The Events of July and August 1974: Two Official Views

The coup d=etat by Greek Cypriot forces acting in concert with Greece against President Makarios, and the two consequent incursions by Turkey that divided the island much as it is today, remain the signal events in the history of the island. Below are two official views, borrowed from their Web sites, which provide the starkly contrasting accounts of what happened. The first is the Greek Cypriot view. Its narrative jumped from independence in 1960 to the events of July 20 - - skipping the history of enforced Turkish Cypriot enclaves (1964-74) and the coup against Makarios. A more telling set of omissions would be difficult to engineer. The second and longer passage here, taken from the Turkish foreign ministry=s web site, notably addresses the issue of missing persons, massacres, and other Aatrocities,@ about which the Turks are understandably sensitive. Both entries have been edited for length. The significance of these kinds of selective memory is acutely described by scholar Yiannis Papadakis in his essays on this site. These accounts are otherwise presented without comment.

From the Republic of Cyprus Public Information Office:

Turkish Invasion

The Turkish army invaded Cyprus on 20 July 1974.

Turkey announced that the invasion was a "peace-keeping operation" to restore the constitutional order disrupted when a Greek military coup overthrew the Cyprus government. Turkey claimed she was acting in compliance with the terms of the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee.

The invading forces landed off the northern coast of the island around Kyrenia. By the time a cease fire was agreed three days later, Turkish troops held 3% of the territory of Cyprus. Five thousand Greek Cypriots had fled their homes.

Following the invasion, the junta which was in power in Greece at the time, collapsed and Mr Constantine Karamanlis was recalled from self-imposed exile in Paris to form a new government. In Cyprus, Nicos Samson, the man whom the junta had set up as President, surrendered power to the President of the House of Representatives, Mr Glafcos Clerides, pending the return of the island's constitutionally elected President, Archbishop Makarios, who had fled abroad to escape being killed during the coup.

Two unproductive conferences in Geneva followed, the first between Britain, Greece and Turkey and the second with the additional attendance of Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot representatives. Throughout this time Turkish troops steadily expanded their area of control.

On 14 August, despite the fact that talks were still being held in Geneva and just as agreement was about to be reached, the Turkish army mounted a second full-scale offensive, thereby belying Turkey's original pretext that it was invading in order to restore constitutional order, in view of the fact that constitutional order had already been restored.

By the end of the offensive, Turkey increased its hold to include the booming tourist resort of Famagusta and the rich citrus-growing area of Morphou. All in all 37% of the area of Cyprus came under Turkish military occupation, an area Turkey still holds today, despite international condemnation.

The advance halted on a line which was almost precisely the one proposed by Turkey as the demarcation of partition in 1965. This line has come to be known as the Attila line, named after the military codename "Attila" which Turkey gave to the invasion operation, thereby identifying it with the chieftain of the Huns known as "the scourge of God".

As a result, 200.000 Greek Cypriots were made refugees in their own country and 70% of the economic potential of Cyprus came under military occupation. Moreover, thousands of people, including civilians, were killed or ill-treated by the Turkish invaders.

There are still 1.619 Greek Cypriots missing as a result of the Turkish invasion, many of whom were held in Turkish custody. Following the invasion the Turkish government embarked on a policy of bringing in large numbers of Anatolian settlers into the occupied areas, while at the same time systematically expelling the legal Greek Cypriot inhabitants from their homes. Currently about 500 mostly elderly people remain enclaved in the occupied area.

On 1 November 1974, the UN General Assembly unanimously passed the first of countless resolutions calling all states to respect the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and non-alignment of the Republic of Cyprus. It urged the speedy withdrawal of all foreign troops, the continuation of intercommunal talks and that urgent efforts be taken to ensure the safe return of refugees to their homes.

Results of Invasion

                The Turkish invasion and subsequent occupation resulted in the following:

About 37% of the territory of the Republic of Cyprus - i.e. the northern part of the island, where 70% of its natural resources are concentrated - is under Turkish occupation.

