BBC Home
Explore the BBC
Witness  
Search ON THIS DAY by date
 
Front Page |  Years |  Themes |  Witness
About This Site | Text Only
1974: Cyprus - 'a tragedy all round'
The coup on Cyprus in July 1974 which overthrew Archbishop Makarios immediately sparked tensions on the island.

Turkish-Cypriots feared the new Greek-backed leader, Nicos Sampson, would seek unification with Greece against their wishes. When talks between the two sides broke down, Turkey invaded northern Cyprus.

The island was split into two and the continued failure to reach a settlement in the following months polarised the island's population: Greek-Cypriots fled to the south and the Turkish community to the north.

Cyprus is still a divided island.

Your accounts of the conflict:

The comments below reflect the balance of opinion received.

Serdar Boztas, a Turkish Cypriot now living in Australia was 13 at the time of the Turkish invasion. He was living to the north west of the capital, Nicosia.

I remember seeing the paratroopers land.

That first night the Greek tanks came within 100 metres of our village, Geunyeli, but did not enter the village.

I was injured by a shrapnel from a mortar shell fired from the Greek positions, which landed right on top of our car and destroyed it
Serdar Boztas, Australia
There was lots of shelling of the village and I was injured by a shrapnel from a mortar shell fired from the Greek positions, which landed right on top of our car and destroyed it.

It was parked in the yard and I was running back to the underground shelter after having come home for a drink of water.

Some of my family became refugees in the British sovereign bases and could not leave for the liberated areas for up to two years.

In the end, Makarios and Denktash signed a population exchange agreement and the exchange happened.

It was a liberation for us Turkish Cypriots, and Cyprus has been in peace, a peace enforced by the strength of the Turkish army, a legal guarantor of Cyprus.

The Greek Cypriots have recently shown they do not want a settlement by rejecting a UN-sponsored unification plan on a bi-zonal basis.

Amanda Lee was on holiday in northern Cyprus at the time of the invasion.

I was in Kyrenia at the time of the invasion. I'd been out there for a month, on holiday and was out at the Six Mile Beach when the news had come a few days before of the deposition of Makarios and the attempted coup by the Greek Cypriots.

I had a long walk back to town that first day, as all the public transport stopped.

There was fighting round our hotel that first evening, as those involved in the attempted coup fought the other Cypriots.

Very noisy it was.

The friends in whose hotel I had been staying, being Greek Cypriots, lost everything
Amanda Lee, UK
A couple of days later, as the news wasn't getting any better and I had to get back to Akrotiri for my flight home (I was in the RAF at the time), I persuaded some Cypriot friends to smuggle me into Nicosia and then down across the central plain to Akrotiri.

Rather nerve-wracking although I was glad I'd got out just before the Turkish troops arrived in Kyrenia because those holiday makers left in the town were stuck for some time and were eventually taken off by RN ships.

The friends in whose hotel I had been staying, being Greek Cypriots, lost everything - and they'd only opened that summer.

The situation in Kyrenia had always seemed less fraught than in some other areas, with less space between the Turkish and Greek communities.

A tragedy all round.


Andrew Davis from Hong Kong writes on behalf of his Turkish Cypriot wife, Rebia, who was four at the time of the coup.
My wife's family lived in the Turkish quarter of Limassol.

She clearly remembers during the coup the Greek Cypriots shelling the Turkish enclave which scared her tremendously.

She vividly remembers Greek Cypriot soldiers came to her house and prepared to shoot her father on the spot. But he was saved at the last second by a Greek Cypriot friend.

The man hid her family in his house for nearly a week at which point her family posed as Greek Cypriots (they speak Greek) and made their way through border checkpoints to the safety of the North which, by this point in time, had been occupied by Turkish soldiers.

My wife clearly remembers being extremely frightened by the Greek soldiers as her parents negotiated the checkpoints.

Other members of her family, along with other Turkish residents, were rounded up into a public square.

An uncle was dragged from his hospital bed and made to lie for hours in the hot July sun.

The men were then taken to a football stadium and the women were let go when it became clear the stadium wasn┐t big enough to hold them all.

