Cyprus 1950 to 1974
In 1950, a referendum was held amongst Greek Cypriots over enosis and the result was overwhelmingly in favour of union (98%). Reports now indicate that pressure was put on the people to vote in favour by the church, yet many saw this as a green light for a stronger campaign.
Throughout the 1950’s calls for enosis, which had been in evidence in milder forms since the thirties, strengthened, supported by favourable noises from Greece. Some say that enosis was actually inflamed by Greece as a way of increasing its influence in the eastern Mediterranean whilst needling Turkey. Whatever the reasoning behind it, the Turkish Cypriot contingent of the population became increasingly worried.
Concerned that Britain would do little or nothing to protect them, the Turkish Cypriots fought fire with fire and began their own, more subdued, campaign starting in schools, to call for partition. Gradually the British began to realise that there was a danger to the status quo and increasing dissatisfaction from the Turkish Cypriots with the development of national issues became a base from which the British began investigating options.
However, procrastination and an acute misunderstanding of the feelings of the Greek Cypriots led to an increasingly violent response to inaction. Again, beginning on the streets of Nicosia, school children and students began rioting against what they saw as the intransigence of their rulers.
A lucid account of the situation at the time can be found in Lawrence Durrell’s book ‘Bitter Lemons’ which charts his time as a government official and school teacher in Nicosia. In the book he subtly details the growing distrust between Greek and British and between Greek and Turk. Many recalled with sadness the wariness felt in the presence of old friends from the other community and the situation grew ever more painful when EOKA began to punish what it saw as unhealthy relationships.
On 01 April 1955 EOKA’s ‘military’ campaign began with simultaneous attacks on the Cyprus Broadcasting Station in Nicosia, The Wolseley Barracks and other targets in Famagusta.
To counter the attacks, the Governor General vowed to increase the strength of the Cypriot Police Force but further inflamed Greek feelings by employing a disproportionate number from the Turkish Cypriot community. This effectively set the stage for inter communal violence as Greeks stormed barricades manned by Turks. EOKA took it upon itself to target the Turkish Cypriot community in reprisal which led to the formation of an equivalent Turkish terrorist organisation called TMT. This paramilitary organisation retaliated against EOKA, adding further fuel to the fire.
Although now beginning to consider the case for independence the British felt that the solution needed to still give them a foothold on the island and continued to rub salt into the wound by insisting on a unitary government upon self determination. The Turkish community feared that, as the minority, they would become even more dominated by the Greeks.
The years of the EOKA struggle were dragged out by the intransigence of the government, both here in Cyprus and in the UK and influenced by other world powers such as Greece and the US. All this time, attitudes to each other were hardening and it was little wonder that when Cyprus eventually gained independence in 1960, the fuse was lit for the time bomb that was to explode in 1974.
In the intervening years there were great positives for the island. Post war austerity gave way to consumerism and with it the burgeoning demand for foreign holidays. With its beautiful beaches and entertainment facilities, Varosha entered its golden days. Economically, it provided 10% of the island’s GDP and had a broad mix of industry and agriculture. With the decline of Beirut as a tourist destination in the wars of the seventies, Varosha’s tourist industry grew exponentially. The hotels were the most modern to be found in the Mediterranean and attracted the rich and famous on holiday. The future looked bright for the island and its peoples but, beneath the surface, mistrust and fear were eroding the foundations of the success story and on 20th July 1974 the house of cards came tumbling down.
August 25, 2010
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