Thursday, 17 July 2014

Peace & Freedom Day –A Tribute to the Guarantor Power, 40 years on.

Atilla 1 Peace Operation begins.

The 40th Peace and Freedom Day celebrations are a just recognition of the monumental events of that day in history that was to set in train such events that would reverberate through the fabric of the island to this very day and doubtless beyond. Writers and historians whose minds are immeasurably superior to that of this columnist have catalogued the unfolding of the events of July 20th 1974 in many forms over the years, but to the visitor to Northern Cyprus a more concise account of this day is unlikely to be found in any other book than “30 Hot Days” by the eminent, late Turkish journalist, Mehmet Ali Birand: This publication can be found in most good book shops in Northern Cyprus.

Turkish White Stars air display team

On the 20th July above the Old Harbour of Kyrenia (Girne) the skies will fill with a flight of Northop F5 aircraft that comprise the Turkish White Stars Air Display team and who are themselves this year celebrating their 20th anniversary. Soaring over the Beşparmak  Mountain range and high above the skies, they will weave their aerial tapestry of exquisite skill and derring-do and will thrill the myriad crowds that will gather in the harbour, on hotel roofs and indeed any vantage point that can afford the best view of this bi-annual air display, the 2nd of which celebrates the birthday of the declaration of the Republic.

Turkish White Stars

Whilst accounts of the macro events of those times are well catalogued the micro events – those that affected ordinary Turkish Cypriot men and women are less well recorded. Their voices are seldom heard and a great many of them are no longer here to raise them anyway. Too many of these voices scream from premature and unmarked graves and it behoves upon those of us that are left to speak for them, where we can so do. Some would question (and many do) why those of us who were not directly concerned, touched or otherwise, by the conflict of the time, should devote so much time to the cause of Turkish Cypriots and with so much passion. 

TRNC Flag from 1983 onwards.

Having spent time on the island since 2002 and also having lived amongst Turkish and Turkish Cypriot people, this writer has acquired such necessary passion requisite to the task of seeking justice for these people particularly having had the honour of meeting at first hand, a number of the survivors of those times and many of their thoughts and words have been recorded by hand. Of course, this makes uncomfortable reading for the Greeks and their apologists. 

Turkish Intervention Forces-July 1974

 The Turkish Military Intervention began at 0430 (local) and with great excitement one family, who to this day remain to be residents of the village of Ozanköy, climbed onto the roof of a restaurant to witness the unfolding historical spectacle before them and the advent of a two-stage operation that would cost the lives of 1317 sons of Turkey the remains of whom today lie in the soft red soils of Turkish Cyprus in most reverently tended resting places. In the interests of balance, in excess of 1500 Greek National Guardsmen and Greek Cypriots were to meet the same fate.

Mr Denktaş (pictured above) had broadcast on BRT radio to urge calm ahead of what was about to take place whilst also issuing a general warning that incoming (Turkish) aircraft should not be engaged as to do so would mark out the area concerned for retaliatory action. A retired British officer, one General Toyeman, a resident of Ozanköy (then known as Kazavane) entreated the ‘Anne’ (mother) of the family alluded to here “not to worry; the Greeks are running away”. In response she said to him that she had plenty of supplies and that he would not go short. In fact, at this stage the Greeks were far from running away for they were very well dug in and whilst taken by surprise (they were pounding the Gunyele enclave at the time) they nevertheless inflicted some 500 fatal casualties  to the incoming Turkish Paratroopers and Amphibian forces in the first 48 hours in and around St Helarion. 

Salvation in the form of the Turkish Intervention

 On July 23rd, the Turkish forces (TSK) had entered Ozanköy en route to Bellapais. The soldiers were warmly welcomed by this and many other families who freely handed out cigarettes and food in gratitude to their saviours. At one point, five Greek military vehicles sped into the village; these were quickly ‘disabled’ and the surviving occupants were incarcerated within the welcoming walls of Kyrenia castle over which the White Stars will ‘dance’ today. 

