In July and August 1974, Turkey carried out the Cyprus Peace Operation with aims to stop an illegal military coup organised by the Greek junta and Greek Cypriot terrorist group, EOKA-B. The Turkish intervention was key in putting an end to the mass genocide of Turkish Cypriots that was taking place on the island at the time. Thanks to the Turkish army, thousands of Turkish Cypriots were finally liberated from decades of Greek Cypriot oppression. The infamous “Akritas Plan” to ethnically cleanse the Turkish Cypriots off the island was stopped solely thanks to the actions of Turkish Prime Minister, Bulent Ecevit, and the Turkish soldiers of “Operation Atilla”. However, despite Turkey saving hundreds of thousands of people, many atrocities against the Turkish Cypriot community still took place, such as the massacres of Taşkent, Zyyi, Muratağa, Atlılar and Sandallar. This is why the Turkish Cypriot people will always refer to Turkey’s actions as an intervention, not an invasion.
Turkey’s military intervention was completely necessary for Turkish Cypriot survival. It was also completely legal under the obligations of the Treaty of Guarantee, signed in 1960. However, it unfortunately caused the displacement of thousands of people on the island; 200,000 Greek Cypriots had to leave their homes as well as 50,000 Turkish Cypriots. In 1975, a population exchange took place, where Greek Cypriots from the north of the island entered the south, and Turkish Cypriots from the south entered the north. The island was divided by what is known as the Green Line.
Between 1975 and 1983, the Turkish Cypriots in the north declared themselves as the “Turkish Federative State of North Cyprus”. For the first time since the British relinquished control over the island, the Turkish Cypriots were now safe and secure within Cyprus.
Having endured years of racial oppression and discrimination, being forced into enclaves with bans and restrictions on all aspects of their lives, the Turkish Cypriots could now live freely within their own homeland.
After 9 years of failed negotiations between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots to re-unify the island, the Turkish Federative State of North Cyprus declared independence in 1983. From 1983 onwards, North Cyprus became what it is known as today; the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC). With its own territory, people, government and capacity to conduct external relations, the TRNC became a fully-fledged state. Despite being recognised only by Turkey, the TRNC meets all criteria of statehood and after 53 years of failed negotiations and re-unification talks, the TRNC are now aiming for a permanent two-state solution on the island.
Up until this point, the Turkish Cypriots used Turkey’s flag to represent them on the island. The flag of The Republic of Cyprus, created by fellow Turkish Cypriot İsmet Güney in 1960, no longer represented the Turkish Cypriots after being forced out of government in December 1963. The TRNC’s declaration of independence in 1983 meant they now needed a new flag.
Turkish Cypriot artist, Emin Çizenel, subsequently created the modern-day Turkish Cypriot flag, which was fully adopted by the TRNC on the 7th March 1984.
The flag is interpreted as follows:
- The star and crescent represent Turkishness
- Red represents the blood of Turkish Cypriots killed in Cypriot intercommunal violence
- White represents peace
- The upper line represents Turkey
- The bottom line represents Northern Cyprus
- & the horizontality of the lines represents that “The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus will last forever”
The Turkish Cypriot flag is representative of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), as well as all Turkish Cypriots around the world.
After the creation of the flag, a group of Turkish Cypriots from the village of Taşkent began placing white stones on the Beşparmak mountains to replicate it. This was done to commemorate those murdered in the Taşkent massacre that took place in August 1974. Here, 84 Turkish Cypriots were slaughtered by EOKA-B gunmen with the youngest killed being a 12-year-old boy and the oldest a 74-year-old man.
The government of the TRNC then decided to continue the creation of the mountain flag during the 1990s, painting the stones red and white, as well as adding the Turkish flag next to it. The flag covers about 50 acres of the mountain slope, equaling the size of four football stadiums. To see the giant flags in person you’ll need to take a two-hour bike ride from the Cyprus border to the village of Kaynakköy, and then a 40-minute hike up the hillside. The mountain flag can also be seen from the southern side of the island.
As well as commemorating the 84 Turkish Cypriots who were massacred in the village of Taşkent, the Turkish Cypriot flag, sitting proudly on the mountains of Beşparmak, is a symbol of the survival and existence of the Turkish Cypriot people, while the inclusion of the flag of Turkey pays respect to the Turkish Cypriot motherland and its efforts in rescuing the community during their hour of need. Without Turkey’s intervention, Turkish Cypriots would cease to exist.
“Ne mutlu Türküm diyene! – How happy is the one who says I am a Turk!”