The conflict in Cyprus resulting in the Turkish invasion of the island in 1974 and stalemating in the subsequent partition and frozen dynamics which exist today, represents in many ways the latest conflict between the Greek and Turkish states or a "significant part of the larger Greco-Turkish issue with a thousand year history." Both the Greek-Turkish war of 1920 and the Lausanne Treaty of 1923 ensured that both Greece and Turkey have "unmixed" their populations to a degree quite remarkable considering the multiethnic nature of each state prior to these events. Cyprus is the last territory where large numbers of ethnic Cypriot Greeks and ethnic Cypriot Turks once lived together and where Greece and Turkey still have major roles to play in resolving (or prolonging) conflict between the two communities. A major, unresolved irritant in relations between the two states is Cyprus and the problems of that island have followed a path which closely parallels that of each respective community’s "benefactors" in Greece and Turkey.
The dynamics of conflict in Cyprus between the ethnic Turkish community and the ethnic Greek community have been heavily influenced by the fact that each community is watched over and "guaranteed" by an outside power – Greece takes a paternal interest in the Greek community and Turkey does the same with the Turkish community. This arrangement, guaranteed by the 1960 Constitution of Cyprus, has resulted in the two communities following the same dynamic their ethnic kin in Turkey and Greece have followed in relation to one another – namely the "interpretation of present events through the mental representation of past traumas, as well as glories".
The challenge then is to wean each community away from this dynamic and encourage the development of a Cypriot identity separate from reliance on the ethnic or religious identity of either of the guarantors of Cyprus’s two major communities. In this report as well as the ones following it we will make specific recommendations to assist in peacebuilding and peacemaking measures which we hope will build the confidence of both communities in one another and in the Cypriot state outside of its current reliance on the "guarantor" powers of Turkey and Greece.
Prior to British rule
There is significant disagreement as to relations between the two communities before the British assumed control of Cyprus in 1878. Greek Cypriot writers tend to mention the 1832 execution of the Cypriot Orthodox archbishop and clergy by the Ottoman Empire for alleged sympathies with those seeking independence for Greeks. But in the period after the British took control of Cyprus it can generally be agreed that "Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot nationalism and intercommunal distrust intensified in series of steps or "rachets."
The British "allowed the communities to set up separate school systems, both of which imported teachers from the respective mainlands who taught children to see themselves as "Greek" or "Turkish, not "Cypriot." History in each community, from well before the possibility of Cypriot independence until today, has represented its own people as consistently heroic and the other as consistently barbaric."
This account is supported by Greek Cypriot writer Yiannis Papadakis who writes that in school in Cyprus he learned "the Turks were nomads, people with no civilization, people of the horse and the sword, descendants of the Mongols, infidels, people of no real religion. People of the Koran, Muslim fanatics... Every important date in our history as Greeks bespoke our encounters with Turkish barbarism. And I was a product of that history."
Turkish teachers came to Cyprus bearing the new ideologies of "Kemalism" from Turkey’s new secular ruler – Ataturk. Ataturk had switched the communal, Islamist vision of the former Ottoman rulers to his new Turkish-based Kemalist ideology, which emphasized nationalism as the binding force of Turkish identity – abandoning allegiance to the caliphate, which Ataturk abolished in 1924. "By identifying with Ataturk’s vision of Turkish nationalism, the Turks of Cyprus were also asserting their sense of separate identity from their Greek Cypriot neighbors."
Language was also a source of separation on the island with few Greek Cypriots speaking Turkish but approximately 40% of Turkish Cypriots speaking Greek. As the two communities began their process of self-segregation less and less members of the "other" community learned their neighbor’s language - meaning contacts between the two became increasingly limited.
Strengthened by the acquired knowledge that each respective community was in the "right" and the other in the "wrong" both communities began the process of gradual separation from one another and greater identification with their ethnic/religious kin in the "mother/fatherland."
For Greek Cypriots this took the form of enosis (union) with the Greek state. In 1912 and 1931 there were pro-enosis riots in Cyprus. These were followed by a growing sense of Turkish Cypriot nationalism which led to demands for taksim (partition) of the island.
