries. Some are descended from the Greeks and Latins who changed their faith to ease the burden of oppression. Their interdependence with the rest of the population of Cyprus is indicated by the fact that until 1974 they lived intermingled in towns and villages all over Cyprus. The mass of Greek and Turkish Cypriots lived and cooperated peacefully in an atmosphere of religious and cultural tolerance. As Cyprus moved into the twentieth century, Greek and Turkish Cypriot workers engaged in common trade union struggles organized in the Pancyprian Federation of Labour.

During the years of colonial rule the Greek Cypriots agitated for freedom. The Turkish Cypriot minority was the object of continuous attempts at manipulation aimed at converting them into an instrument of colonial policy in countering  the anti-colonial movement of the rest of the population of the island. The Colonial power involved Turkey in its dispute with the people of its colony: It was easier to continue ruling the colony if the dispute was not between the  colonial masters and its subjects, but a more complicated one.

TMT was the outcome of Turkey's cooperation with the colonial power, and was the means of frustrating the wishes of the majority of the population of Cyprus,
dividing  Greek and Turkish Cypriot and beginning the long path towards partition.

The organization was set up by Mr Rauf Denktash. "I had set up the TMT with a few friends...Everybody thought that I was the leader, but I was not. I was political advisor. Immediately after forming it I handed it over... The leaders were former army officers from Turkey."
(The Times, 20.1.1978)

Dr Kuchuk takes up the story with an account of how Riza Vurushkan came to Cyprus from Turkey to lead TMT.
"Year 1957...in order to give daily reports to Ankara...and to secure aid from Turkey I used to go to Ankara very frequently. During one of these visits, the late Prime Minister of Turkey, Adnan Menderes, introduced Riza Vurushkan to me...Later I met him at the office of a Lieutenant General and talked with him there. During our meeting it was decided that Vurushkan should come to
Cyprus as "civilian adviser". He arrived in Cyprus under an assumed name and settled down here."
(Halkin Sesi, 16.2.1979)

TMT incited anti-Greek riots and tried to force Turkish Cypriot workers to establish separate trade unions.

Murder, arson and intimidation were the means that TMT used in order to prove that Greek and Turkish Cypriots could not live together. The victims were trade unionists, journalists and ordinary Turkish Cypriots who resisted TMT's call.

After the signing of the Zurich and London Agreements in 1959, which led to the independence of Cyprus, TMT continued its clandestine activities in the cause of dividing Cyprus, and was to continue until 1984 as Mr Ozgur was to

In October, 1959, seven months after the signing of the agreements on Cyprus independence, the British mine-sweeper HMS Burmaston intercepted the Turkish
boat "Deniz" as it was attempting to deliver a shipment of arms to TMT in Cyprus.

Despite TMT terrorism, the mass of Greek and Turkish Cypriots citizens entered hopefully into the period of independence.

Some TMT attacks against Turkish Cypriots, May-July, 1958

- 22.5.58: Murder attempt against Ahmet Sadi, Director of the Turkish Office of the Pancyprian Workers Federation. In order to save his life, Sadi left Cyprus soon after and settled in England.

- 24.5.48: Murder of Fazil Onder, Chief Editor of the weekly newspaper   "Inkilapci".

- 29.5.58: Murder of Ahmet Yahya, committee member of the progressive Turkish Cypriot Athletic-Cultural Centre.

- 5.6.58: Murder attempt against Hasan Ali, member of a Construction Workers Committee of the Pancyprian Labour Federation.

- 30.6.58: Murder of Ahmet Ibrahim, a barber from Limassol, because he had friendly relations with Greek-Cypriots and expressed himself in  favour of Greek-Turkish cooperation.

- 3.7.58: Murder attempt against Arif Hulusi Barudi. He was working in a  business owned by a Greek Cypriot. Before the attempt he had received a threatening letter demanding that he leave his job.

