|Photo: Hüseyin Sayıl from 2010 event|
By İpek Özerim
numbers are expected to turn out for tonight’s Şafak Nöbeti (Dawn Watch), the
annual remembrance event at Yavuz Çıkarma Plajı
in Girne – the beach where Turkish troops first landed in 1974. This year not only
marks the fifth such event, but will also commemorate the 40th anniversary
of the Turkish intervention that brought to an end the brutal 11-year Cyprus
Dawn Watch is free and open to all
members of the TRNC public. The event starts at 10pm with a celebratory party
on the roadside by ICE Club to symbolise the freedom of the Turkish Cypriot
people. Performers tonight include famous Turkish singer Zuhal Olcay, a
90-piece marching band – the world’s largest – from Turkey, and a children’s choir.
in previous years, once the crowds have assembled and enjoyed the initial
celebrations, the tone of the event will change at midnight to one of more
sombre reflection. People will light their torches and start their descent to
the beach below in silence. There is no music, no alcohol, and no entertainment;
just a peaceful walk and then the wait for first light and prayers.
year being the 40th anniversary, the Şafak Nöbeti organising committee have invited back the surviving
veterans who took part in the first landing on 20 July 1974. They will join the
current troops from this elite Turkish squad, landing together on Yavuz Çıkarma Plajı to
recreate that historic moment, where they will be greeted by Turkish Cypriot
veterans. It promises to be a very emotional night, with attendance expected to
break records for previous years, when up to fifteen thousand people gathered
on the beach.
“Men from Turkey who didn’t even know where Cyprus
was on the map
came to fight & die for their fellow Turk”
month, T-VINE met with Fevzi Tanpınar, the creator of the Şafak Nöbeti (Dawn
Watch), to ask him how the idea came about and also why the event is not
explained that as a reporter he had for many years observed the annual
pilgrimage of Australians and New Zealanders to Çanakkale (Gallipoli) to pay
their respects to the fallen on Anzac Day every April. Back in 2008 he wondered
why Turkish Cypriots did not have a similar day of reflection and remembrance.
the following two years, he and a small team of friends meticulously researched
and prepared for their own annual remembrance event. Tanpınar recalls how excited
they all felt to be creating such a momentous occasion, yet also terrified by its
responsibility, knowing even the smallest mistake could derail the entire project
and result in failure.
a trace of arrogance, he says, “Şafak
Nöbeti is the biggest and most important project I could ever
undertake in my life. I am extremely proud because I will leave behind one of
the best legacies for my children to pass on to the next generation. They will
grow up knowing their father started this event.”
Tanpınar and his colleagues repeatedly visited Çanakkale to monitor their preparations and understand the pitfalls of organising such a massive public event that needed to embrace all the different parties involved with sensitivity and integrity. With their blessing, but with little involvement from the TRNC state – a deliberate intention – they drew up detailed plans about the shape and management of the event.
|Photo: Hüseyin Sayıl|
Turkish Cypriot owes a huge debt to the martyrs, the veterans, our mothers and
fathers who stood watch all night every night.”
the night of 19 July 2010 the TRNC held its first Dawn Watch. Thousands of
Turkish Cypriots of all ages gathered on the beach holding torches. Among them
was the frail Rauf Denktaş – the founding President of the TRNC. Children with
their parents or grandparents all sat in silence; many prayed or wept as they
reflected on or relived the events of the past. As the first light of dawn
broke, imams led the public in the early morning call to prayer (‘ezan’).
said: “It was an incredible moment as
thousands of people collectively paid their respects to all those who had given
their lives during the Conflict to guarantee the survival and freedom of the
Turkish Cypriot people. They included men from Turkey who had not even known
where Cyprus was on the map, yet had arrived in 1974 ready to fight and, if
need be, die for their fellow Turk.”
asked about why the Turkish Cypriot political Left refuses to support the
event, Tanpınar acknowledges with sadness the situation. He says just before
our meeting, the TRNC Government had contacted him to confirm that yet again
they would not be involved or formally include the Dawn Watch in the state’s
20 July programme. This is the second year running the Turkish Cypriot authorities
have taken such a line, their attitudes towards the Şafak Nöbeti reflecting the
changes in government, when the Republican Turkish Party (CTP) replaced the
National Unity Party (UBP) in power.
disappointed by their decision, Tanpınar is not surprised, nor does he dwell on
it, stating that the huge numbers of people who come out each year and who are
again expected in 2014 shows it is the North Cyprus
authorities that are out of touch with the people.
explains that a small team of four or five manage the entire event, using
private donations and sponsorship to cover the event’s costs. He and his team
all work voluntarily and are supported on the night by many more volunteers. While
it is an exhausting process to organise all in such a way, the response they
receive from ordinary members of the public shows how highly valued the event
is and how worthwhile their efforts are.
the only thing to keep us going”
“During the 11-years [of the Cyprus
Conflict] there was no political Right or Left among Turkish Cypriots. The
conflict unified us: we were all at the mercy of the brutal Greek Cypriot
regime. Many of us were made homeless. The community lived in fear and poverty
in enclaves, clinging together for comfort and support, helping each other
through the seemingly never-ending days of darkness,” says Tanpınar.
