The Fall of the Republic of Cyprus

The Turkish Cypriot community have been without international representation for the last 58 years. Despite being provided political and sovereign equality in 1960 under the formation of the bi-communal Republic of Cyprus, their rights and identity have been non-existent since 1963. 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.

Cyprus Constitution: 1960 – 1963
1963 – Present Day

The events of ‘Bloody Christmas’ in December 1963 is what caused the end of the Republic of Cyprus and the 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, Dr Fazıl Küçük, as well as all ministers, deputies and judges. The events of ‘Bloody Christmas’ saw the end of all representation and recognition the Turkish Cypriots had within their homeland.

What were Makarios’ 13 Constitutional Changes?

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. Makarios also played a pivotal role in the formation of the terrorist group EOKA that fought against British rule to try and achieve Cyprus’ union with Greece. Alongside the Greek commander Giorgios Grivas, Makarios was seen as a leader to the EOKA organisation. Even after the Republic of Cyprus had formed, Makarios made several statements on how the Enosis struggle had not yet ended. Consequently, on the 30th November 1963, when Makarios introduced these 13 Constitutional Changes, it undermined Turkish Cypriot representation and political identity. It was hoped that Enosis was achieved further down the line or at the minimum, total Greek Cypriot control of the island. The ‘13 Amendments’ were as follows:

As clearly seen above, 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 November 1963. 

Inter-communal Violence 

The Akritas Plan was created in 1961 as a method to 1) remove Turkish Cypriots from government 2) remove Turkish Cypriots from the island completely. Formulated by leading EOKA member 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 all know as ‘Bloody Christmas’. The official launch for the plan was initially scheduled to take place on the 24thDecember 1963 in order to take full advantage of the international media being shut down for Christmas and New Year. This would allow for atrocities to be carried out with limited reporting or surveillance. However, the plan was activated on the 21st December instead, due to a group of trigger-happy Greek Cypriots in Nicosia who propelled this earlier start. The events of ‘Bloody Christmas were as follows:

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 then gathered in northern Nicosia, now protected by TMT (Turkish Cypriot Resistance) forces – here they mourned the deaths of their fellow Turkish Cypriots as well as 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 also 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 & telegraph lines to the Turkish Cypriot quarters of the city, ensuring control of the Nicosia Airport. Shooting spread outside the city to the suburbs and also into Larnaca; casualties were being inflicted on both sides.

23rd December: A ceasefire was called between Makarios and Turkish Cypriot leadership. However, this had little impact. Nikos Sampson then led a ‘death squad’ of EOKA soldiers into the village of Omorphita – killing dozens of women and children. This earned him the nickname ‘Butcher of Omorfita’ by British police. 5,500 Turkish Cypriots fled this quarter of Nicosia as a result of EOKA brutality and the actions of Greek Cypriot paramilitary groups. 

Other 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 the Nicosia hospital on that night. A joint call for calm was finally issued by the Greek, Turkish & British governments. Makarios then accepted the arrival of a ‘Joint Truce Force’ created by Turkey, Greece & UK to finally restore order. This brought an end to most of the fierce fighting within Nicosia, although pockets of fighting still continued across the island.

The End of ‘Bloody Christmas’

Officially, the fighting continued for over 10 days. As a result, 364 Turkish Cypriots and 174 Greek Cypriots were killed.  However, many atrocities outside the direct conflict were committed against the Turkish Cypriot community:

  • Massacre of Omorfita saw the deaths of dozens of women and children, carried out directly by Nikos Sampson and his EOKA death squad
  • 21 Turkish Cypriot patients murdered in the Nicosia hospital
  • 21 Turkish Cypriots tortured, killed and buried in the mass grave at Ayios Vasillios – this was exhumed on the 12th January 1964 by the British army and International Red Cross
  • Bathtub Murders – murder of the Ilhan family

Furthermore, over 25,000 Turkish Cypriots were forced out of their homes as a result of EOKA brutality. These people were made refugees, fleeing their villages and having to live in enclaves across the island. Despite making up approximately 20% of the Cypriot population, the Turkish Cypriots now inhabited only 3% of the islands land. 

Overall, the events of ‘Bloody Christmas’ resulted in the Turkish Cypriot community having their rights, representation and recognition stripped away. This is something they have not been able to gain 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 intervention that caused the island’s divide and the separation of the two communities; however, the Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots were divided a long time before that.