Turkish Military War Graves

The ‘Anne’ (Mother) of Ozanköy mobilised the ladies of the village and she organised the preparation of food supplies to the TSK and these were distributed by the Turkish Cypriot Mücahit (fighters) and gratefully received so they were. Similar acts would be played out throughout the island during the entire 30 day operation and doubtless beyond. As the Turkish forces eventually swept southwards a general feeling of calm and relief fell upon this village and all the other liberated areas as Turkish Cypriots were enabled to emerge from the enclaves into which they had been cast during the previous 10 ½ years of the ‘Dark-Era’.

Turkish Cyprus Peace Mission 1974

 Slowly but surely, certainly after 1975, some people began to return from their enforced exile and today the village of Ozanköy thrives as does Northern Cyprus in general despite the inhumane embargoes that have been imposed largely at the behest of the vanquished Greeks. Many of course have never returned; a great many too never actually left and these are remembered, but remain lost in unmarked mass graves or communal wells as their unholy resting places. 

A depiction of war dead

Far away in Berlin, on July 20th, Royal Signals Sgt David McCombie was on night shift duty; these shifts were minimally staffed at the time as nothing ‘out of the ordinary’ had seemed to be on the cards, but at around 0530 Zulu time, the ‘Comm’s’ traffic suddenly began to come in with ever growing intensity. What was unfolding was the world’s reaction to the Turkish intervention on Cyprus that historic day. A ‘Crashed Out’ order was ‘flashed’ and everyone was at Battle Stations. 

Turkish Paratroopers in action - July 1974

In reaction to the Turkish military intervention the Soviet Union then under Breznev, immediately mobilised 19 armoured divisions and were directly threatening Turkey although there was universal caution in case the Russians took the opportunity to surge westwards whilst all the confusion was going on! Huge troop movements were reported too. 

The USA reacted as we might imagine and we know that Henry Kissinger was harassing the Turkish Prime Minister, Bulent Ecevit to cease the intervention operation and in fact it was one of these calls that eventually led Ecevit to withdraw the intervention forces behind what we now know as the Green Line but this was a few weeks later, of course. 

It should be remembered that there had been historical enmity between Russia and Turkey dating back the 19th century (Turkic/Russo Wars 1877/8) whilst the Greece has been variously under communist governments and Makarios, down on Cyprus, certainly was a communist, amongst many other highly dubious things! There was an extremely heightened state of alert for the duration of the crisis: The West Germans were very nervous indeed especially at the Russian troop movements and as mentioned above, the worry was that the Soviets would surge westwards! Russian convoy movements increased and become more regular, adding to the tension. 

Turkish Stars display team.

The F5 Display Team or perhaps the ‘Lone Turk’ a display class F16, that carve out their mysterious art today above the hills of North Cyprus and the Eastern Mediterranean Sea are no longer weapons delivery platforms but are the visual embodiment of man and machine in the unison of perfect concert. They thrill, they entertain, they enthral but at the same token they evoke memories of those who recall the events that brought the Turkish forces to the island, firstly during August 1964 (Erenköy) and then 1974 as celebrated today. They also fly to warn those who gaze at the 200,000 square metre symbol of Turkish Cypriot freedom carved into the south facing escarpment of the Five Fingers Mountains that their latent ambitions to take back the whole of the island are futile and would be costly to prosecute. 

TRNC Flags carved into the hills

But as the display ends and the F5s return to their base on the Turkish Motherland; the red, blue and white smoke clears and the sun sets in the west to close this momentous day: The Brits and other tourists may perhaps return to the bars from whence they came and Turkish Cypriots repair to their day to day lives, it is perhaps right to reflect that just 100 miles away in Syria, mankind is once more in bloody conflict again and that the Eastern Mediterranean is again the focus of mans insatiable capacity for inhumanity to man. The mountains of Cyprus of course, have seen it all before over two millennia or more of bloodshed on this ‘island of tears’.


Chris Green

Beşparmak Media Services