"The Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots alike were spread widely over the island- not according to any fixed geographical pattern but rather as a result of the usual factors behind the movement and settlement of people over many generations; for example, the search for farming land and for employment, and other such social and economic motives... Thus out of 619 villages at the time
of the last census, 393 were wholly or predominantly Greek Cypriot, 120 were Turkish Cypriot and 106 were classified as mixed. But the villages themselves are not usually to be found in clusters where one community or the other
predominates; the more general pattern in any given area is a mixture of Greek Cypriot, Turkish Cypriot and mixed villages. The capital, Nicosia, and the other main towns such as Famagusta, Limassol and Larnaca are also mixed in population... There is evidence of considerable intermingling of the two communities, more especially in employment and commerce but also to some degree
at the social level."
Gallo Plaza, United Nations Mediator,
            "Report to the Secretary General", 1965.

"Going ...back... to our schooldays... I don't think that the generation of that age, the boys of that age... had any cause for alarm for the future... were years when people who are now in our age group knew there was British
"repression" on the island... We were just boys in the English School; Greek and Turkish boys living probably in the same street in opposite houses, playing together, fighting together... As a boy I remember going around with my father to Greek monasteries all over Cyprus, to Greek houses, and being entertained by Greeks on an equal footing as friends, good friends. They used to come to
our house, too, and the reason, I now believe, looking back, is that we had no   political quarrel, no political bone to pick".

Rauf Denktash at a Rotary Club Luncheon 1n 1972
in R. Denktash, "The Cyprus Problem", 1974.

"In 1954 I felt great anxiety about Cyprus.
Harold Macmillan was urging us to stir up the Turks in order to neutralise the Greek agitation. I wrote a minute in opposition to this tactic. I also asked the Prime Minister's private secretary if I could see Churchill on the subject,
but he absolutely refused even to pass on the suggestion, which he clearly regarded as impertinence."
C.M. Woodhouse, "Something Ventured", 1982.

TMT Leaflet Circulated on 7 May 1958:
"Oh Turkish Youth! The day is near when you will be called upon to sacrifice your life and blood in the "PARTITION" struggle - the struggle for freedom... You are a brave Turk.
You are faithful to your country and nation and are entrusted with the task of demonstrating Turkish might. Be ready to break the chains of slavery with your determination and willpower and with your love of freedom. All Turkdom, right and justice and God are with you. PARTITION OR DEATH."
quoted in Nancy Crawshaw "The Cyprus Revolt", 1978.

"Although the nucleus of the first Turkish Cypriot political party was organized in 1942, it was not until 1955 that the Turkish Cypriot community became politically active. Within the next three years, a community political
structure was developed as a result not only of efforts of Turkish Cypriot leaders to oppose Enosis, but also of encouragement from the British and Turkish officials who were seeking to safeguard their countries' strategic
Dr Fazil Kuchuk in interview to R.A.Patrick, Doctoral
Dissertation, London School of Economics and
Political Science, 1972.

"The early stages of the Cyprus conflict, in the mid-1950's, were mainly a struggle between the Greek Cypriots and the British Colonial power, with the Turks at that time hardly interested in the island. There is strong evidence that the British Government of the day deliberately encouraged an indifferent Turkey to take more active interest, as a useful counterweight in the struggle against the Greeeks. One of the most violent expressions of this artificially contrived Turkish indignation was on the night of 6th-7th September 1955, when a terrifying Turkish mob destroyed quantities of Greek property in Instanbul. It should be noted that at the Yassaida trials in 1960 evidence was given by the defence witnesses that the Turkish Government had been put up to staging a   Cyprus demonstration by the then British Foreign Secretary Harold Macmillan, but that the demonstration, mis-managed by Menderes, had degenerated into an
uncontrollable riot".
David Hotham, "The Turks", 1972.

"When the armed struggle started, the British had at their disposal thousands of men and could even increase their existing numbers to put down the EOKA struggle. This they did not do, but they formed instead the well known Auxiliary
Corps. The ordinary Turkish Cypriots, who did not realize where the British were leading them (since their leadership did not warn them, rather it encouraged  them), hastened to reinforce this Auxiliary Corps thinking only of securing
a living. Thus, the Greek Cypriots, who thought that they were waging a holy struggle against the British, found themselves facing the Turkish Cypriots. In this way
the British started submitting to the Turkish community their plans for   partition."
Ibrahim Aziz, "The Historical Course of the Turkish Cypriot Community", 1981


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