Justice for Cyprus


The Historic Evolution of the Turkish-Cypriot Community and the Cryptochristians

(To understand the historical context of how war came to Cyprus in 1974 we examine the relations between Greeks and Turks on the island. In this issue we host an article by Mr Savvas P. Mastrappas condensed from the original in Ardin magazine . Ed.)

The Turkish-Cypriot community was originally created by mass and mandatory conversions to Islam, or islamizations, of the Greek and other Christian populations of Cyprus since the 16th century. Since that time the community has been in close contact with Turkey. However during the last decades the contact has intensified especially through a continuous Turkish propaganda through the educational system, a propaganda which reveals the geostrategic intentions of Turkey against Cyprus.

August 1571 marks the end of Venice's dominion over Cyprus and the beginning of Ottoman rule. Slaughtering and severe pillaging following the Turkish invasion increased the death toll dramatically. In an effort to lift Cyprus out of economic misery, the Sultan commanded during the years 1571-1581 mandatory transfers of people from other parts of the Ottoman Empire to Cyprus. The majority of people that settled in Cyprus at that time were Greeks, Christian Armenians, Minor Asia inhabitants, Jews and a few Muslim Turks. The majority of today's Turkish-Cypriot population are Muslims of Greek origin. Their conversion occurred in a variety of ways: either in the course of punishments of unsuccessful revolts or following regular mass abductions of children (Paidomazwma); there was also voluntary islamization as a means to avoid the heavy taxation imposed by Moslem authorities on non-believers.

A considerable number of islamized people, however, preserved secretly their former faith and worshipping habits for a long period of time. These secret Christians, or Cryptochristians, were called "Linovamvakoi" in Cyprus since they resemble a cloth with a side of linen (Lino) covered by a side of cotton (Vamvaki) in that they are only able to show one side, one facet, at a time. It is estimated that in the nineteenth century the population of Cryptochristians in Cyprus was 10,000-15,000 Cryptochristians out of a total of 32,000 Muslims.

When the British established sovereignty over Cyprus in 1878, they officially adopted a neutral stance on the matter; in practice, however, their policy was anti-Greek and eventually succeeded in converting the Cryptochristians completely: The administration built on earlier efforts by local Turkish religious leaders, or Hodjas, who had tried repeatedly to transplant a Turkish conscience into the minds and hearts of the Cryptochristians by working through the educational system. The British appointed a Muslim board of education which systematically proposed building Turkish schools in villages with a Cryptochristian majority. These efforts received support from the British, because the British regime had an interest in creating a politically strong and arithmetically big Turkish community that would weaken the demands of the Greek majority's right to self-determination.

In the long run the educational policy proved fruitful for the British. After 1923 and the establishment of the New Turks in Ankara, their agents worked with the extremist Turkish-Cypriot groups, with continued backing by the British, to continue a strong propaganda within the Turkish populations and the Cryptochristian villages. By the time of the Turkish invasion on the island in 1974 the Cryptochristian community had been further alienated, and following the invasion, it has been completely cut off from the Greek Christians in the free part of the island.

Modern Turkish and Turkish-Cypriot historians have argued that the "ancestors of the current Turkish- Cypriots were Turkish or Muslim populations that were brought into Cyprus," however, this has not been proven. This argument is simply an effort to distort historical reality and it is an opinion that was shaped in order to support the expansionist policies and geostrategic intentions of the Turkish state against Cyprus in particular, and Hellenism in general. [MB; Ardin]

Diaspora Newsletter, Issue 59.

A grieving mother holding photos of her missing son.
1600+ men, women and children still missing

Greek Cypriots taken prisoner and transported to Turkey.
up to 70,000 held hostage in concentration camps

A Greek Cypriot napalmed by the Turkish air-force.
5000+ massacred

Greek Cypriots subjected to humiliating and degrading treatment.
thousands raped and tortured
200,000 ethnically cleansed

Christian gave stones smashed by the Turks.
500+ churches desecrated or destroyed

The murder of Tasos Isaac.
murders of refugees continue to this day

The murder of Solomos Solomou.

2001 HEC and Argyros Argyrou. Updated on 3 November 2001.