• Δευτέρα 24 Ιανουαρίου 2022

Articles in English

The truths and lies regarding the intercommunal clashes of 1963-1964

How teachers flunked history test

THE MINISTER of Education’s recent circular, issued on January 19, Archbishop Makarios’ name day, has reignited the debate about who is to blame for the intercommunal clashes of 1963-64, which led to the collapse of the Zurich-London agreements. Minister Andreas Demetriou points out that the clashes were provoked by “outlaw and extremist organisations, both Greek and Turkish Cypriot.” This very general reference to an historical event occurring 45 years ago incurred the wrath of members of political parties (other than the Left), the Church and that section of the media that maintains that what happened in 1963 was a Turkish mutiny instigated by foreign centres of power, and that the Greek Cypriots were merely resisting as a legitimate state.


By far the most interesting reaction was that of the secondary school teachers union OELMEK, which issued its own circular and distributed it to schools to “correct” the Education Minister and in which it outlined its own interpretation of the events. According to OELMEK’s circular, this is how the events of 1963-64 unfolded:

  1. Turkey “supplied arms to TMT, the Turkish Cypriot extremist group, which seized control of the entire Turkish Cypriot community.”
  2. On December 20, 1963 Turkish Cypriots “attempted to seize strategic locations throughout Cyprus in a broader bid to engineer partition.”
  3. “UN intervention succeeded in putting a stop to the intercommunal clashes between the legitimate authorities of the Republic of Cyprus and TMT.”
  4. The clashes “led to the withdrawal of the Turkish Cypriots from all the organs and institutions of the Republic of Cyprus and to a self-imposed encirclement of Turkish Cypriots in pockets.”

For OELMEK, the blame for what happened in Cyprus from 1960 to 1964 lies squarely on the shoulders of the other side. The union also points the finger at foreign powers. Union head Eleni Simelidou said OELMEK was forced to issue the circular to “restore the historical truth” that had been distorted by the Education Minister.

So how much truth is there to OELMEK’s “historical truth”? How far d the points raised by the union correspond to actual events?


1. Outlawed organisations


It is indeed true that Turkey armed TMT and continued to do so after the signing of the agreements in 1959. Pulling the strings was the Turkish ‘deep state’ that subsequently evolved into the Ergenekon organisation, which is currently in the news.


The existence of TMT and the arming of Turkish Cypriots is only half the truth. The other half, which has been swept under the rug, is that Greek Cypriot nationalists themselves set up not one, but 15 outlawed organisations.

Some of these groups were small, others were outright farcical, and a few participated only by distributing pamphlets. Nevertheless, at least six of these groups engaged in serious terrorist activities, first against Greek Cypriots (murder, extortion) and later against Turkish Cypriots.


The stated aim of all these groups was the struggle for Enosis (union with Greece). None of the groups pledged allegiance to the Republic of Cyprus, which they saw only as a stepping-stone on the path to Enosis.

It is also true that during this time the Greek ‘deep state’ was funneling arms to Cyprus. The leaders of the Greek ‘deep state’ were Georgios Papadopoulos and Demetrios Ioannides, who subsequently ruled as dictators for the junta. Papadopoulos made at least two secret trips to Cyprus on a mission to establish and arm outlawed organisations. He met Polycarpos Yiorkadjis, and, unbeknown to the Greek government, they agreed to arm the National Organisation of Cypriots - better known as The Organisation or Akritas. During his clandestine mission to the island, Papadopoulos also met Vasos Lyssarides, who was a commander of armed groups and militias. At the time, Ioannides served with ELDYK (the Greek army contingent on Cyprus) and was the military commissar of The Organisation. He was also active in supplying arms to units led by Nikos Sampson, which acted independently of The Organisation.


2. Who started it


OELMEK’s circular states that on December 20, 1963 the Turks attempted to seize strategic locations across the island in a bid to effect partition. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, December 20 was a day like any other.


The clashes erupted on December 23 following an incident in the early morning hours of December 21. TMT did not provoke the clashes - not because they did not want to, or because this was not their aim - because they calculated that the Greek Cypriots were irresponsible enough to do it for them.


In reality, Makarios did not believe in independence. He sought to abolish the Republic of Cyprus before an independent state could take root, which would have made union with Greece infeasible. Thus the repudiation of the 1959 agreements, that is, the breakup of the Republic of Cyprus, was being mulled even before the independent state had been declared.


According to a Greek secret service memo, on May 26, 1960 Makarios gathered together the section leaders and sought to reestablish EOKA with a view to repudiating the agreements before independence could be declared. The Greek secret service, incidentally, had a presence on the island before independence, as did the Turkish secret service. In the end, fearing the consequences, Makarios shied away from repudiating the agreements, although this goal always remained at the back of his mind. The Turks, who read Makarios’ intentions, began arming themselves and thrashed out a strategy for partition. They taunted Makarios and bided their time, waiting for him to make the wrong move.


