The Coup D'etat

by George Penintaex (Cyprus News Agency)

Monday morning, July 15, 1974: The sirens sounded at 8:20. A coup d'etat engineered by the military junta then ruling Greece and executed by Greek officers based in Cyprus and with the help of the local extreme-right outlawed EOKA B terrorist organisation, was well under way to topple the legitimate President of the Republic, Archbishop Makarios.

The Cyprus state radio captured by the coupists announced that President Makarios was killed during an attack on the Presidential Palace.

But Makarios escaped unscathed. He rushed to the western city of Paphos. Three days later he spoke to the Cyprus people through a local private radio station. "You know this voice... I am Makarios and I am alive ... ," he told the people, encouraging them to resist the military junta.

Makarios was the first President of the Cyprus Republic, which gained independence from Britain in 1960, after a four-year liberation struggle.

With the help of the British bases in Cyprus, Makarios flew by helicopter to Malta and from there to London and New York to speak before the United Nations, urging the international community to help restore legality on the island of Cyprus.

What actually the coupists succeeded was not the union of Cyprus with Greece or to kill Makarios but to open, five days later, the floodgates to Turkey and offer a pretext to the Turkish army to launch an invasion campaign against the defenceless island, which is only 75 kilometres south of Turkey.

The pretext was the alleged security of the Turkish Cypriot population on the island, who made up 18 per cent of the total population.

A long-term ambitious expansionist plan against Cyprus was being implemented on July 20, 1974.

Air raids, destruction, devastation and widespread abuse of human rights followed on a big scale. Violating repeatedly a ceasefire agreement, the Turkish invasion troops occupied in a few days 37 per cent of the island's territory, killing thousands of people.

Some 200,000 Greek Cypriots (one third of the island's population) were forcibly uprooted from their homes and properties.

Thousands of people were taken as prisoners of war. Many of them have returned to their families while a total of 1,619 were listed as missing persons.

Prisoners of war, who were released, testified that they saw or heard other Greek Cypriots held in prisons in mainland Turkey long after the cessation of hostilities. Many of them were listed as prisoners of war by the International Red Cross Society.

Turkey still refuses to come up with any information about their fate to put an end to the pain and suffering of the relatives of the missing, although a UN investigatory committee set up in 1981 has tried too hard.

Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash told cynically during a television interview recently that all missing persons were killed by Turkish Cypriot paramilitary groups. Violating international conventions the Turkish army handed prisoners of war to those Turkish Cypriot militia men.

Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides admitted recently that some of the missing persons' cases are "weak", announcing that 126 of those listed as missing persons are presumed dead.

In the wake of the Turkish invasion the military chiefs who took power with the use of force, returned to their military camps trying hopelessly to defend the country.

Nicos Sampson, who became "President" for eight days, left and Glafcos Clerides, then President of the House of Representatives, (now President of the Republic), took over until December 1974, when Makarios returned to Cyprus.

Makarios died of a heart attack in August 1977.

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