July 15s and 20s

July 15s and 20s

If the colonels in Greece had not engineered it and if the Greek Cypriot hordes aspiring to unite the island with Greece undertook a coup against Archbishop Makarios on July 15, 1974, there would not have been a Turkish intervention five days later, on July 20, 1974. There was not an “action-reaction” relationship between the two events; rather the first triggered second.

Before coming to the July 20, 1974, Turkish intervention, for 11 years the Turkish Cypriot people had successfully resisted with primitive means against a well-equipped, determined and vengeful campaign by Greek Cypriot “brothers.” What were the aims of the Greek Cypriot attacks? The Akritas and other plans either published in Greek Cypriot newspapers or captured after the July 20, 1974, intervention were documenting that the aim was total extermination of the Turkish Cypriot people and turning Cyprus into a “Greek land.” However, Turkish Cypriots have always believed that the island was the “common homeland” of the linguistically, religious-wise, ethnically different two peoples of the island; the Greeks and the Turks. 

The Greek Cypriot political machine and people refuse even today to publicly confess the very serious crimes they committed against Turkish Cypriots from the night of Dec. 21, 1963, until just a day before the second operation started on Aug. 14, 1974, when they indiscriminately mass massacred the entire population of three villages Muratağa (Maratha), Sandallar (Santalaris) and Atlılar (Aloda).

Talking of the July 20, 1974, trauma among Greek Cypriots and preconditioning a Cyprus deal to the withdrawal of Turkish troops and an end to the 1960 guarantee scheme dastardly ignores the immense trauma Turkish Cypriots lived through for the 11 years preceding the Turkish intervention and thus the existential importance of an effective Turkish guarantee for Turkish Cypriot security. As much as it is a psychological obsession for Greek Cypriots to have a Cyprus deal which negates Turkey’s military presence, it is a psychological obsession of Turkish Cypriots to maintain under all conditions – even at the expense of not having a Cyprus deal at all – Turkey’s military presence and guarantee.

This year, the July 20 celebrations in Turkish Cyprus will be muted because of yet another July 15 mishap, this time in Turkey. The attempted takeover in Turkey appears heading to produce a new “July 20 operation,” this time in Turkey. Already, according to unverified reports, some 20,000 civil servants were laid off or suspended from work, while some 18,000 people and some 8,000 soldiers from senior generals to privates were detained. Thousands of judges, prosecutors, including at least five members of the High Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HYSK), two Constitutional Court judges and many Appeals Court judges were laid off, many of them detained. Top judges cannot of course be detained, interrogated and judged by lower court judges, but who cares, now Turkey is in an extraordinary situation where norms of supremacy of law are apparently suspended as well.

The United States was “verbally” asked to extradite Pennsylvania-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, believed to be behind the coup attempt. Four dossiers of “evidence” were also reported to have been conveyed to the U.S. Washington has been asserting that no formal extradition request has been made so far. Yet, Ankara is telling the U.S. that if Gülen is not given back bilateral relations might be seriously affected. Indeed, Turkey’s Western allies have been sending warning signals to Ankara that though they deplore the coup attempt, Turkey is expected to abide with the supremacy of law principle and stay away from reintroducing the death penalty, which Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been suggesting since the coup attempt.

Signs are already out that after the July 20 meeting of the National Security Council and a cabinet meeting chaired by Erdoğan Turkey will reveal a “very important decision.” What will be that “very important decision” Erdoğan has started talking about? Since the coup night, Erdoğan has been very self-confident. He made a recourse to the idea of building a replica of a former Ottoman barracks at the Gezi Park of Istanbul – the idea that ignite the 2013 riots. He has been talking of “entering into the dens of Gülenists,” vowing the cleansing of Gülenists from the state would continue without compromise.

What might be that “very important decision” that Erdoğan wants to be first taken at the National Security Council and later endorsed by the cabinet? Affiliating the Office of the Chief of General Staff with the Defense Ministry? That would be too simple. Would he transform the figurative “commander-in-chief” title into an operative one? Would he declare himself a de facto super president and accordingly order a speedy writing of a new charter?

One July 20 was a day of liberation and security but the other appears to be one for the consolidation of autocracy in Turkey.