My wife's aunties then escaped to the North by vehicle or by foot and my wife's uncles were eventually bussed North a week or two later.

My wife's family eventually settled into a Greek Cypriot house in the North which had been totally stripped bare as it had been on the front line of the fighting.

From there they have started their lives again and, due to the economic embargo, have never been able to rebuild the wealth and success they had to leave behind in Limassol.

Nevertheless, they have felt safe and secure which is more important.


Christopher Christofi was eight years old when the conflict came to his village
I was from a village called Davlos near Kantara Castle which had a radio and television mast located on the mountain.

I recall Turkish jets bombing the mountain, after which they flew past the burning forests and then down to the village. There they strafed us in the fields where we had gone for shelter.

I saw the National Guard truck drive by containing the covered bodies of the same Guardsmen who had been dining the night before
Christopher Christofi, UK
I recall my father ordering me to dash across a hot and dusty wheat field to get away from the strafing, whilst he ran holding my newborn baby sister, and I remember a final jump down a crevice of five or so feet - an Olympian task it appeared to me.

After the shadow of the jets disappeared we popped our head over the edge of the crevice. Soon after a Turkish jet went spinning into a nearby mountain, its wing missing from the hit scored by the anti-aircraft guns on Kantara.

The explosion was seen before it was heard and each repeat prompted a cheer from the harassed villagers who had all tuned their radios in to hear the news and listen to the incessant martial music.

That evening a table was made at the local taverna for the National Guard troops who descended the windy roads from the mountain in their battered truck for some respite. Although weary, they all seemed very young - a mixture of shyness and dash.

That evening the mountain had a red glow from the raging forest fires. My father went to Kantara to help the National Guardsmen.

The next day he brought some "trophies" - bits of a Turkish jet shot down nearby. I held on to these as I saw the National Guard truck drive by containing the covered bodies of the same Guardsmen who had been dining the night before.

There is only one fair solution for Cyprus and its a simple one which everyone apart from the politicians seem to know about, namely that everyone goes home and lives in peace, whether its Turks back to their old properties in the South or Greeks going back to theirs in the North.


Antonis Antoniou was only five years old during the invasion, but vividly remembers the fear he felt
I remember the sound of the airplanes and bombs. The fear, the pain and cries of women and children running to save their life.

We had a family, a life a house and one morning we woke up hungry and scared in some olive tree field
Antonis Antoniou, VA USA
I remember people crying over their relatives' graves. My family was forced out of their land just because they were Greek-Cypriots. I spent my early years in tents, old houses and refugee camps. We had no food and we had to stand in line for UN aid.

I grew up in fear that the Turkish army would proceed further and kill more people. I also remember very well the arrogant and the discriminative policies of the British soldiers, the "civilized" force, when we were hungry and asking for help.

We had a family, a life a house and one morning we woke up hungry and scared in some olive tree field. All that because we had the bad-luck to be born Greek-Cypriots.

Thirty years later I realise the pity. War is evil and no one wins. Sadly enough, war is decided by "educated" people like diplomats and politicians. They sit at their fancy UN headquarters with their fancy "elite" style making war decisions for poor innocent people. I only wish that their children will never experience war in their life.


Panos Hadjinicolaou's father was murdered by Turkish Cypriots in August 1974
I was six years old. We were on holidays in our family house in Yialousa, a coastal Greek Cypriot village in Karpasia, with a population of 2500.

The Turkish army, despite the agreed ceasefire, went on to the second phase of the invasion in early August. Turkish soldiers, together with Turkish Cypriots, walked into the village cafe and arrested nine Greek-Cypriot civilians - one of them was my father.

I want to able to live now in a United Cyprus
Panos Hadjinicolaou, UK
Rumours say they were executed in a nearby village as a revenge to previous Greek-Cypriot violence in the area.

Turkey's response to the Greek intervention in Cyprus was disproportionate in force and brutality. An "emergency intervention" ended up a permanent land grab. Innocent people paid with their lives for the Greek nationalistic stupidity, the Turkish aggressiveness and the Anglo-American interests.

