Yeraltý Notlarý, 25 Temmuz 2005

Sevgül Uludað

 

A turning point in the history of Cyprus: The events of Kofinou… (*)

Sevgul Uludag

Back in 1967, tension was growing in the Ayios Theodoros (Aytotoro/Boðaziçi)-Kofinou(Köfünye/Geçitkale) area… The crazy Turkish commander whose name was `Chetin` or `Ringo` according to Turkish Cypriots and `Mehmet` according to the UN, was imposing policies that would lead to conflict…

The commander must have been really crazy or did he have orders to create a provocative atmosphere? He was giving orders to cut the Nicosia-Limassol road, to block entrance to the Ayios Theodoros(Aytotoro/Boðaziçi) village, to shoot at passing cars… People were afraid of him: He had banned old Turkish Cypriots from speaking Greek and were imposing a `military` type of order in the two villages…

He wasn’t just there to provocate the atmosphere and create conflict among the two main communities of the island but also had attacks on the UN soldiers as well. Once, he even beat up a UN soldier in front of a lot of people and often, the villagers remember, he sent the people to demonstrate in front of the UN camp, so that there would be more conflict!

He had replaced another Turkish commander who was killed by some Turkish Cypriots from Kofinou (Köfünye/Geçitkale) village. Gunay, who had banned provocations among the Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots, apparently did not serve the `cause` at that time…

`You will not rob the houses of Greek Cypriots! You will not burn their fields!` he was saying… One night, he was trapped in the cinema of the village and shot, getting wounded and he died on the way to the Limassol hospital… According to the villagers, he’s still buried in the yard of the hospital… So the crazy commander had come to replace him and brew trouble in the area…

Ismail Hamit was barely a young boy back in those times… He was from Aytotoro/Boðaziçi (Ayios Theodoros) village and was one of the guards manning the makeshift barricade created in order to block the road going into the village… `We were about 100 soldiers` he remembers… `And there were around 10 points where we were on the lookout.` They had not got out of the village for some years, in fear of being killed…

`You wouldn’t know but anything could happen… People could go missing on the road so we didn’t leave the village…`

The conflict in Ayios Theodoros (Aytotoro/Boðaziçi) had started back in 1964… Minor incidents would be interpreted as `ethnic` and people would get worked up…

`Once, one Turkish Cypriot had said something to a Greek Cypriot woman, he had verbally harassed her and the Greek Cypriot police took him for questioning… In retaliation, we took a busload of Greek Cypriots for questioning!… They would shoot and kill a Turkish Cypriot and in return we would shoot a Greek Cypriot… But who were those killed? They would be old people, a 70 or 80 year old man, grazing his sheep in the fields… Things like this…`

Turkish Cypriots, under the command of `Chetin`, the commander from Turkey, wouldn’t allow police patrols to pass into the village… The UN was trying to escort the passage of the police and tension was building up… The Greek Cypriot officials were afraid that a `Turkish Cypriot enclave` was being created and wanted to stop this…

So on the 15th of November 1967, General Grivas decided to attack the two villages, Ayios Theodoros and Kofinou (Boðaziçi and Geçitkale)… One night before, he had brought troops and army vehicles to surround the villages. The commandos were ready and their commander from Greece told them, `Later, we will be blamed for making a massacre… But we will go in the village and we will not leave even a lame chicken alive!` he said… Marios Thembriotis was one of the commandoes who were attacking the village… He was from Paphos and was doing his military service as a young boy back in 1967…

`We entered the village` he remembers where 22 Turkish Cypriots were killed… `These were the people who did not escape or could not escape… There were some old people or sick people who could not get up… Those who didn’t escape were women and kids and old people… The commandos started destroying some houses, burning some down and stealing jewellery…`

Ali Gurkan was only 10 years old back in those days…

`We had toy guns that we had made out of wood… We would be playing in the street… On the 15th of November, we were again playing in the street in the afternoon… But when the bombs started falling, we realized that this wasn’t a game! We went into the house to hide, together with our neighbours…`

The assault on Kofinou (Köfünye/Geçitkale), their being taken prisoner and spending the night in a school at Skorino would mark him for life… He would never forget the smell which he thought was burning wood… In fact, it was an old man, sat on fire by the commandos and who died burning… They were arrested and were being taken away from the village and he remembers this smell and the site of something burning on the floor…

`One of the soldiers went and closed the doors so we would not see… I did not realize that it was a human being burning… I thought it was wood…`

Later he would be playing in the street where the dead bodies of Turkish Cypriots were collected in a half-construction site… He remembers the bodies laid out on the floor and a woman coming to ask him, if he had seen his son…

`Go and check those over there, I told her… I was just a child and couldn’t think at the time… She went and found her son and came out shouting and crying…`

Back in Ayios Theodoros (Aytotoro/Boðaziçi), Ismail Hamit was in a house when the attacks took place…

`We were four people… I saw how two of them were shot and killed… I could not sleep at night for a long time… No human being should see the killing of another human being… The Greek Cypriot soldiers told us: You think you have become men to block this road?`

He spent 10 years of his life as a soldier in those times… Now looking back he says, `Who wants to live the things we lived through? I wish we did not experience the things we did in those times…`

The commandos stayed till 4 o’clock in the morning and then Marios remembers, `We started to run!` Turkey had threatened to intervene and some Turkish planes flew over Nicosia… Ismail wonders, `Why did they wait so long to fly over?`

Later things would change on the island: it was as though the `ruling powers` had decided to reshuffle and redistribute the cards… Greek troops, together with Grivas would leave the island… Denktash, who was living in Ankara, would return to Cyprus. Intercommunal negotiations would start in Beirut between Denktash and Clerides… A kind of `normalization` would begin on the island, to last until 1974… At the end of 1967, the Turkish side would declare `The Temporary Turkish Administration`, like a dress rehearsal of the declaration of a separate state… According to the memories of the Turkish ambassador of the time, Ercument Yavuzalp, these results were good for Turkey and `The removal of the 10 thousand Greek soldiers from Cyprus would help Turkey later, in 1974, during the military operation…`

The events of Kofinou (Köfünye/Boðaziçi) are still part of the puzzle we’re trying to solve because those responsible for the provocations and the attack have not spoken up. No one has demanded accounts from those responsible except for groups like `The Workers Democracy` in the southern part of the island who published a detailed report back in 1991… But those who have given the orders to provocate trouble or to attack these villages are still free since our communities are not demanding to know why these events have happened the way they have happened. These are the missing parts of our common history in Cyprus, the way we have written it, the way we have shaped it up. With a lot of blood and tears, still waiting to be washed away… And only if we claim our common history with all its atrocities and all its mistakes no matter where it came from, perhaps we can create some understanding about what really happened on this island… Otherwise the puzzle would remain for each to interpret according to its own interests and needs, but not according to the common interests of the two main communities of our island…

(*) Article published in the CYPRUS TODAY on the 23rd of July 2005 and in ALITHIA on the 24th of July 2005.

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