200.000 Greek Cypriots - one third of the population - have been displaced from the occupied northern sector where they had constituted 80% of the inhabitants.

The population of Greek and Turkish Cypriots, who for 300 years had lived together intermingled throughout the island, was now artificially separated.

The ascertainment of the fate of the missing persons is still pending.

By the end of 1974 about 12,000 people were enclaved in their occupied villages living under conditions of oppression, harassment and deprivation. Less than 500 Greek Cypriots and 173 Maronites remain (June 1998 figures).

35,000 Turkish soldiers, armed with the latest weapons and supported by land and sea, are stationed in the occupied area, making it, according to the UN Secretary-General, "one of the most militarised regions of the world".

Over 90.000 Turks have been brought over from Turkey to colonise the occupied area thus changing the demography of the island and controlling the political situation.

The "Attila line" ("Operation Attila" was the code-name Turkey gave to the invasion of Cyprus) artificially divides the island and its people and prevents Cypriots from moving freely throughout their country.

In an effort to consolidate the de facto situation, the "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus" was unilaterally declared in 1983 in the occupied area, a pseudostate recognised only by Turkey and entirely dependent on it.

According to Turkish-Cypriot newspapers, over one third of Turkish Cypriots emigrated from the occupied area between 1974-1995 because of the economic, social and moral deprivation which prevails there. As a result the Turkish Cypriots who remain are today outnumbered by the Turkish troops together with the colonists.

 The illegal regime in the occupied area is deliberately and methodically trying to eradicate every trace of a 9.000 year old cultural and historical heritage. All Greek place-names have been replaced by Turkish ones. Churches, monuments, cemeteries and archaeological sites have been destroyed, desecrated or looted.

From the Government of Turkey=s Foreign Ministry:

Cyprus Briefing Note

The Greek Cypriots claim that the Cyprus problem was caused by the landing of Turkish troops in 1974 and that if only they would withdraw, the problem would be solved. This is a serious misconception, for the modern Cyprus question began in 1960 and the landing of Turkish troops was the consequence, not the cause, of the problem. . . . .

The Cyprus question can be stated shortly as follows: The partnership republic formed in 1960 between the two peoples of Cyprus broke down in 1963. For the time being, Greek and Turkish Cypriots live apart. Does the future of Cyprus lie in a new political integration or in an arms length relationship based on willing and active co-operation between two peoples, each secure in its own sovereign territory and each with its own customs, traditions and identity?. . . .


In 1971 General Grivas returned to Cyprus to form EOKA-B, which was again committed to making Cyprus a wholly Greek island and annexing it to Greece. In a speech to the Greek Cypriot armed forces (Quoted in "New Cyprus" May 1987), Grivas said. "The Greek forces from Greece have come to Cyprus in order to impose the will of the Greeks of Cyprus upon the Turks. We want ENOSIS but the Turks are against it. We shall impose our will. We are strong and we shall do so."

Greek Invasion

By 15th July 1974 a powerful force of mainland Greek troops had assembled in Cyprus and with their backing the Greek Cypriot National Guard overthrew Makarios and installed Nicos Sampson as "President." On 22nd July Washington Star News reported: "Bodies littered the streets and there were mass burials... People told by Makarios to lay down their guns were shot by the National Guard."

Turkish Cypriots appealed to the Guarantor powers for help, but only Turkey was willing to make any effective response. The Greek newspaper Eleftherotipia published an interview with Nicos Sampson on 26th February 1981 in which he said "Had Turkey not intervened I would not only have proclaimed ENOSIS - I would have annihilated the Turks in Cyprus."