I don't want any more revenge. I want to find my father's remains and remember him properly. But, more than that, I want go back to my village, which is currently being bulldozed illegally by the Turks for a tourist "development", and re-connect with my memories and the other half of myself left in the north.

Thirty years of Greek-Cypriot suffering away from their land and Turkish-Cypriot suffering of isolation are enough. I want to able to live now in a United Cyprus and prosper with my Turkish Cypriot brothers in the EU, together with Greece and Turkey.


Andreas Charalambous was forced out of his village after the invasion
I was a young boy living happily with my family in a small village in Karpasia at the time. When the invasion occurred people panicked. There was very little fighting in our region and Turkish troops along with local Turkish Cypriot entered our village three weeks later.

They proceeded to round up all the men folk and beat them publicly in the village square before taking them to concentration camps in Turkey. Local Turkish Cypriots who a few days before were out neighbours joined in.

I remember one guy leading the mainland troops into the village and dragging people from their houses. He still lives happily in Ayios Andronikos village in Cyprus.

We were forced out one year later after being subjected to the worst humiliation and abuse the Turkish army had to offer. Whatever they say, it was no peace operation - the Turkish invasion was a brutal barbaric act and Turks should wake up and treat it for what it is, instead of celebrating genocide against the Greek Cypriots of northern Cyprus.

If the Germans can be mature to reflect on the Holocaust why can't the Turks do the same?


James was a child during the invasion whose family was attacked by Turkish troops
I was a 12 year old living in Cyprus during this dreadful time. I was in a small village when the Turkish Soldiers came in and started being really nasty to all the villagers.

One so-called soldier came into our house. He hit my 75-year-old grandfather, ransacked our little house, shot our dog and hit me on the way out. I remember his face, his nasty grin. I hope this guy sleeps well at night - there is a lot more I can say about him and his colleagues. May god forgive them because I know I cannot.


Kelvin Nichols was a 16-year-old living in Famagusta when the Turkish forces invaded
My parents were attached to the armed forces. We lived in flats overlooking Famagusta beach and we had a wonderful lifestyle.

I thought it was the RAF on training - until they started strafing the beach
Kelvin Nichols, UK
Early morning on 20 July - about 0600 - I was on the roof of the flats and I saw jets come screaming in towards the city from the sea. At first I thought it was the RAF on training, until they started strafing the beach. Apparently they were shooting at Greek forces who were approaching the Turkish community who lived in the old part of town.

The following few days were fantastic ones for an impressionable young boy of 16. There followed a period of confusion were we were not allowed to go to school, a journey of 12 miles.

We spent our days swimming as normal, but we weren't swimming and fishing for fish but for shrapnel and bullets. I still have a large shell somewhere in my parent's house. Eventually we were evacuated to Dhekalia where we were billeted with an army family for a week, then flown out by Hercules plane to Oxfordshire via Episkopi.


Tony Hart is a former British Army soldier who toured in Cyprus
I was serving in the army in Ulster, looking forward to a six-month UN tour of duty in Cyprus in 1975. My main concern was if my six-month (perceived) holiday was going to turn into Northern Ireland but with sunshine.

The tour went ahead as planned and I remember escorting an entire Turkish village to the border with the Turkish-controlled North. They just packed their bags, climbed on the coaches and never looked back.

I feel Cyprus will be united in the future, but how long it will take to overcome the bitterness and distrust I just don't know.

Tony Hart in his tank in Cyprus
Tony Hart: Escorted an entire Turkish village to the border


Nick Bennett was on holiday in Istanbul during the invasion
Travelling to the east of Turkey by boat we were joined, half-way into the journey, by a contingent of enlisted Turkish soldiers.

During the night, and fuelled by too much to drink, some of them toured the boat asking passengers their nationality. Anyone silly enough to own-up to being from any nation that opposed the Turkish invasion of Cyprus (and Britain was amongst these), was subjected to verbal, and in a couple of cases, physical abuse.

When it came to my turn to answer their question I said I was Japanese. Despite being 6ft 4in and very obviously white Caucasian, my answer satisfied the recruits who passed on to their next passenger - a memorable holiday.


Other comments

It was very interesting reading the experiences other people had during the Turkish invasion in 1974.

