1955-01-01 to 1967-01-01
CyprusSeveral distinct periods of Cypriot intercommunal violence involving the two main ethnic communities, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, marked mid-20th century Cyprus. These included the Cyprus Emergency of 1955–59 during British rule, the post-independence Cyprus crisis of 1963–64, and the Cyprus crisis of 1967. Hostilities culminated in the 1974 de facto division of the island along the Green Line following the Turkish invasion of Cyprus. The region has been relatively peaceful since then, but the Cyprus dispute has continued, with various attempts to solve it diplomatically having been generally unsuccessful.
After the foundation of the Republic of Turkey, in 1923, the new Turkish government formally recognized Britain's sovereignty over Cyprus. Greek Cypriots believed it was their natural and historic right to unite the island with Greece (enosis), as many of the Aegean and Ionian islands had done following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.
In 1956, some Turkish Cypriot policemen were killed by EOKA members and this provoked some intercommunal violence in the spring and summer, but these attacks on policemen were not motivated by the fact that they were Turkish Cypriots.
In January 1957, Grivas (leader of EOKA) changed his policy as his forces in the mountains became increasingly pressured by the British forces. In order to divert the attention of the British forces, EOKA members started to target Turkish Cypriot policemen intentionally in the towns, so that Turkish Cypriots would riot against the Greek Cypriots and the security forces would have to be diverted to the towns to restore order.
The killing of a Turkish Cypriot policeman on 19 January, when a power station was bombed, and the injury of three others, provoked three days of intercommunal violence in Nicosia. The two communities targeted each other in reprisals, at least one Greek Cypriot was killed and the army was deployed in the streets.
On 22 October 1957 Sir Hugh Mackintosh Foot replaced Sir John Harding as the British Governor of Cyprus. Foot suggested five to seven years of self-government before any final decision. His plan rejected both enosis and taksim.
By 1958 signs of dissatisfaction with the British increased on both sides, with Turkish Cypriots now forming Volkan, later known as the Turkish Resistance Organization paramilitary group to promote partition and the annexation of Cyprus to Turkey as dictated by the Menderes plan.
The Turkish Cypriot response to this plan was a series of anti-British demonstrations in Nicosia on 27 and 28 January 1958 rejecting the proposed plan because the plan did not include partition. The British then withdrew the plan.
In June 1958 the British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan was expected to propose a plan to resolve the Cyprus issue. In light of the new development the Turks rioted in Nicosia to promote the idea that Greek and Turkish Cypriots could not live together and therefore any plan that did not include partition would not be viable. This violence was soon followed by bombing, Greek Cypriot deaths and looting of Greek Cypriot-owned stores and houses. Greek and Turkish Cypriots started to flee mixed population villages where they were a minority in search of safety. This was effectively the beginning of segregation of the two communities.
The crisis reached a climax on June 12, 1958 when eight Greeks, out of an armed group of thirty five arrested by soldiers of the Royal Horse Guards on suspicion of preparing an attack on the Turkish quarter of Skylloura, were killed in a suspected attack by Turkish Cypriot locals, near the village of Geunyeli having being ordered to walk back to their village of Kondemenos.
An armed conflict was triggered after December 21, 1963, a period remembered by Turkish Cypriots as Bloody Christmas, when a Greek Cypriot policemen that had been called to help deal with a taxi driver refusing officers already on the scene access to check the identification documents of his customers, took out his gun upon arrival and shot and killed the taxi driver and his partner.
In the morning after the shooting, crowds gathered in protest in Northern Nicosia, likely encouraged by the TMT, without incident. On the evening of the 22nd, gunfire broke out, communication lines to the Turkish neighborhoods were cut, and the Greek Cypriot police occupied the nearby airport.
On the 23rd, a ceasefire was negotiated, but did not hold. Fighting, including automatic weapons fire, between Greek and Turkish Cypriots and militias increased in Nicosia and Larnaca. A force of Greek Cypriot irregulars led by Nikos Sampson entered the Nicosia suburb of Omorphita and engaged in heavy firing on armed, as well as by some accounts unarmed, Turkish Cypriots. The Omorphita clash has been described by Turkish Cypriots as a massacre, while this view has generally not been acknowledged by Greek Cypriots.
On Christmas day, Turkish fighter jets overflew Nicosia in a show of support. Finally it was agreed to allow a force of 2,700 British soldiers to help enforce a ceasefire. In the next days, a "buffer zone" was created in Nicosia, and a British officer marked a line on a map with green ink, separating the two sides of the city, which was the beginning of the "Green Line". Fighting continued across the island for the next several weeks.
After 1967 tensions between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots subsided. Instead, the main source of tension on the island came from factions within the Greek Cypriot community. Although Makarios had effectively abandoned enosis in favour of an ‘attainable solution’, many others continued to believe that the only legitimate political aspiration for Greek Cypriots was union with Greece. Makarios was branded a traitor to the cause by Grivas and, in 1971, he made a clandestine return to the island.
The situation worsened in 1967, when a military junta overthrew the democratically elected government of Greece, and began applying pressure on Makarios to achieve enosis. Makarios, not wishing to become part of a military dictatorship or trigger a Turkish invasion, began to distance himself from the goal of enosis. This caused tensions with the junta in Greece as well as George Grivas in Cyprus.
On June 26, 1984 the Turkish Cypriot leader, Rauf Denktaş, admitted on British channel ITV that the bomb was placed by the Turks themselves in order to create tension.