WE WILL NOT FORGET!!
36 years ago today, a shudder of horror went through the Global Greek Community... Turkish troops invaded the deeply troubled island of Cyprus supposedly in response to an attempted coup by the Greek military Junta which was in power in Athens, except that the coup had been quashed and democracy back in place when the bloody invasion occurred.
All Greek men, including any Greeks from abroad who happened to be in Greece for the summer, were mobilised and prepared to be sent to the front to help the Greek Cypriot people defend the island against the aggressor! A call went out to Greek Communities everywhere in the world to send assistance in any shape or form; many even volunteered to fight in Cyprus.
In the days that followed, confusion reigned supreme, nobody really knew what was happening because of the blackout of the news. When the smoke cleared, the statistics spoke of another black chapter in the history of the Hellenic speaking world.
Fellow blogger, Greek New Zealander Maria Verivakis, who happened to be in Greece with her family at the time, writes a compelling narrative of those days in her blogs, One Day in Hania and Organically Cooked
'At the tender age of eight, to me, war signified guns, Nazis and starving naked children, all of which bore no resemblance to the war that was unfolding in Greece. People wouldn't come out of their houses, the streets were empty, not a sound to be heard - music had practically become banned overnight (most of it had been censored in any case, under the military junta regime). Everyone had the radio turned on to hear all the news reports. People would walk around their houses, in their yards, with long faces; if they had to go somewhere - cars crossed the roads only occasionally - they would walk hurriedly, as if they feared a bogeyman. Whenever they came across a religious icon, they solemnly made the sign of the cross and whispered a prayer. My sister and I, once regarded as the 'Greek tourist foreigners', the centre of attention, were now noticed...'
Large scale ethnic cleansing of the Greek Cypriots, thousands were murdered, more than 1500 are still considered missing, more than 200 000 Greek Cypriots were displaced to the South, losing their homes and their lands, refugees in their own country; thousands were forced to leave, having lost their menfolk and their means of survival, going abroad to host countries - Greece, England, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa... On the other side, Turkish Cypriots in the South were forced to the North, but the numbers were far less. In the end, 20% of the population were occupying approx 40% of the island state.
Over the years, the situation has worsened, with the presence of over 40,000 troops on Cyprus, the population in the North having been bolstered by mainland Turkish settlers, not Turkish Cypriots, and many acts of aggression against those who sought to fight against this illegal occupation. An occupation condemned by several UN Resolutions which continue to be flagrantly ignored by progressive Turkish governments and their 'friends'. This situation continues today with Cyprus still under military occupation and divided, with the violation of human rights an everyday occurrence, despite the fact that it is a fully fledged member of the European Union. The only divided country in Europe...
Who can ever forget the murder of Tasos Isaac, an unarmed civilian protesting against the Turkish occupation in August of 1996 and the cold blooded felling of his cousin, the heroic Solomos Solomou, a few days later, on the day of Tasos Isaac's funeral, as he scrambled up the flagpole, daring to do the unthinkable - to remove the Turkish flag!
This deed of heroism inspired Notis Sfakianakis to write the following ode to Solomos Solomou...
One US Congresswoman, Diane Watson, expressed her view of the Cyprus problem in the Huffington Post last year, taking a stand and saying among other things that
A solution to the Cyprus Problem is in the best interest of the Greek Cypriots, the Turkish Cypriots, and the greater global community -- a fact that nobody understands better than the Cypriots themselves. The ongoing division of the island destabilizes American security interests in the Eastern Mediterranean, and obstructs Turkey's European Union accession efforts. For these reasons I strongly believe the United States should support the current Cypriot-driven efforts to find a solution without interjecting ourselves into the process or imposing artificial deadlines. (For original HuffPost article, click here )
History will decide on the part played by US Secretary of State at the time of the invasions, in July and August of 1974, Henry Kissinger, and of the dubious neutral role of the British in all this, but there are many hopes that the next generation of politicians of both communities on Cyprus, headed by President Demetris Christofias and Mr Dervis Eroglu, like Mr Mehmet Ali Talat before him, will be able to take the country forward, past the divisions of the past and the Greek Cypriot veto of the Annan plan.