I was in the RN at the time and having a good time in Malta and totally unaware of what was to come untill we were recalled to our ship HMS Andromeda and sent to Kyrenia.

We were the first RN ship to arrive and we were to assist in the evacuation of inocent people from the Island.

Although we witnessed and heared of some horrific things I often think of the people we helped and what became of the people we had to leave behind.
Mike Marriott, UK


On 20th July 1974, I was in Nicosia and saw some heroic fighting between the small and lightly armed Turkish Army contingent based there since 1960 and the Greek Army who tried to break through with their tanks towards the mountains.

Two days earlier on 18th July 1974, I travelled from Nicosia to Lapithos along northern coastline to bring back the security guard we had left alone at the Celebrity Hotel construction site, following the coup of 15th July.

Lapithos was originally a mixed village from where Turks were forced out in 1963 and following the coup, the security guard was not safe alone there.

A lot of things happened ... between Greeks and Turks and it is very difficult now for the two communities to live in harmony in mixed neighbourhoods
Kubilay Ali, UK
Along my way from Nicosia to Lapithos and back I encountered two check points in Kyrenia, both manned by Greek soldiers with tanks.

However, the most frightening experience I had was at Karavas by-pass (just before Lapithos) where armed civilian EOKA members stopped me and searched my car.

When I arrived at the hotel construction site I had time to have a quick coffee at nearby Greek-run seaside coffee place. Mr Panayi who was running the abandoned Turkish owned property was crying and explained to me that his son was injured at the Presidential Palace in Nicosia during the coup attempt and he did not know how he was.

His son was an officer with Makarios┐ own presidential guards who were attacked.

To this day I wonder what happened to his son.

A lot of things happened in Cyprus between Greeks and Turks and it is very difficult now for the two communities to live in harmony in mixed neighbourhoods.
Kubilay Ali, UK

Fear and confusion as the Turks invaded, running out under the cover of night with nothing but the clothes on our backs.

The violation still continues with churches being converted to stables and mosques
Demetris Drakos, Cyprus
Leaving behind our ancestral homes, our lives and in some cases or loved ones.

And the violation still continues with churches being converted to stables and mosques and Cypriots being denied the most basic of human rights to live where they like and be free.

And the international community is doing nothing about this as Turkey we know is of great importance to the western powers and they do not want to upset the "just" state where article 305 of the legal code there can land you in prison for 10 years for simply saying in public "Turkish troops out of Cyprus".

All we want is the right to return to our homes, to our deceased ones to cry for them and our churches to pray in.
Demetris Drakos, Cyprus

I am so sure that you will not publish my message but in any way I want to send it.

As Turks we are entirely happy for invading the Northern Cyprus in which now Turkish people live in peace.

If we did not invade there would be no Turks there and you would be so happy for that.
Tunay, Turkey

I am a Turkish Cypriot and have been living in the UK all my life.

I have heard many details from relatives who suffered in those terrible (for the Turks) pre-1974 days.

One such tale is from my brother-in-law who lost a baby brother because his mother was not allowed access to a hospital by the Greek soldiers.

Another where the men of a village were carted off never to return.

All this because the Greeks did not want the Turks on the island.

It absolutely amazes me that despite the problem being brought about by the Greek forces the world has held in solitary the Turkish half of the island and made a suffering people suffer further.

It is now plain to see that the Greeks do not want a unified island even though the Turkish half voted for it in an attempt to escape embargoes and hardship.

So why is it that the world still does not lift these sanctions even though they promised to after the referendum?

Why force a situation to re-unite under a single government when it can only be destined to end in yet more misery for all concerned?
Levent, UK

A lot of people forget the days we had no water, bread, no electricity and medical needs for months and years from Dec 23rd 1963 until 1974.

Thanks to our the Greeks living in Larnaca was hell as we did not have anything really.

Yet to this day I can not understand that Greeks they still believe they have done nothing wrong.

They will never change - always crying about how bad the Turks are - nothing new.
Ahmet Mustafa, Australia

I was 18 years old when I woke up to a war in Cyprus. Thirty years later I think of my Greek friends and wonder if they made it.

