Cyprus pre-1974

November 26, 1999

On reading Brendan O'Malley's interview with James Callaghan ("What Jim knew and Henry did", THES, November 12) one could be forgiven for thinking the ethnic cleansing started in 1974 in Cyprus. Well may one ponder why Turkey should have taken such drastic action. Had I not visited the island before 1974 I too would have been puzzled.

In 1969 I went to Famagusta. Outside the city walls were Turkish Cypriot camps peopled by subsistence farmers and their families. The "best" homes in these enclaves were constructed from corrugated sheets and the worst were made out of cardboard boxes. All lacked basic amenities. What had driven these wretched human beings from their land? Terror. I visited a village memorial in the north listing the names of the inhabitants, along with their ages - even an 11-day-old baby. They had all been massacred. I had difficulty comprehending what I was seeing - the inhumanity of one ethnic group towards another. Such intolerance. Such violence.

In 1974 I visited Cyprus again, just before the Turkish intervention. Tension was in the air. "Death to the Turks" proclaimed notices. Certainly I felt unsafe. Thank goodness I was unaware of the Akritas plan advocating union with Greece. The guarantor powers of Britain and Greece did not want to know - they had a different agenda, as the article shows. Could Turkey stand by and watch its compatriots eliminated? Perhaps its situation could be likened to the Good Samaritan. Turkey accepted its responsibilities as a guarantor power. There was a movement of Turkish Cypriots to the north of the island, where they became refugees, while Greek Cypriots moved south and were refugees. But since 1974 there has been peace on the island.

Just as the Greek Cypriots constantly publicise the Turkish intervention in 1974 so they must acknowledge their actions before 1974 that gave rise to the situation in the first place. Greece and Britain as guarantor powers need to make a critical analysis of their roles. It is then time to move forward.

S. M. Ertughrul London N2

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