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A night of terror: Why non-Cypriots should care about Turkey’s occupation of Cyprus

Friday, July 20, 2012  | 

Photo: A Turkish solider trains on the occupied island of Cyprus. 

Thirty eight years ago, on the small island of Karpathos nestled between Rhodes and Crete in the southeastern Mediterranean, my mother and father met at a party celebrating the paramoni of Προφήτη Ηλία (the Prophet Elia). There was κέφι galore there…until the sirens pierced the air.

In the years since that night, my mother Aphrodite Logothetis has frequently recounted to me how she remembers Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus.

The sound of the sirens that night was unforgettable, she says. Panic and confusion spread quicker than a wildfire catching the dry mountain grass ablaze. The streets were flooded with people in the middle of the night and soon the call for all young men went out. They were handed anything that could shoot. Old rusted rifles, handguns, anything on hand. One of my uncles who was in the army at the time quickly trained his civilian peers on how to accomplish the simple task that could possibly save their lives and the island they loved: load, aim and shoot.

After the panic, my mother remembers, the nervous quiet set in. A blackout order was issued to avoid drawing Turkish attention to the island’s homes. Loudspeakers blared the edict that all lights were forbidden. Not even cars could be on the road for fear that their headlights would draw a Turkish pilot’s eye. My father, my uncles and the rest of the men were posted on watch throughout the night. Meanwhile, my mother and her friends and family settled in on the ταράτσα — the roof — huddled in pitch black darkness as they heard jets criss-crossing the sky above.

She also remembers the days in the aftermath of that first assault on Cyprus. The store shelves were scavenged, she says, and they were soon empty as terrified villagers snapped up every last supply they could. Uncertainty hung thick in the air.

Earlier that night at the party, when my father first met my mother, he was so taken with her he declared that he would marry her one day. They got married six weeks later, on September 1st. My father was armed at his wedding. Just in case.

After their wedding, when they left the island, Karpathian families were still walking around with rifles, patrolling. Always on alert. Always uncertain about what Turkey’s next move would be.

Turkey’s illegal invasion of Cyprus sent shockwaves across the Mediterranean and around the world. In Karpathos, there was a night of terror. In Cyprus, the nightmare lasted much longer.

What Cypriot families endured in the wake of Turkey’s illegal invasion of Cyprus is one no people should ever have to experience. Their suffering continues to this day as we mark the black anniversary of Turkey’s 38 years of occupation and colonization.

As many of you know, HALC has launched an unprecedented citizen action campaign to lobby for support on two critical congressional resolutions pending in the U.S. Congress. Both resolutions call out Turkey for its continued occupation and colonization of Cyprus and both call for Turkey to finally honor the countless of international calls to give Cyprus back to its people.

Over 8,000 letters have already been sent to Congress.  

We need more.

We need to send a strong signal to American leaders that the United States relationship with Turkey is a two-way street.

Non-Cypriots should care about Cyprus. They should so not just because it’s an international human rights issue. Not just because families deserve to be able to return to their homes and not just because it’s immoral and unjust for the shadow of the Turkish army to hang over a Cypriot population that wants to live together and co-exist peacefully.

What happened in Cyprus serves as a painful reminder of how quickly sovereignty can be breached, how thousands of lives can be forever altered in an instant, and how we must vigorously stand for and protect the concepts of freedom and dignity around the world.

I come from a Karpathian family whose island has been repeatedly conquered and occupied, first by the Romans, then by the Ottomans, then by the Italians again until finally and permanently becoming part of Greek territory via the Paris Peace Treaty of 1947. I am not Cypriot but understand well the desire of a people to live free from occupation, to determine their own fates, and to live their lives in peace.

To this day, it’s not unusual to hear the roar of Turkish overflights over Karpathos. Thirty-eight years is a long time, but not long enough to quiet the fear that what happened in Cyprus can happen again to any Greek island unless this injustice is finally remedied.

Vice-president Biden has called Cyprus “The only truly unresolved and unremitting injustice that exists in that whole area of the world.” For 38 years, the U.N. Buffer Zone (the “Green Line”) has stood out on maps as a hideous scar cutting across an island that deserves its true freedom once again.

Let us say “oxi” to another year of Turkish occupation and colonization.

Let us join together, Cypriots, Greeks, Greek Americans, and philhellenes alike, for peace.

Help us rally support for Cyprus and her people. Take action at the link below:


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