Even Greek Cypriots sought Turkey's help. In her memoirs, Greek Cypriot MP Rina Katselli, says "16th July 1974 Is Makarios alive? Is he dead? The Makarios supporters arrested, the EOKA-B supporters freed... I did not shed a tear, why should I? Did the stupidity and fanaticism deserve a tear? There are some who beg Turkey to intervene. They prefer the intervention of Turkey." 18th July 1974 "My God!... Everyone is frozen with fear...the old man who asked for the body of his son was shot on the spot..The tortures and executions at the central prison... everyone is frozen with horror. Nothing is sacred to these people, and they call themselves Greeks!... we must not keep that name any longer."

Turkey Responds

In his book "The Way the Wind Blows" former British Prime Minister, Sir Alec Douglas-Home said "I was convinced that if Archbishop Makarios could not bring himself to treat the Turkish Cypriots as human beings he was inviting the invasion and partition of the island."

US Under-Secretary of State, George Ball, said "Makarios central interest was to block off Turkish intervention so that he and his Greek Cypriots could go on happily massacring Turkish Cypriots"

"Turkish Cypriots, who had suffered from physical attacks since 1963, called on the guarantor powers to prevent a Greek conquest of the island. When Britain did nothing Turkey invaded Cyprus and occupied its northern part." (Daily Telegraph 15.8.96)

Turkey (at that time led by the Social Democrat Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit) sent troops to Cyprus on 20th July 1974.

"On 20th July 1974 Turkey intervened under Article IV of the Treaty of Guarantee" - (UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office doc. CPS/75. Jan., 1987).

"Turkey exercised its right of intervention in accordance with Article IV of the Guarantee Treaty of 1960." (Resolution 573, Standing Committee of the Consultative Assembly of the Council of Europe, 29th July 1974).

The 1976 UK House of Commons Select Committee on Cyprus found (HC 331 1975/76 para.22), that Turkey had proposed joint Anglo-Turkish action under the Treaty of Guarantee. On 14th August 1974 (Daily Telegraph 15th August) Prime Minister Ecevit confirmed that he had indeed traveled to London to urge Anglo-Turkish intervention. However the then Labour Government in Britain refused to take any effective action, even though they had troops and aircraft available in their Sovereign Bases in Cyprus.

They argued that Britain was under no duty to take military action, but Article II provided that Britain would guarantee the state of affairs established by the 1960 Constitution, which it manifestly failed to do. The Select Committee concluded that "Britain had a legal right to intervene, she had a moral obligation to intervene. She did not intervene for reasons which the (Labour) Government refuses to give."

In an article on 28th February 1976 in the Greek Cypriot press Father Papatsestos said: "In is a rather hard thing to say, but it is true that the Turkish intervention saved us from a merciless internecine war. The Sampson regime had prepared a list of all Makarios supporters, and they would have slaughtered them all." Many of the people saved by Turkey are members of the present Greek Cypriot leadership.

During the fighting with Turkish troops between 20th July and 16th August 1974 many Greek Cypriots died in combat. So far as possible their bodies were recovered and identified by Turkish forces. There were very few deaths of Greek Cypriots civilians.

The balance of probabilities is therefore that of those Greek Cypriots still listed as missing most were killed during the Sampson coup of 15th - 20th July 1974, and that others died in combat. Some are in mass graves such as those described by Father Papatsestos, and the remainder have no known grave. Those killed in the fighting with the Turkish army would not have died if the Greek Cypriots and Greece had not tried to annihilate the Turkish Cypriots and annex the island to Greece, and the blame for their deaths must rest firmly upon their own leadership.

In July 1974, after the first phase of the Turkish intervention, an international conference was held at Geneva between Turkey, Greece and Britain. It was agreed that Greek and Greek Cypriot forces would leave all the Turkish Cypriot enclaves, but showing their customary disregard for international agreements they proceeded instead to murder almost the entire civilian population of six Turkish Cypriot enclaves in both the north and south of the island, and despite the presence in Cyprus of UN troops.

It is argued that even if the first phase of the Turkish intervention was legal the extension of the area under Turkish control in the second phase from 14th August to 16th August 1974 was illegal. The German newspaper Die Zeit wrote on 30th August 1974 "the massacre of Turkish Cypriots in Paphos and Famagusta is the proof of how justified the Turkish were to undertake their (August) intervention".

