On 15 July 1974, the ruling military junta of Greece staged a coup to overthrow the democratically elected Government of Cyprus.
On 20 July 1974 Turkey, using the coup as a pretext, invaded Cyprus, purportedly to restore constitutional order. Instead, it seized 40% of the territory of Cyprus in the north, an act universally condemned as a gross infringement of international law and the UN Charter. Turkey, only 75 km away, had repeatedly claimed, for decades before the invasion and frequently afterwards, that Cyprus was of vital strategic importance to it. Ankara has defied a host of UN resolutions demanding the withdrawal of its occupation troops from the island.
On 1 November 1974, the UN General Assembly unanimously adopted Resolution 3212, the first of many resolutions calling for respect for the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and non-alignment of the Republic of Cyprus and for the speedy withdrawal of all foreign troops.
Furthermore, the General Assembly, the Security Council and the Commission on Human Rights of the United Nations as well as the Non-Aligned Movement, the Commonwealth, the European Parliament, the Council of Europe and other international organizations have demanded the urgent return of the refugees to their homes in safety and the full restoration of all the human rights of the population of Cyprus.
The invasion and occupation has had disastrous consequences. About 200.000 Greek Cypriots living in the north – nearly one quarter of the population of Cyprus – were forcibly expelled from the occupied northern part of the island where they constituted 80% of the population. These people are still deprived of the right to return to their homes and properties. A further 20.000 Greek Cypriots enslaved in the occupied area were gradually forced through intimidation and denial of their basic human rights to abandon their homes. Today there are fewer than 600 enslaved persons (Greek Cypriots and Maronites).
The invasion also had a disastrous impact on the Cyprus economy because 30% of the economically active population became unemployed and because of the loss of:
1. 70% of the gross output
2. 65% of the tourist accommodation capacity and 87% of hotel beds under construction
3. 83% of the general cargo handling at Famagusta port
4. 40% of school buildings
5. 56% of mining and quarrying output
6. 41% of livestock production
7. 8% of agricultural exports
8. 46% of industrial production
9. 20% of the state forests
Furthermore, Turkish forces occupied an area which accounted for 46% of crop production and much higher percentages of citrus fruit production (79%), cereals (68%), tobacco (100%), carobs (86%) and green fodder (65%).
About 1.500 Greek Cypriot civilians and soldiers disappeared during and after the invasion. Many had been arrested and some were seen in prisons in Turkey and Cyprus before their disappearance. The fate of all but a handful remains unknown. To resolve this humanitarian issue it is essential to have Turkey’s cooperation.
Turkey has also promoted the demographic change of the occupied territory through the implantation of Anatolian settlers. Since the invasion some 115.000 Turks from Turkey have been illegally imported in the occupied area. This large influx of settlers has negatively affected the living conditions of the Turkish Cypriots. Poverty and unemployment has forced over 55.000 to emigrate and they now make up only 11% of the native population.
35.000 Turkish soldiers equipped with the latest weapons and supported by the Turkish air force and navy, are still in the occupied area making it, according to the UN Secretary-General’s Report (December 1995), «one of the most densely militarized areas in the world».
The illegal regime in the occupied area has pursued a deliberate policy aimed at destroying and plundering the ancient cultural and historical heritage of the island, as part of a wider goal to 'Turkify' the island and erases all evidence of its Cypriot character. Abundant evidence gathered from foreign and Turkish Cypriot press, as well as evidence obtained from other authoritative sources (Jacques Deli bard’s UNESCO report); demonstrate the magnitude of the damage and destruction caused to the cultural heritage of Cyprus.
As a consequence of Turkey’s policy and illegal actions:
1. Aat least 55 churches have been converted into mosques
2. Another 50 churches and monasteries have been converted into stables, stores, hostels, museums, or have been demolished
3. The cemeteries of at least 25 villages have been desecrated and destroyed
4. Innumerable icons, religious artifacts and all kinds of archaeological treasures have been stolen and smuggled abroad
5. Illegal excavations and smuggling of antiquities is openly taking place all the time with the involvement of the occupying forces
6. All Greek place names contrary to all historical and cultural reason were converted into Turkish ones.
In this respect, the Republic of Cyprus is making great efforts to recover stolen items which include invaluable icons, frescoes, mosaics, texts and artifacts. A successful case of repatriation involved the 6th century mosaics that were illegally removed from the church of Panayia Kanakaria in the occupied areas and sold to an art dealer in the USA. Following a legal battle that generated world attention, the US Courts ruled that the mosaics should be returned to their legal owner, the Church of Cyprus. Similar legal battles are now under way in the Federal Republic of Germany, where Cyprus is striving to repatriate hundreds of items stolen from churches in the occupied part of Cyprus.
In contrast to the total disrespect shown by the occupation regime, all Muslim sites in the area controlled by the Government of Cyprus are properly and respectfully kept, preserved and maintained by the competent authorities.
On 15 November 1983 the Turkish-occupied area was unilaterally declared an independent “state”. The international community, through UN Security Council Resolutions 541 of 1983 and 550 of 1984, condemned this unilateral declaration by the Turkish Cypriot regime, declared it both illegal and invalid, and called for its immediate revocation. To this day, no country in the world except Turkey has recognized this spurious entity. Negotiations for the solution of the Cyprus problem have been going on intermittently since 1975 under the auspices of the United Nations. The basis for the solution of the Cyprus problem are the UN Security Council resolutions and two high-level agreements concluded between the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot leaders in 1977 and 1979.
In an effort to enhance the prospects for a settlement and safeguard the security of all Cypriots, the Government of Cyprus had formally proposed the total demilitarization of Cyprus. The proposal envisaged the withdrawal of the 35,000 Turkish occupying forces and the disbanding of the Cyprus National Guard and the “Turkish Cypriot Armed Forces” who would hand their weapons and military equipment to UN Peace-Keeping Force (UNFICYP). UNFICYP would have the right of inspection to ascertain compliance with these measures. Turkey refused to consider the proposal and continues to maintain its illegal military hold on the island.
This post was originally published on 20 July 2009