The Cypriot tragedy


Missing in Cyprus: Dead or Alive
SBS, Thursday, July 20, 8.30pm (8 SA)
Previewed by Michael Karadjis

This is the most up to date report on the ongoing tragedy of 1619 Greek Cypriots who have been missing since 1974.

In that year, the Turkish army occupied 37% of Cyprus following a coup by right-wing Greek Cypriots, backed by the colonels in Athens. 200,000 Greek Cypriots were driven from their homes, and the island is now totally split along ethnic lines.

Greek Cypriot soldiers and civilians who surrendered were taken to a Turkish prison, then two months later returned to a prison within the Turkish-occupied area, before being freed and transported back to the Greek side to rejoin their relatives.

However, 1619 people never returned. Yet much film footage exists showing many of these prisoners alive. The Turkish government has never explained what happened to them.

Particular are cases examined in depth where evidence has come to light that has not previously been made public. Evidence was presented to the European Commission on Human Rights, but Turkey refused to cooperate. The commission found Turkey guilty of violating human rights. The findings have remained unpublished for nine years, with evidence pointing to direct pressure from the US government, Turkey's ally, to prevent publication,

The documentary is not one-sided — in a rough sketch of the conflict that led to the coup and invasion massacres of Turkish Cypriots by Greek Cypriot rightists are also reported. Greek Cypriots must face up to these facts in the same way as the other side must for its crimes.

On August 14, 1974, the day of the second Turkish invasion, all Turkish Cypriot men in the village of Tochni were rounded up by EOKA B and shot, their bodies never found. EOKA B were the right-wing extremists behind the coup, who collaborated with the colonels in Athens to bring about a forced union with Greece. The Turkish Cypriots also claim they have 803 missing from the period 1963-74.

One weakness of the documentary is its treatment of the whole situation as ethnic conflict. The role of the Greek and Turkish governments in orchestrating this gets little mention; similarly with the violence by both EOKA B and the TMT (the Turkish Cypriot ultraright militia) against anyone on their own side with more progressive opinions about living in peace.

Even less does it bring up the central role played by Britain and especially the US in the disaster. The role of the US government in 1974, both in the Greek-backed coup and the Turkish invasion, needs to be reported properly.

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