Sunday, 21 December 2014

We remember: ‘Bloody Christmas’, Cyprus 21-31 December 1963

Ismail Veli of Embargoed!, during the group's vigil outside the Greek Cypriot embassy in London in 2010

Today marks the start of a dark chapter in Cyprus' recent history. Between 21 and 31 December fifty-one years ago, 133 Turkish Cypriots were murdered or abducted, while thousands more were made homeless in a period dubbed Bloody Christmas.

This horrific ten-day killing spree also signalled the start of the Cyprus Conflict, planned by the Greek Cypriot hierarchy through its notorious Akritas Plan. Its aims were simple: to end the partnership arrangement between the two communities by terrorising the Turkish Cypriots into accepting a minority status and then to unite the island with Greece (Enosis).  

The campaign's timing was deliberate: starting a few days before Christmas, when many of Cyprus’ foreign press and diplomats would have left for their vacations. By the start of 1964, the Greek Cypriots had succeeded in their brutal coup, taking over the running of the government of the Republic of Cyprus while Turkish Cypriots sought to save their lives.

Among those mercilessly killed were Mürüvet İlhan and her three children Murat, Kutsi and Hakan, all found slain in their bath at their home in Kumsal, Lefkoşa. Other victims included 10-year-old Ayse and her grandmother Ayse Hasan Buba, who were buried alive in Ayvasil. Many were also killed as they lay sick in state-run hospitals. 

To date, the Greek Cypriot authorities have yet to admit their guilt and apologise for these murderous acts.

Back in 2010, Turkish Cypriot human rights group held a vigil outside the South Cyprus embassy to remember the victims of Bloody Christmas. The group's members undertook a painful study, collating the details of each of the 133 victims, their names and ages all displayed on boards, along with photos, and a candle lit in memory of each person who passed during this tragic period.

With the passage of time, it's important we all learn to forgive and to also remember that Greek Cypriots have suffered immensely as a result of this conflict. Yet it's important Turkish Cypriots do not forget their own victims and allow others to whitewash history as if this tragedy never occurred. 

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