Civilian casualties and displacements during the Cyprus conflict

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This article covers the civilian casualties and displacements that occurred between 1963 and 1975 – from the outbreak of the intercommunal fighting until the end of displacements following the Turkish invasion of Cyprus.

1963–64: Cypriot intercommunal violence[edit]

On 21 December 1963, serious violence erupted in Nicosia when a Greek Cypriot police patrol, checking identification documents, stopped a Turkish Cypriot couple on the edge of the Turkish quarter. A hostile crowd gathered, shots were fired, and three people (two Turkish Cypriots and one Greek Cypriot) were killed. As the news spread, members of underground organizations began firing and taking hostages. North of Nicosia, Turkish forces occupied a strong position at St. Hilarion Castle, dominating the road to Kyrenia on the northern coast. The road became a principal combat area as both sides fought to control it. Much intercommunal fighting occurred in Nicosia along the line separating the Greek and Turkish quarters of the city (known later as the Green Line).

Severe intercommunal fighting occurred in March and April 1964. When the worst of the fighting was over, Turkish Cypriots began moving from isolated rural areas and mixed villages into enclaves. Turkish Cypriots state[citation needed] that the hostilities forced such an amalgamation while the Greek Cypriots state that the Turkish Cypriots did so without any pressure from them, but rather by the Turkish Cypriot paramilitary organization TMT so that to apply uniformity. It is believed by progressive Cypriots that both events occurred. Before long, a substantial portion of the island's Turkish Cypriot population[citation needed] was crowded into the Turkish quarter of Nicosia and other enclaves, in tents and hastily constructed shacks[citation needed]. Slum conditions resulted from the serious overcrowding.

Attempts of the Cypriot National Guard under control[citation needed] of General George Grivas, who claimed to be acting under a mandate given to Cyprus by the UN, to re-capture a beach-head at the Kokkina/Erenköy enclave which the Turkish Cypriots claimed was their last link with the outside world but the Greek Cypriots feared would be used as a landing post for Turkish mainland forces, caused an intervention by the Turkish Airforce. On 8 – 9 August, Turkey bombed the Tylliria area for two days, resulting in the death of 33 Greek Cypriots and 230 injuries.

Pierre Oberling noted that according to official sources, the 1963–64 crisis resulted in the death of 364 Turkish Cypriots and 174 Greek Cypriots.[1] 209 Turkish Cypriots and 41 Greeks were reported as missing. Nearly 25,000 Turkish Cypriots, about one sixth of the Turkish Cypriot population at that time, had been forced to leave their homes to live into enclaves.[2] Finally, more than 3000 Armenian ethnics who had been living in the areas of Nicosia that came under the control of Turkish paramilitaries were forced out of their homes.[3]

1974: Coup d'Etat and the Turkish invasion[edit]

With the coup d'état of 21 April 1967, Greece entered a period under the rule of the Colonels' Junta.

On 15 July 1974, the Republic of Cyprus government was overthrown by the Greek Cypriot national guard acting under orders from the Greek junta. The Greek junta installed an EOKA veteran and a member of the Cyprus Parliament, Nikos Sampson as the new president. The attempt to murder president Makarios failed, however, and he fled Cyprus with the help of the British army.

On 20 July 1974, in response to the coup, Turkish troops landed near Kyrenia, forcing a narrow corridor to Nicosia within 2 days, until a ceasefire was negotiated on 22 July. On the second day of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus the Colonels' Junta collapsed. Karamanlis returned from Paris and formed his civilian Government. In Cyprus, Nikos Sampson resigned and Glafkos Clerides took over the presidency as acting president, according to the 1960 Constitution.

In August of the same year, almost a month after the coup had dissolved the three guarantor powers, together with representatives of the two communities, met in Geneva. The Turkish Cypriots under Rauf Denktaş demanded a federal state with 34% of the territory ceded to Turkish Cypriots. Glafkos Klerides – the Greek Cypriot representative – asked for 36 to 48 hours in order to consult with his superiors[who?]. While still in talks, a second Turkish invasion was launched on Cyprus. When a ceasefire was declared, more than 36% of the territory was occupied by Turkish forces. The ceasefire line of 1974 today still separates the two communities and is generally referred to as the Green Line (or the 'Atilla Line'), and also runs through Nicosia, making it the only divided capital in the world.

