Was the 1974 Invasion Inevitable ?
The 20th July 1974 is a date which haunts the memories of Cypriots the world over. Their beautiful island, so full of hope for the future after independence, was torn apart on that fateful day. Should they have been expecting it and were the events of that day inevitable?
A domino effect was certainly in place with the first domino pushed over long before the fateful day.
The Greeks can lay claim to the island from Byzantine times and interestingly their cause was aided by those whom some came to despise - the Muslim Turks. When Cyprus fell to the Ottomans in the late 16th century the governor Lala Mustafa Pasha was feted by the Greeks who had been reduced to serfdom by the Venetians. They received their freedom, their property and the right to worship as they wished.
It was the British, in their wish to ‘civilise’ the world under the banner of their empire that first sowed the seeds of resentment between the Greek and Turkish communities.
The British used Cyprus as a bargaining chip during the Great War which awoke the Turks to the possibility of having Greek masters. This was exacerbated by the British dismantling or disempowering many of the Turkish Islamic Institutions.
Matters became worse following the Second World War when the Greek Cypriots, seeing the break up of the Empire, reasserted their wish for enosis. The Turkish Cypriots now realised the gravity of the situation and upon the formation of EOKA, formed a counter movement TMT. Thus the scene was set.
Lawrence Durrell in his book ‘Bitter Lemons’ which recounted his time in Cyprus during the 1950s discovered through his work for the government that the situation was being ignored in the hope it would go away. No one expected violence and when it began, the British were again at a loss as to how to react. Once more they chose the wrong option and fought force with force. Finally the situation calmed and the Turkish Cypriot community were appeased when instead of enosis, Cyprus became an independent nation. However the terms of independence meant that a potentially unfair advantage was given to the Greek Cypriot community which allowed them to govern against the wishes of the Turkish Cypriot minority following changes to the constitution. A second wave of violence in support of enosis coupled with military coups in Greece, heaped concerns on the Turks. Then finally, in the days before 20th July, the Greek junta in Athens orchestrated a coup in Cyprus, effectively gaining enosis by force. Turkey, as a guarantor power (the others being Greece and the UK which again sat on the fence) invaded initially to restore order. Despite the failure of the coup after little more than a week, Turkey felt justified in strengthening its position and grabbed a disproportionately large part of the island which has remained more or less until today.
Conspiracy theories abound, including seeing the hand of the CIA and the USA in what happened. This is given credence by the fact that the USA was the only power to support the Greek junta and so potentially hoping to gain a foothold on Cyprus post enosis in order to have a base close to the Middle East.
Whatever the story behind the story, indecision, divisive policies and misplaced loyalties played a part. It could all have been so different.
August 25, 2010
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