Remembering Erenköy

Remembering Erenköy

No one, including Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots, should live in history. Memoirs of past traumas, fears, and atrocities should not be allowed to hold the future of a people hostage. Yet, experiences of yesterday must be remembered if there is a sincere wish to build a better, more secure and probably tranquil tomorrow.

I receive scores of letters after almost each article I write on the Cyprus issue from Greek, Greek Cypriot or Greek-American readers. Some of these letters attack and brand me right away as a “Turkish fascist,” while some even go to the extent of claiming I must be belonging to the TMT, the Turkish Cypriot Resistance Movement that was transformed to the Turkish Cypriot Security Forces in 1975.

Naturally, out of respect for the freedom of expression, I do not feel I have the right to object to why such expressions and accusations are directed at me. However, I pity seeing a gross ignorance, a systematic denial of the responsibility Greece and Greek Cypriots played in the creation and exacerbation of the Cyrus problem that brought the island to today in those letters.

Claiming the Cyprus problem started in 1974 with the Turkish intervention and worse, accusing Turkey of attacking an island where Turkish Cypriots were happily living together with their “Greek brethren” cannot be explained even with “amnesia” but must be the product of a far serious medical condition.

Once while talking with Archbishop Chrisostomos, I could not hold myself while listening to his distortion of history and denial of atrocities committed by the Greek Cypriots. “As a man of religion, are you not expected to tell the truth?! You are in full denial of the crimes your people have committed against the Turkish Cypriots!” I exclaimed and everyone in the huge reception hall blushed red. The problem, unfortunately, is not limited to Archbishop Chrisostomos.

This week is the 54th anniversary of the Erenköy resistance and the first Turkish intervention, a limited one. Erenköy/Kokkina, now an enclave in the Greek Cypriot side, is a small village with huge symbolic significance. On Aug. 5, 1964, eight months after the Greek Cypriot attacks started and 103 Turkish Cypriot villages had to be evacuated, a 1,500 strong Greek Cypriot horde equipped with heavy artillery started gathering in the areas around Erenköy.

There was sufficient intelligence about Greek Cypriot plans and 530 Turkish Cypriot students at Turkish or British universities travelled from Turkey to Erenköy onboard small boats. Greek Cypriot attacks were repelled on Aug. 7 but Turkish Cypriot defense suffered serious deficiencies and a new attack might be their end. On Aug. 8, 1964, Turkish fighter planes flew low on Nicosia as a warning and when attacks continued, bombarded the Greek Cypriot positions around Erenköy. It was a total defeat for Greek Cypriots and the Makarios government was compelled to call an end to the attacks.

If Greek Cypriots today can claim they were happily and living together in peace with Turkish Cypriots before 1974, he cannot be serious. If there was peace and if people were happily living together with Greek Cypriots with no danger of becoming subjects of a genocidal campaign, why was there a huge tent in the backyard of our next-door neighbor, hosting Ömer and his family from Kazafana/Ozanköy?

Why were there “refugee huts” in Hamitköy and Gönyeli? Why were 103 Turkish Cypriot villages and the Omorphitali/Küçük Kaymaklı neighborhood of Nicosia evacuated? “We have taken these lands shedding our blood. If you dare, come and get it back,” Nikos Sampson, the leader of the short-lived Athens-backed coup that triggered the Turkish intervention in 1974, had said at the time.

No one should bury themself in history if we want a settlement on Cyprus. However, to reach a settlement under one roof—be it a federation or confederation or even a two states in the EU—Greek Cypriots should accept responsibility for the crimes they have committed and apologize to the Turkish Cypriots.

I am grateful to those university students who have voluntarily sacrificed their lives for the defense of their people.

Yusuf Kanlı, Turkish Cyprus, Greek Cyprus