The Turkish Army and the Greek side conducted policies ethnic cleansing in the territories that came under their respective control.[4][5] For example, Greek Cypriot EOKA-B militants committed a massacre in the village of Tochni, where all men between the ages of 13 and 74 were found shot (Tochni massacre).[6] Likewise other mass graves were exhumed in the villages of Aloa, Sandalaris and Maratha, containing 126 dead civilians, including women and children (Maratha, Santalaris and Aloda massacre).[6] There is also evidence of the rape of Greek Cypriot women by Turkish soldiers.[7]

Legal challenges[edit]

In 1976 and in 1983 Cyprus challenged Turkey at the European Court of Human Rights over a number of issues, including missing civilian Greek Cypriots, of which Cyprus claimed there were at least 1491. The ECHR concluded that there was a presumption that Turkey had a responsibility for clarifying the fate of civilians last known to be under its control, but also that there was "no proof that any of the missing persons were killed in circumstances for which [Turkey] could be held responsible; nor did the Commission find any evidence to the effect that any of the persons taken into custody were still being detained or kept in servitude by [Turkey]".[8] A further 1994 case brought by Cyprus, on which judgement was made in 2001, concluded that Turkey continued to offer insufficient support in clarifying the fate of missing Cypriots.[8] . Trnc Info.</ref>[9] A new case was brought in 2009, following comments by Turkish actor Atilla Olgac about committing war crimes during his service in Cyprus, although Olgac later retracted the remarks, saying he had been testing public reaction to a TV script.[10]

In 2006, owing to the potential huge number of lawsuits against Turkey, the European Court of Human Rights called on Turkey in December to find "effective domestic remedies" for the mass displacement of Greek Cypriots. The result was a property commission established by the Turkish Cypriots purportedly offering right of return of Greek Cypriot properties so long as the property was unoccupied, or not in an area of military significance. A small number of applicants have received compensation. The Greek Cypriots have refused to recognise the commission as a proper means of redress, with some politicians going as far to suggest treason for those who accept.[11] The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that the property commission does provide an adequate domestic remedy.(ref: Demopoulos & Ors -v- Turkey 1 March 2010)


  1. ^ Oberling, Pierre. The road to Bellapais (1982), Social Science Monographs, p.120: "According to official records, 364 Turkish Cypriots and 174 Greek Cypriots were killed during the 1963–1964 crisis."
  2. ^ Daily Express 28 December 1963
  3. ^ [1][dead link]
  4. ^ 1st Report of the European Commission of Human Rights; Turkey's intervention in Cyprus and aftermath (20 July 1974 – 18 May 1976)
  5. ^ 2nd Report of the European Commission of Human Rights; Turkey's intervention in Cyprus and aftermath (19 May 1976 to 10 February 1983)
  6. ^ a b narrative from William Hale[dead link]
  7. ^ European Commission of Human Rights, "Report of the Commission to Applications 6780/74 and 6950/75" ,  Council of Europe, 1976, p. 120,124.
  8. ^ a b Cyprus v. Turkey, 25781/94, Council of Europe: European Court of Human Rights, 10 May 2001, available at:
  9. ^ – is for Sale. Trnc Info.
  10. ^ The Independent, 29 January 2009, Turkish TV actor faces war crimes charges
  11. ^ Turkish land offer rejected by Greeks. Washington Times (25 June 2006).

Further reading[edit]

  • Gibbons, Harry Scott (1997). The Genocide Files. Charles Bravos Publishers. ISBN 0-9514464-2-8. 
  • Oberling, Pierre (1982). The Road to Bellapais. Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-88033-000-7. 

See also[edit]

External links[edit]