In 1963 Makarios proposed amendments to the Constitution, arguing that it was not functional. Despite the problems inherent in the Constitution, this was only a pretext to annul the agreements, abolish the Republic and bring about Enosis. Makarios was carving out and pursuing his own policy, forging alliances with extremist nationalist elements within the Greek military, unbeknownst to the Greek government.


Below is an excerpt from the notorious Akritas Plan describing how to go about annulling the agreements: “In the event of an escalation in clashes, we must be ready to proceed immediately with actions ‘1to 4’, including the immediate declaration of Enosis.” Actions 1 to 4 are the four phases of a plan devised by Makarios aimed at abolishing the Constitution. Called The Makarios Plan, the blueprint is described in a top-secret document compiled by I. Pipilis, chief of staff of the Greek army.


Action 1: Contest the negative aspects of the Constitution

Action 2: Repudiate the Treaty of Guarantees

Action 3: Self-determination

Action 4: Apply to the Greek Government for union of Cyprus with the rest of the Greek world


Pipilis’ document is dated December 6. But the Makarios Plan had been forged many months before the clashes, and began to be implemented as early as November 30, when Makarios submitted his proposals for the so-called amendment of the Constitution. The clashes began during Christmas of 1963.

The above serves to rubbish the view expressed by OELMEK, namely, that on December 20 the Turks alone sought to seize the island and that the legitimate authorities were merely resisting.


3. Who stopped the fighting


OELMEK attributes the cessation of hostilities to UN intervention. There is one little problem with this: the UN was not even on the island in 1963. UNFICYP was deployed in March 1964, after the hostilities had died down and after segregation was a fait accompli.


Although the Makarios Plan provided for armed resistance by enlisting volunteers from Greece and – remarkably - Arab nations, it was actually the British who intervened from their sovereign bases following a desperate plea for help by Makarios, who feared a Turkish invasion. The British took charge of internal security, deploying their forces between the two sides. As soon as the situation stabilised, Makarios sought to implement the second phase of his plan, which involved repudiating the Treaties of Guarantee and Alliance, and dispatched letters to this effect to a number of UN member-states. When the British threatened to pull back to their bases, Makarios rescinded the letters and issued a statement explaining it all away as a misunderstanding.


The clashes that took place were not between TMT and the legitimate authorities of the Republic but rather between TMT and clandestine Greek Cypriot organisations (Yiorkadjis, Sampson, Lyssarides). The Constitution does not provide or allow for private armies, nor was the fighting waged on behalf of the Republic. The combatants in this case were Greek and Turkish nationalists whose aims were, respectively, union with Greece and partition. The outcome split the difference, culminating in the de facto dismemberment of the island.


4. Did the Turkish Cypriots leave, or were they driven out?


In its fourth point, OELMEK mentions that the Turkish Cypriots deliberately withdrew from the Republic. Again, this is only half-true. In reality, the Turkish Cypriot leadership, building on a string of errors committed by Makarios and other Greek Cypriot leaders, pressured the Turkish Cypriot populace to leave their homes and workplaces. But not all Turkish Cypriots were willing to abandon their property, sever ties with their roots and live in refugee camps in abject conditions.


The ‘other half’ of the truth indicates that no one tried to prevent the Turkish Cypriots from leaving. On the contrary, they were driven out through intimidation. In total, 230 Turkish Cypriots - civilians, not TMT fighters - perished.


They are the same persons who today lie at the bottom of wells. A look at the list of missing persons from 1963-64 reveals how people disappeared from police stations, prisons, hospitals, farms and streets. Indiscriminate kidnappings and executions became commonplace.


The same fate befell their properties. According to research carried out by the UN and cited in a report by the UN Secretary-General, 527 homes were demolished and 2,000 more looted in 103 Turkish Cypriot or mixed villages. No-one ever protested or made a big fuss about this…


As documented by the above, OELMEK’s “historical truth” is a monstrous lie. The union’s circular is rife with falsehoods, which suggests both ignorance and an attempt at distorting events otherwise been validated decades ago. The interpretation of historical events, by its nature, is subjective. However, when pretending to argue a view, one must back it with facts. There is only one word to describe the distortion, concealment and fabrication of facts, with the purpose of formulating a view that serves political expediency and ideology: propaganda.


In this case, OELMEK’s “historical truth” constitutes propaganda which has sadly been taught and disseminated in schools for decades, creating a distorted historical conscience for generations. The education system is using History not as a tool for critical thinking and emulation, but as a mass-production apparatus geared to the manufacture of fear and chauvinism. Our historical myths have become part and parcel of the “canon,” and anyone who questions them is accused of “working for the Turks” or “undermining” our “national cause.” And yet, nothing has served to undermine our “national cause” more than our national blindness.


The only criticism one could make of the Education Minister is that he has exempted Makarios from all these events and portrayed him as a victim of nationalist groups. In reality, Makarios both instigated and played a leading role in the events leading to the collapse of the Republic as a unitary bicommunal state. To be fair, in the debate that ensued Demetriou did pose the question as to why circulars should be issued on Makarios’ name day. Demetriou also correctly argued that Makarios, just like any other leader, was not infallible and therefore is subject to criticism.

Μακάριος Δρουσιώτης

Cyprus Mail