More Massacres of Turkish Cypriots

In the village of Tokhni on 14th August 1974 all the Turkish Cypriot men between the ages of 13 and 74, except for eighteen who managed to escape, were taken away and shot. (Times, Guardian, 21st August)

In Zyyi on the same day all the Turkish-Cypriot men aged between 19 and 38 were taken away by Greek-Cypriots and were never seen again. On the same day Greek-Cypriots opened fire in the Turkish-Cypriot neighbourhood of Paphos killing men, women, and children indiscriminately. On 23rd July 1974 the Washington Post reported "In a Greek raid on a small Turkish village near Limassol 36 people out of a population of 200 were killed. The Greeks said that they had been given orders to kill the inhabitants of the Turkish villages before the Turkish forces arrived." (See also Times, Guardian, 23rd July).

"The Greeks began to shell the Turkish quarter on Saturday, refugees said. Kazan DerviĠs, a Turkish Cypriot girl aged 15, said she had been staying with her uncle. The (Greek Cypriot) National Guard came into the Turkish sector and shooting began. She saw her uncle and other relatives taken away as prisoners, and later heard her uncle had been shot." (Times 23.7.74)

"Before my uncle was taken away by the soldiers, he shouted to me to run away. I ran to the streets, and the soldiers were shooting all the time. I went into a house and I saw a woman being attacked by soldiers. They were raping her. Then they shot her in front of my eyes. I ran away again and Turkish Cypriot men and women looked after me. They were escaping as well. They broke holes in the sides of houses, so we could get away without going into the streets. There were lots of women and children screaming, and soldiers were firing at us all the time."

On 28th July the New York Times reported that 14 Turkish-Cypriot men had been shot in Alaminos. On 24th July 1974 "France Soir" reported "The Greeks burned Turkish mosques and set fire to Turkish homes in the villages around Famagusta. Defenceless Turkish villagers who have no weapons live in an atmosphere of terror and they evacuate their homes and go and live in tere a shame to humanity."

On 22nd July Turkish Prime Minister Ecevit called upon the UN to "stop the genocide of Turkish-Cypriots" and declared "Turkey has accepted a cease-fire, but will not allow Turkish-Cypriots to be massacred" (Times 23rd July). At the beginning of the Second Geneva Conference he said "A solution which is not based on geographical separation will not work. It is out of the question for us to entrust the safety of the Turkish Cypriots to the Greeks, who cannot even rule themselves. The areas around the Turkish forces are being mined, and the Turkish Cypriot villages are still under siege."

The UK House of Commons Select Committee on Cyprus reported in 1976 "the second phase of military operations was inevitable in the view of your committee as the position reached by Turkish forces at the time of the first ceasefire was untenable militarily"

Sir Anthony Kershaw MP explained the situation as follows in his speech on 23rd October 1990:

"In order to protect the Turkish Cypriots, Turkey intervened in exercise of her rights under article 4 of the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee. No one has ever suggested that was illegal but they have gone on to say that the continuing use of troops, not to restore the 1960 Constitution but to enforce partition was illegal.

But does this not ignore the reality of the situation? In law it is said that the Turks were invoking the Guarantee; but to say that they were obliged to work for no result except the restoration of the 1960 Constitution is absurd. That Constitution had ceased to exist. The reconciliation of the law with the actual political situation, or indeed with ordinary common sense, was becoming more difficult. The Turks came to protect the lives of the Turkish Cypriots and they had good reason to know that the restoration of the 1960 Constitution was not the way to do that. The only way to do that was with troops on the ground."

"Turkey intervened to protect the lives and property of the Turkish-Cypriots, and to its credit it has done just that. In the 12 years since, there have been no killings and no massacres" Lord Willis (Lab.) House of Lords 17th December 1986 (Hansard, col.223)