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Page last updated at 09:31 GMT, Thursday, 1 April 2004 10:31 UK

Cyprus: Flashback to 1974

By Tom Housden
BBC News Online

In July 1974 the President of Cyprus, Archbishop Makarios, was deposed in a coup orchestrated by Greece's then military regime.

It was the culmination of years of inter-communal strife on the island.

Greek Cypriot refugees, 1974
Thousands of people were forced to leave their homes

Five days later Turkey sent in troops with the aim of protecting Turkish Cypriots - something the Greek Cypriot population saw as an illegal occupation.

For Turkish Cypriots, the Turkish intervention guaranteed their community's safety.

"I remember many Turkish soldiers and tanks in the streets. They did not open fire [but] they told us 'we are at war'", said Demal Aman, a Turkish Cypriot who was 23 in 1974.

"I remember when I was at school ... about eight years old, the Greek people used to call us dogs.

"Since the soldiers came there has been no fighting in this country.

"Turkish Cypriots became free in 1974, independent," he told BBC News Online.

Mr Aman said he hoped that any solution to the current situation would respect the rights of Turkish Cypriots to determine their own future.

Fear and confusion

Maria, a Greek Cypriot, was 12 in 1974. She remembers that summer's events as a time of fear and confusion.

"It was very difficult for me to understand what happened that year," she said.

"My family had to move for a little from their village and come to the other side. There was fighting and aeroplanes around ... it was a very difficult time.

"I was frightened because I was very little. I was afraid. All the children... all the people were afraid because it was a very big problem for Cyprus," she added.

Maria said her husband had seen Turkish soldiers in the streets in the distance, and was also afraid.

We are very sad for this problem. We can't do anything
Maria, Greek Cypriot

However despite the divide, she believes the two communities have grown closer in the intervening decades.

"We live in an area with Turkish people. We are very in touch with those people. They come here for coffee, and we go in their houses.

"We are very friendly. We were crying when they left their village, she said, recalling the time when Turkish Cypriots fled north to the Turkish-held northern region of Cyprus.

'We can't do anything'

Asked about her hopes for the future, Maria said: "We are very sad for this problem. We can't do anything."

However, while Greek Cypriots want to see a resolution, many say that any settlement should guarantee the right of return to those who abandoned their homes in the north after the invasion.

"I still miss it and I still want to go back," one woman told the BBC.

"I built a much more beautiful house in Nicosia, but I don't feel the same. I always feel that my house is in the north," she said.



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