Despite being provided political and sovereign equality in 1960 under the formation of the bi-communal Republic of Cyprus, the rights and identity of Turkish Cypriots have been non-existent since 1963. The Turkish Cypriot community have been without international representation for the last 58 years. Although the so-called Republic of Cyprus still exists to this day, its legitimacy must be questioned as the constitution from which it was created has been completely dismantled. The 1960 constitution was formed to represent both communities – Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot – however, since 1963 it has only represented one.
The events of what is labelled ‘Bloody Christmas’ in December 1963 can be determined to be the cause of the end of the Republic of Cyprus and the subsequent fall of the 1960 constitution. After the Turkish Cypriots refused to accept Makarios’ 13 Constitutional Amendments, they were forcefully blocked from functioning on any level within the government. This included the Turkish Cypriot Vice-President of the time, Dr Fazıl Küçük, as well as all ministers, deputies and judges. The events of ‘Bloody Christmas’ saw the end of all representation and recognition of Turkish Cypriots had within their homeland.
Makarios III became President of the Republic of Cyprus on 16th August 1960, and although he was now leader of this new independent country, his hopes for achieving Enosis (union with Greece) had not yet diminished. During his inauguration speech after being made Archbishop of Cyprus in 1950, he took an oath promising to achieve Enosis before his death. In addition to his official political activities, Makarios also played a pivotal role in the formation of the terrorist group EOKA, who fought against British rule to try and achieve Cyprus’ union with Greece. Alongside the Greek commander Giorgios Grivas, Makarios was viewed as a leader of the EOKA organisation. Even after the formation of the Republic of Cyprus, Makarios made several statements on how the Enosis struggle had not yet ended. On the 30th of November 1963, Makarios introduced 13 Constitutional Changes, which ultimately it undermined Turkish Cypriot representation and political identity. It was hoped that Enosis would be achieved further down the line or at the minimum, total Greek Cypriot control of the island. The ‘13 Amendments’ were as follows:
- The right of veto of the President and the Vice President of the Republic to be abandoned.
- The Vice President of the Republic to deputize for the President of the Republic in case of his temporary absence or incapacity to perform his duties.
- The Greek President of the House of Representatives and the Turkish Vice President to be elected by the House as a whole. Not the President by the Greek Members of the House & Vice President by the Turkish Members of the House.
- The Vice President of the House of Representatives to deputize for the President of the House in case of his temporary absence or incapacity to perform his duties.
- The Constitutional provisions regarding separate majorities for enactment of certain laws by the House.
- Unified municipalities to be established
- The administration of Justice to be unified
- The division of the Security Forces into Police and Gendarmerie to be abolished
- The numerical strength of the Security Forces and of the Defense forces to be determined by a Law
- The proportion of the participation of Greek and Turkish Cypriots in the composition of the Public Service and the Forces of the Republic to be modified in proportion of the ratio of the population of Greek and Turkish Cypriots
- The number of the Members of the Public Service Commission to be reduced from 10 to 5
- All decisions of the Public Service Commission to be taken by simple majority
- The Greek Cypriot Communal Chamber to be abolished
As can be clearly seen, these changes effectively ended all Turkish Cypriot rights and representation given to them under the 1960 constitution. These ‘amendments’ also included the removal of veto power from the Turkish Cypriots, annulment of a separate majority for Turkish Cypriots and the annulment of the Treaty of Guarantee. As expected, the Turkish Cypriots rejected these proposals and were systematically removed from positions of power from the 30th of November 1963.
In 1961, The Akritas Plan was created as a method to remove Turkish Cypriots from government and remove Turkish Cypriots from the island completely. Formulated by leading EOKA members as well as prominent Greek Cypriot cabinet ministers, the plan was described as a blueprint to genocide. Once the Turkish Cypriots had been removed from power, the second stage of the Akritas Plan was activated, leading to the events we know as ‘Bloody Christmas’. The official launch for the plan was initially scheduled to take place on the 24th of December 1963 in order to take full advantage of the international media shut down over the Christmas and New Year period. This would allow for atrocities to be carried out with limited reporting and surveillance. The plan was actually activated on the 21st of December instead, due to a group of trigger-happy Greek Cypriots in Nicosia who propelled this earlier start.
21st December: Greek Cypriots, parading as police officers, demanded to see the identification papers of two Turkish Cypriots in Nicosia. The interaction escalated when the two ‘police officers’ then attempted to search two Turkish Cypriot women who were also in the group. A crowd gathered and shots were fired. By dawn, two Turkish Cypriots had been killed and eight other Cypriots were wounded. Crowds of Turkish Cypriots subsequently gathered in northern Nicosia, now protected by TMT (Turkish Cypriot Resistance) forces. Here, they mourned the deaths of their fellow Turkish Cypriots in addition to protesting the new constitutional changes.
22nd December: Cars full of armed EOKA activists roamed the streets and began firing at Turkish Cypriots on sight. Greek Cypriot paramilitary groups led by Nikos Sampson were simultaneously activated in order to forcefully remove Turkish Cypriots from the capital. The TMT responded to EOKA forces by placing soldiers with snipers on minarets as well as on top of the Saray Hotel in Sarayonu Square. The Greek Cypriot administration then cut off telephone and telegraph lines to the Turkish Cypriot quarters of the city, ensuring control of Nicosia Airport. Shooting spread outside the city to the suburbs and into Larnaca; casualties inflicted on both sides.
23rd December: A ceasefire was called between Makarios and Turkish Cypriot leadership, with little impact. Nikos Sampson proceeded to lead a ‘death squad’ of EOKA soldiers into the village of Omorphita, murdering dozens of women and children, earning him the nickname ‘Butcher of Omorfita’ by British police. 5,000 Turkish Cypriots fled this quarter of Nicosia as a result of EOKA brutality and the actions of Greek Cypriot paramilitary groups. Simultaneous attacks on Turkish Cypriots occurred in the mixed villages of Mathiatis and Ayios Vasilios, forcing more and more Turkish Cypriots out of their homes.
24th December: Fighting continued throughout Christmas Eve. A British reporter stated that 21 Turkish Cypriot patients had been killed in Nicosia hospital on that night. A joint call for calm was finally issued by the Greek, Turkish and British governments, leading Makarios to accept the arrival of a ‘Joint Truce Force’ created by Turkey, Greece and the UK to finally restore order, bringing an end to most of the fierce fighting within Nicosia, although pockets of fighting still continued across the island.
The consequences of this attack which, officially, lasted ten days were truly horrifying; 364 Turkish Cypriots and 174 Greek Cypriots were killed throughout the Massacre of Omorfita, the attack on Nicosia hospital, and the mass murder in Ayios Vasillios, where 24 more Turkish Cypriots were tortured, killed and buried. The Ayios Vasillios mass grave was later exhumed by the British army and International Red Cross on the 12th of January 1964.
Furthermore, over 20,000 Turkish Cypriots were forced out of their homes as a result of EOKA brutality. These people were made refugees, fleeing their villages, forced to live in enclaves across the island. Despite making up over 20% of the Cypriot population, the Turkish Cypriots now inhabited only 3% of the island’s land.
The events of ‘Bloody Christmas’ resulted in the Turkish Cypriot community being stripped of their rights, representation and recognition. They have not been able to gain these back for the last 58 years. Negotiations between the two communities have failed since 1968 and the Cyprus problem is still very much apparent. Many people often state that it was Turkey’s later intervention that caused the island’s divide and the separation of the two communities; however, ‘Bloody Christmas’ is evidence that the Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots had been divided long before that.