"Hope was the only thing to keep us going.
On the morning of 20th July 1974, our collective prayers were
answered. Such sacrifices should never be forgotten. If we are here today
living freely on this land of our ancestors, then we Turkish Cypriots must also
acknowledge the huge debt we owe to all those who struggled, fought and died for
us: the martyrs, the veterans, our mothers and fathers who stood watch all
night every night. We must remember and treasure this with dignity and respect.”
Turkey’s military intervention
in Cyprus in July 1974 was
in response to the Greece-backed coup, which installed notorious EOKA terrorist
Nicos Sampson as the President of the Republic of Cyprus,
resulting in a bitter war between his supporters and those of deposed leader
Archbishop Makarios. Turkish Cypriots, already suffering from 11 years of
oppression when Greek Cypriot unilaterally and brutally grabbed power in
December 1963, found themselves at the mercy of these two warring factions.
Nöbeti marks the date when peace returned to all of Cyprus, & the spirit in which Turkish
Cypriots came through those dark days
Tanpınar, this event is not about igniting nationalist fervour or celebrating a
victory over Greek Cypriots. Rather it marks the date when security and peace
returned to all of Cyprus,
and the spirit in which the Turkish Cypriots came through those dark days. While
today he is acutely aware of how Cypriots debate and disagree furiously with
each other about the future solution of their island, what they cannot do, he claims, is to airbrush
its history to suit their different political views.
father of two says he is also saddened by the many myths circulated by some as they
try to smear the Şafak Nöbeti, such as ‘alcohol is served on the beach
where the party continues’ or that it is an initiative of Turkey. He firmly
rejects both allegations and says those who attend can see for themselves the
true nature of the Dawn Watch.
“There is no protocol area for VIPs,
no long speeches or political talks. No army, or party political flags or
rosettes. People do bring Turkey
or TRNC flags – it is their choice. We provide torches and I say a few words on
behalf of the organising committee and then we sit as one and wait for the dawn
to break. The emotions of people when the ezan starts…” He breaks off.
of us who have never experienced a war cannot underestimate the feelings of
those who have: the mixture of emotions that must take hold as these memories
are revisited, particular on such anniversaries.
in the UK, we understand the importance of days such as Remembrance Sunday, so it is
difficult to gauge why the CTP Government and others in North Cyprus refuse to
embrace and support the Şafak Nöbeti.
Surely no one can deny the need to pay our respects to those who endured such
difficult days so that today we can live out our lives freely and peacefully?
struggling with this concept of giving thanks need only look across the Eastern
Mediterranean waters, where a mere 60 miles away we witness the embattled lives
of Palestinians and Israelis, and the Syrians, to realise just how fortunate a
position Cyprus is in through the actions of Turkey back in 1974.
is for this reason Tanpınar believes every Turkish Cypriot should attend the
Şafak Nöbeti at least once in their
life, to recall the spirit and strength of their ancestors who fought for their
freedom and independence, and the importance of the bonds between them and Turkey.
recalls the words an emotional Rauf Denktaş said to him and the organising team
after spending the entire night on the beach in 2010, even though his health
was poorly: “I may not survive to be here
with you next year, but I know this [Şafak Nöbeti] will go on forever. May God
be pleased with you.”
head of Telsim Vodafone TRNC spent most of his professional life as a journalist.
He worked first as a writer, then as a foreign news correspondent in locations
such as Athens before
becoming a TV news editor for some of the biggest names in Turkish media,
including Cumhuriyet and Güneş newspapers, and Star TV, Kanal D, and TV8. He
returned to the TRNC in 2003 and continued in media for a time.
Married with two young children, Tanpınar originates from Larnaca. Born in 1966, he
is the youngest of three children. His childhood was shaped by experiences from
the Cyprus Conflict, which had engulfed the island at that time. His family
home was on the frontline of the troubles and his enduring memory as a child is
of sandbags in their garden, with his mum making food for the local villagers who
also served as home guards as they stood watch every day. Every night, he said she
would pray that they would all be safe for another day. This was their routine
until the Turkish army arrived to save them in 1974.
years ago, Tanpınar and his older brother Raşit Pertev – the former
undersecretary to President Talat – made a documentary called The Lost Bus,
about 11 Turkish Cypriots who went missing on their way to work in Dhekelia on
13 May 1964. The men had boarded their usual daily bus, but were stopped en
route by Greek Cypriot EOKA militiamen who ordered them off the bus. They were
then taken to an unknown location and killed.
bodies were not found until 2007, discovered down a well in the Greek Cypriot village of Oronliki. The TG856 registered bus is
still missing to this day. Tanpınar and Pertev’s father was a regular on the
same daily bus, but on that fateful day in May he was running late and missed