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Friday, September 22, 2023

The Cyprus Crisis

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Cyprus was plunged into Chaos on the 15th of July, 1974 when the Greek Junta of Ioannides staged a successful Coup and took over the island, or you could go back further to 1960 when Britain officially gave the island its Independence, depending on who you ask.
To understand the development and growth of the issues that not only created the disasters on the island but continue to now, we must analyse the past.

Cyprus: An Island of Greeks owned by Turks

In 1453 the Byzantine (Roman) Empire fell to Mehmed the Conqueror of the Ottoman Empire, the ancient and primarily Greek Byzantine state had finally fallen, however Cyprus had for a time evaded the ambitions of the Ottomans when the Venetians acquired the island in 1489, however as Venetian-Ottoman relations deteriorated the possibility of an Ottoman invasion & conquest became more and more possible. Eventually Ottoman forces under Mustafa Pasha landed on Cyprus with roughly 60,000 troops, the island was ill-equipped to fight such a professional fighting force and quickly came under subjugation, the defenders at Nicosia fought surprisingly well, however Nicosia fell and a reportedly 20,000 Civilians were executed for their fearsome defiance.

The beginning of Ottoman rule over the island was harsh for the locals and usually by design, this is not to say all Ottoman rulers treated the island as such, but enough for the locals to remember for a long time, rebellions were frequent, and the repercussions were devastating. However, Ottoman rule ended when the British empire purchased the island from the Ottomans in the late 1800’s, later on the Ottoman state would crumble under the weight of the First World War. While the Cypriots first enjoyed British rule, they would quickly begin to distrust them, high taxes and the fact that only the British could administer over the island disenfranchised the locals greatly.

Modern Cyprus and the eventual Collapse of Unity

In 1925 the island became a British ‘Crown Colony’, the situation began to escalate around this time with 97% of the island desiring ‘Enosis’ or “Union with Mother Greece”. The Cypriot revolt struck and the government house in Nicosia was burnt to the ground, issues on the island were amplified when Sir Richard Palmer began his administration over the island and introduced a plethora of oppressive policies that would end up only further angering and alienating the local population, this anger and distrust of the British would manifest itself into a group known as ‘EOKA’ or the “National Organization of Cypriot Fighters” with its primary goal of Achieving Enosis.

EOKA would enjoy a surprising amount of success, defeating British forces, gaining reasonable aid and support from Makarios III, the first Cypriot ruler of the island since perhaps the beginning of Ottoman rule, EOKA was led by WW2 Veteran General & founder of Organization X, Georgios ‘Digenis’ Grivas.
Grivas had much experience in the way of Guerrilla fighting, he and his Organization X fought the Italians, Nazi Germans, Bulgarians and Communist Greeks in Greece during WW2. Grivas’s rebellion had a far greater impact than he had thought possible however, the British feeling like they were losing control of the situation, began to pit the Greek and Turkish governments against each other, eventually the Greeks and Turks of Cyprus and in the wider Mediterranean began to clash, in Cyprus, the British began to recruit almost exclusively ethnic Turks in their local garrisons and police forces.

British Administration of the island only strengthened EOKA with more oppressive policies under Governor Harding, his policies involved death penalties for relatively petty crimes, aggressive house searches which alienated more of the locals and the banning of AKEL and the detainment of 128 of its members, AKEL was also the only political party on the island that opposed EOKA. Eventually EOKA would succeed in one of its objectives, the removal of British rule over Cyprus, in 1960 a constitution was drafted, and the island was granted its independence.

Disaster strikes Cyprus

In 1967 the Kingdom of Greece fell victim to a Coup by Constantine II and his supporters, Greece was now ruled by a Military Junta and Constantine II would not long after fail to initiate a successful counter-Coup. The Junta quickly set its eyes on Cyprus, its ambitions would manifest into a successful Coup by the National Guard of Cyprus and the usurpation and exile of Makarios III, he was replaced by former EOKA member Nikos Sampson. The Turkish government saw this as a violation of the Zurich Agreement (which bestowed the island its independence) and as such invaded the island, both the Greek Junta in Athens and Nikos Sampson’s government collapsed, and the island was near defenceless.

The Turkish government would eventually absorb almost half of the Island and move populations from Anatolia into Cyprus (which was a violation of the Zurich Agreement), while all these incidents received global condemnation, no nation would act, only the UN would move to solve the issue, however in reality the issue was far too complex. To this day Cyprus is still in limbo, split between Pro-Enosis, Pro-Turkey and Pro-Cyprus.

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