‘Bloody Christmas’ in Cyprus has continued to haunt people for 58 years

The Greek Cypriot nationalist terrorist group EOKA killed more than 370 Turkish Cypriots and displaced 25,000 to 30,000 people during the 1963 Christmas period.

The bloody campaign resulted in the displacement of 30,000 Turkish Cypriots, who had to take refuge in an area that represents only 3% of the island. (AA)

The horrors of the murderous and systematic attacks on Turkish Cypriots by the Greek Cypriot extremist nationalist terrorist group EOKA live on in memory as “Bloody Christmas”, 58 years after these events claimed hundreds of lives and thousands of lives. displaced from their ancestral homes.

The events leading up to the ‘Bloody Christmas’, also called Black Christmas by Turkish Cypriots, began in 1955 with the founding of EOKA, led by Georgios Grivas, a veteran officer of World War I and World War II, as well. than a fervent opponent of the Communists and the Turks.

EOKA was targeting not only British soldiers and officials, but also Turkish and Greek Cypriots who opposed its extreme ideology and its goal of union with Greece.

Until Cyprus gained independence from the United Kingdom on August 16, 1960 on the guarantee of the United Kingdom, Turkey and Greece, the death toll from EOKA’s fierce and murderous campaign of terror included at least 104 British soldiers, 54 police officers (including 15 Greek Cypriots, 22 Turkish Cypriots and 12 British) and 238 civilians, including 203 Greek Cypriots, seven Turkish Cypriots and 26 British.

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Under this power-sharing regime of the bilingual Republic of Cyprus which adopted both Greek and Turkish as official languages, the island was to be ruled by a Greek Cypriot President and a Turkish Cypriot Vice President, as well as a 10-person cabinet – seven from the Greek side and three from the Turkish side in a proportion that would also affect the bureaucracy, police and security forces.

While this has led many in Ankara and among Turkish Cypriots, who have been in Cyprus for four centuries, to believe that Greek political actors were abandoning their maximalist claims on the island.

But, on the contrary, the Greek president, Archbishop Makarios and his extreme nationalist team were quick to undermine the republic.

Considering that the Turkish Cypriots had acquired excessive privileges, Makarios prevented the full implementation of the constitutional provisions relating to the public functions attributed to the Turkish side.

The rebirth of EOKA

In addition, from the beginning of 1961, the Greek Cypriots began to revive the terrorist group EOKA under the name of Akritas, also known as the secret army EOK, with the aim of overthrowing the Constitution, severely restricting the rights of the Turks and finally declare unification with Greece.

The Akritas operated under the direction of Greek Cypriot officers and used weapons obtained from government armories.

On the eve of “Bloody Christmas”, as many as 10,000 Greek Cypriots were recruited and began to receive training in the use of weapons.

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The direct and strong support of Greece, as well as the ambiguous policies of Western countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom, in response to the maximalist demands of the Greek Cypriots further encouraged Makarios to announce, on November 30, 1963 , a memorandum demanding 13 constitutional amendments which abrogated many rights of Turkish Cypriots.

Turkiye, one of the guarantors of the Republic of Cyprus and its constitutional order, as well as the Turkish Cypriots, then led by Cypriot Vice-President Fazil Kucuk, rejected the amendments.

This prompted EOKA, with the help of many Greek Cypriot members of the police organization, to launch an attack on the night of December 20, 1963 against the Turkish quarter of Lefkosa.

By storming the home of Turkish military doctor Nihat Ilhan, they killed not only Ilhan’s wife, Muruvet, and her three sons, Murat, Kutsi and Hakan, but also the wife of his owner, Feride Gudum.

A photograph of the mother and her three sons lying dead in the bathroom has since become a symbol of the brutality inflicted by Greek Cypriot extremists.

30,000 Turkish Cypriots displaced

A total of 103 Turkish Cypriot villages were attacked, killing hundreds.

The bloody campaign resulted in the displacement of 30,000 Turkish Cypriots, who had to take refuge in an area that represents only 3% of the island.

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In 1967, a military junta overthrew the government in Greece and began to destabilize the island. The junta struck two villages in Cyprus – Bogazici and Gecitkale.

Bulent Ecevit, then Prime Minister of Turkey, called on the military to take action and the Cyprus Peace Operation was launched on July 20, 1974.

With low-flying fighter jets and paratroopers deployed to the island, Turkiye prevented the annexation of Cyprus and protected weary Turkish Cypriots.

The peace operation proved Turkiye’s claims regarding the persecution of Turks as a number of mass graves were unveiled in some Turkish Cypriot towns on the island.

The success of the operation paved the way for the creation of the Turkish Federated State of Cyprus on February 13, 1975, with Rauf Denktas as president.

On November 15, 1983, the Turkish Federated State of Cyprus held an extraordinary session and members of parliament unanimously approved the establishment of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC).

During the EOKA campaign of terror of the 1963 Christmas season, 374 Turkish Cypriots were killed, 109 Turkish villages were forced to evacuate, over 2,500 Turkish houses were severely damaged or demolished, and between 25 000 and 30,000 Turkish Cypriots have become refugees, according to a UN report published on September 10, 1964.


Source: TRTWorld and agencies

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