Haunting memories

Haunting memories

Did any Greek Cypriot official or civilian (forget Turkish Cypriots) face court for the crimes committed against humanity? If, for example, anyone from 40-day-old newborns to 93-year-old grandpas were massacred indiscriminately and the population of three villages with the exception of a shepherd were killed or buried alive, can such a crime escape justice for almost fifty years?

Did you hear the names of the Maratha (Muratağa), Santalaris (Sandallar) and Aloda (Atlılar) villages or ever hear of what happened to the 126 people living in those three settlements just few kilometers away from Famagusta and very close to the famous Saint Barnabas Monastery? After the first Turkish intervention on July 20, the EOKA-B terrorist gang gathered all the men of the village and sent them to prison in Limassol. Thus, the women, kids and elderly Turkish Cypriot population of the villages were totally defenseless.

According to Turkish Cypriot journalist Sevgül Uludağ who examined what indeed happened there and collected many testimonies, Greek Cypriot EOKA-B gang members indiscriminately raped women, young girls and even boys from July 20 until Aug. 14 and when news of the second Turkish intervention came, they decided to not leave behind any witnesses. Thus on 14 August 1974, just hours after the start of the second Turkish intervention in 1974, Greek Cypriot villagers from nearby villages – particularly from the Peristeronopigi (Alaniçi) village attacked their Turkish neighbors in those three Turkish villages. They gathered 89 people from Maratha and Santalaris in a field and 37 people of Aloda in another field – that is, the entire Turkish population present at the time -- and brutally tortured and buried some of them still alive in two mass graves. Forensic examination by U.N. experts showed some people were killed by “sharp objects.” 

Only nine Turks who were not in their villages that day survived the massacre. The massacre and the place of the mass graves were found after an investigation based on testimony of an eyewitness, a surviving Turkish Cypriot shepherd who, apparently seeing what was happening, hid and watched the entire ordeal from a distance. According to his testimony and to Scotland-based Greek researcher and human rights activist Antonis Angastiniyotis, at least one of the gang members that massacred 126 people was a mainland Greek officer. EOKA-B, anyhow, was a terrorist gang formed and funded by Greece with the aim of achieving annexation of the island to Greece.

The Maratha, Santalaris and Aloda massacre was described by the U.N. as a crime against humanity. Yet, since it was staged in 1974 and since the massacre and the mass graves were found September 1-2, 1974, not one single Greek Cypriot was charged for the mass-rape and massacre. Recently, during a TV show on a Greek Cypriot TV station, someone connecting via telephone testified that he was one of those criminals and was very much worried whether he would be penalized should there be a federation agreement on the island between the Turkish and Greek Cypriot peoples.

That Greek Cypriot criminal was at least aware that he committed a crime and he might be asked to face the consequences in front of justice. Probably he developed that “responsibility” sense because he is now rather aged and his conscience started to haunt him for the crime against humanity he participated in.

Of course, what happened in 1974 and what happened on the Greek Cypriot part of the island to some visiting Turkish Cypriots last week are two totally different issues. Crime is individual and an entire population cannot be held responsible for something a group of people did back in 1974. Yet, the ELAM gang (National Popular Front) – which, in a way, might be considered a neo-EOKA with the difference that Greece is not funding it this time, hopefully – is equally fascist and terrorist. The Greek Cypriot government and the justice system, on the other hand, have proved to be totally unreliable as, despite repeated crimes of ELAM against Turkish Cypriots, no real punitive action has so far been taken.

What happened to those ELAM members who, in the presence of the American ambassador, attempted to put former Turkish Cypriot President Mehmet Ali Talat on fire two years ago? Or, let’s get personal, when five years ago my car was attacked by the same group. I attempted to file a complaint with the police and I was held at the police station an entire night – typical torture – just to file a complaint. Was I compensated? Were those who damaged my car fined? No…

Or, when the pre-1974 Greek Cypriot crimes on Turkish Cypriots are raised, did ever any Greek Cypriot publicly accept they did wrong to Turkish Cypriots? No…

How can we build a common future without changing the Greek Cypriot rejectionist and denial mentality that made us suffer so seriously?

President Mustafa Akıncı was complaining that a mobile phone roaming agreement faltered because the Greek Cypriot phone authority said his department cannot deal with any institution of the “occupied part and regime” and that, with such a standing peace, efforts could be derailed. Good morning Akıncı, you have come to what we have been writing all along.