Author: TERRY WALKER | Read time 6 MINS | AS210108
The Troodos mountains in Cyprus had been the favourite hideaway of EOKA rebels fighting the British in the 1950s and the established battleground for regular rumbles involving ethnic and local political differences.
When staying at the Pinewood Valley Hotel just below the summit of Mount Olympus, we had seen locals drive away looking all military. Off to settle a few old scores or just honing up their militia skills for the next big set-to? I had shoved a chair under the bedroom door handle – as seen in a recent Western movie – for extra security.
We stayed in Cyprus a few more days and couldn’t help noticing the underlying unrest on the sunshine island. There were demonstrations with banner waving. A strike of electricity workers had us sitting in the candlelight knocking back bottles of Othello. There were no phones or faxes and soon we had no petrol. Filling-up involved hand pump workouts at each garage that still had fuel to sell, but no electricity to dispense it.
The signs were not encouraging for our proposed tourism marketing business in Cyprus. Some of the locals wanted Enosis with Greece, the Turkish Cypriots were fearful for their futures if this happened and President Makarios wanted an independent republic. The Cypriot National Guard was stuffed with officer appointees of the new junta of colonels in charge in Greece and they wanted to add Cyprus to their Hellenic Empire.
Trouble was brewing on Cyprus. Tourism is always the first to suffer as holidaymakers switch to rival shores in safer places…
Maybe, the local militias would find themselves in action in the future unless this growing mess was sorted. There were press reports on the activities of EOKA B, a revived version of the terrorist organisation that had given British troops the runaround in the past. They still wanted Cyprus to be part of Greece. There were increased ethnic disturbances as the Turkish Cypriot minority came under pressure.
We returned to London and over the next few months kept in touch with the Paphos Beach Hotel and Colonel Dick Richards who had now put his hotel expansion on hold.. It wasn’t such a peaceful island any more as the situation deteriorated.
The balloon went up on Monday 15 July 1974 when a rebellious Cyprus National Guard shelled and machined-gunned the presidential palace in Nicosia in an attempt to remove Makarios from power. He managed to dodge the bullets as he fled for his life. The rebel forces tracked him to Paphos and were closing in as an RAF helicopter plucked him to safety. Archbishop Makarios was taken to nearby RAF Akrotiri from where he flew on a military plane to London.
Five days later British owners of villas in Kyrenia and apartments in Famagusta saw thousands of Turkish army paratroopers dropping from transport planes. As the Turks hit the ground they were welcomed by ITN reporter, Michael Nicholson. Now every journalist wants a world scoop and ITN got lucky – the film crew vehicle had broken down in the right place at the right time.
The invaders moved south towards Nicosia and the UN-established Green Line between the ethnic populations. The Ledra Palace Hotel in Nicosia was attacked by the Turks and defended by the Greek Cypriots.
1,000s of Greek Cypriots, British and other ex-pats lost their homes as the Turks took over the north of the island. After the subsequent ceasefire, a demarcation Green Line was established from coast to coast. It passed the front door of my beloved Ledra Palace Hotel, scene of some of the worst fighting with hundreds of guests trapped inside.
I watched on tv news as Turk planes bombed and strafed showrooms and factories along the Nicosia Airport Road. I am sure I saw the truck factory of my mate Andreas Kaisis take a direct hit. I hoped he was still at his villa in Paphos and had been delayed by invasion chaos in getting to the factory.
More bad news during the invasion came in a phone call I received at home in London. Manager Mikaelides reported that he had sheltered with his family, staff and guests in the basement of the Paphos Beach Hotel as bombs rained down all around the building and Pathos harbour. The glass atrium dome was shattered and other parts of the hotel damaged.
Nobody was seriously injured and we conjured as to the immediate future of the hotel on which we had both worked so hard. But in the fog of war, there are no certainties. No invaders reached Pathos and Turkish Cypriots fled northwards with active encouragement from their Greek-speaking neighbours
In a “Should have gone to Specsavers” scenario, the Turkish Air Force pilots also bombed three of their own destroyers outside Pathos Harbour mistaking them for Greek warships. They managed to miss the Turkish Castle and my favourite watering hole, Le Blat, that both stand on the harbourside.
Some say that occasionally in the darkened Le Blat bar there are ghostly figures at the midnight hour…one with a guitar singing sad songs of a lost era, another figure gently stirring tall glasses of whiskey sours lined-up on a dusty bar top…Words are spoken: “Efharisto poli, Andreas. Yi Mas,” with an English accent…
Before Turkey invaded the island, the borders of Cyprus were internationally recognised. The document granting Cyprus’s independence was signed by three “guarantor” states: the United Kingdom, Greece and Turkey. These three states declared that they would “recognise and guarantee the independence, territorial integrity and security” of the Republic of Cyprus. The Turkish invasion, as declared by numerous UN resolutions since, was a clear violation of Turkey’s commitments.
The crimes committed in the north of Cyprus by Turkey include, but are not limited to, the following: indiscriminate bombings, the killings of civilians including children and pregnant women, the forcible eviction and deportation of Greek Cypriots, the systematic looting, pillage and seizures of homes, churches and other properties, torture, rape and forced prostitution, assault and battery, illegal detention and forced labour, among others. These violations were directed at Greek, Maronite and Armenian Cypriots because of their ethnicity, language and religion.
The ethnic cleansing of the north of Cyprus by Turkey resulted in the displacement of more than 170,000 Greek Cypriots, about 40 per cent of the then Greek population of the island. Turkey’s occupation forces have not allowed them to return home. According to the Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus (CMP), established in 1981, 1,508 Greek Cypriots are still officially reported as missing. Source : : Uzay Bulut, Al-Ahram Weekly