I was with the British forces as a civilian and had two baby girls. I was trapped in Limassol for three days with my little babies. I was lucky I was allowed the sanctuary of Akrotiri air force base, where we stayed for three weeks and listened to the massacre. I will never forget.
Brenda Wise, England

I was four years old when we left our Eftakomi village with the clothes on our backs and the tears in our eyes.

I went back 30 years later. Our first stop was the cemetery. My mother trying to find her father's unmarked grave, trying to remember the location her mother had told her about.

She held a bottle of holy water and both she and my father kept saying: if she was still alive she would know.

Unfortunately or fortunately my grandmother died in 2001 in the "free" Cyprus, two years before we were "allowed" to return to Eftakomi with a "visa".

We never found my grandfather's grave. My mother emptied the bottle of holy water everywhere she thought he might be and I tried to envision his smile as if he were alive asking him to guide me.

He was the life of the village. Everyone knew "ton Kroko". Stand-up comedian with an abundance of Turkish Cypriot friends. The barber who once made a soon to be groom bald just for a prank. Everyone loved him.

The second year we visited a Turkish Cypriot friend we encountered in the village came with us. We searched for the grave together and his eyes watered along with ours.

Again, the holy water sprinkled on the area we thought he might be and the Turkish friend telling us: "You sprinkle water too on the dead, just like us?"

Similar and the same we are Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots, one face and one heart but yet the cemetery was even more devastated this summer. We couldn't see any more crosses on the graves, the few that were there the first year had disappeared, the tombstones had been broken and some moved as if the dead souls would go away if their monuments didn't exist.

Brothers and sisters we are, we are not Greeks or Turks, let's just call ourselves Cypriots, no other labeling, no more atrocities, erase the pain and live in peace just like then when o Krokos drank coffe with Mourat in Theoulos' coffee house.

They were smart enough to know that they shouldn't even look at the hate trees that had been planted by those who wished to eat their fruit one day. The big shots, the politicians, and the money-makers.

The companies buying the land in Varosi and Yialousa so their souls can be encrusted in bloody gold when they descend in the unknown. And beautiful Eftakomi and Yiouti and Krokos and Mourat untouched by all and alive still.
Despina, US

 E-mail this story to a friend


Turkish tank
The Turks invaded five days after the Greek-backed coup


Relatives of Greek Cypriots missing since the invasion
The island has remained divided since the 1974 invasion

Witness
My father was in the RAF and we lived with a Greek Cypriot family in Famagusta when the invasion happened.

I was eight years old, and vividly remember spending days in a bedroom in our house with a bed propped against the window. Being so young I had no idea of what was coming but knew my parents were worried about something.

Then one day we were sitting on the veranda when a Turkish Phantom streaked past followed by a huge explosion. The next thing we knew war was raging on the streets outside.

There was a ceasefire during which we went to the beach and were amazed by the damage to the town. I remember seeing a hotel on the beach that had been hit and half was standing, the other half had collapsed.

The ceasefire didn't last long and the fighting went on around us but the British army were unable to get us out until another ceasefire was in effect. My father ended up having to risk all by driving out to Ayos Nikolayos during the fighting to get help.

While he was gone my mother decided to try to get the Greek Cypriot woman, from downstairs, to come upstairs. She was worried that the soldiers would treat her, and her young daughter, badly if they broke in.

We were fired on when we tried to get down to the lower level of the house as we had to go outside to get down there. Eventually we got everyone upstairs again and waited for help to arrive.

The fighting seemed to go on forever but eventually the British army brought a convoy in to the town and we were taken to Pergamos army base, then we were flown to Akrotiri, and on to the UK. We eventually returned to Cyprus for a few more years finally leaving in 1977.

I never found out what happened to the woman from downstairs and her family. Her husband had gone to fight with the national guard, I can only hope they were ok. I will always feel sorry for the innocent people caught up in the struggle but the experience opened my eyes to both sides of human nature.
Graeme Stanford, England

Witness Stories


 
Search ON THIS DAY by date
 

^^ back to top
Front Page |  Years |  Themes |  Witness
©MMVIII | News Sources | Privacy & Cookies Policy