After WWII the anti-colonialist wave which swept much of the world also reached Cyprus. In 1955 EOKA (National Organization of Cypriot Fighters) was formed to fight the British for Cypriot independence. EOKA was also closely identified with the cause of enosis and the Orthodox church and was exclusively Greek – thus encouraging another, exclusively Turkish organization called TMT (Turkish Defense Organization) to form which further divided the two communities. Distrust built further because TMT aligned itself with British colonialists and engaged in "limited intercommunal fighting with the Greek Cypriots until a ceasefire was implemented in 1958." This trend of separate structures and institutions for each community also manifested itself in politics as well – with no cross-community parties or movements competing for both Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot votes before independence or after.
The period between 1891 and 1931 saw the unmixing of previously ethnically-mixed villages in Cyprus, from 43% to 36%.
Cyprus gained independence in 1960 following the armed struggle for independence waged by EOKA since 1955. Under the 1960 constitution power was to be shared between a Greek Cypriot president and a Turkish Cypriot vice-president who was given veto power. The 1960 constitution was remarkably complex and created a power-sharing system which allowed the Turkish Cypriot population a larger share of seats in the legislature (30%), civil service (30%), army (40%) and police (30%) than their share of the population at that time, which was estimated to be around 20% of the total of Cyprus. The constitution also "incorporated the guarantee treaty between Cyprus, Greece, Turkey and Britain" which outlawed enosis and taksim and allowed Greece, Turkey or Britain to take steps to unilaterally remedy a breach of the treaty. Finally the constitution separated Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot voters into separate ethnic rolls which further institutionalized ethnic separation and prevented the development of cross-community candidates from emerging at all. "This meant that Greek Cypriots could only vote for Greek Cypriot candidates and Turkish Cypriots could only vote for Turkish Cypriot candidates. Political parties with candidates of different ethnic affiliation could not stand for elections."
This complex document, designed with what the negotiators thought were the best interests of both communities at heart, instead held the seeds of the destruction of bicommunal existence on Cyprus. The president of Cyprus at the time, Archbishop Markarios, never supported the constitution and insisted it wouldn’t be binding on Greek Cypriots after independence. The constitution "institutionalized ethno-communalism, because it failed to take into account "the psychological and sociological fact that the power-protection system" increased "suspicions, antagonism and conflict between the communities because of the discriminations and uncertainties involved." "The sectarian and divisive provisions of the 1960 arrangement constituted the seeds that led to its collapse three years later."
The consocialistic model of power sharing as laid out in the 1960 Cypriot constitution was a failure for the reasons stated above and because it did nothing to encourage consensus between competing factions within the government. Of course there existed no ability in Cyprus to field an integrative approach to governance because there existed no cross-community political parties, societies or institutions. The Cypriot constitution of 1960 cemented this state of affairs and did nothing to ameliorate it.
The "birth" of Cyprus as an independent state more closely resembled that of an arranged marriage neither party wanted – with both parties in love with different suitors who hovered at the edge of the wedding yet refused to say "I object" when asked. "Independence" wasn’t wanted by the vast majority of Greek Cypriots, who desired enosis with Greece, nor by the Turkish Cypriots, who saw independence as a stalking horse for enosis by the Greek Cypriots. The mood of the new state was bleak, "there were no festivals, no ringing of church bells, no parades, no dancing people in the streets of Cyprus celebrating independence." The mood of the people of Cyprus was predictive –the years ahead wouldn’t hold much joy or celebration for either Greek or Turkish Cypriots.
By independence in 1960 the proportion of ethnically-mixed villages in Cyprus had declined from 36% in 1931 to 18%.
The constitutional arrangement quickly proved unworkable because "both identity groups remained adversarial... with each seeking to gain advantages within the new arrangements." "None of it functioned – except one provision that permitted Greece and Turkey to maintain several hundred troops on the island, who became trainers and commanders of the nationalist militias in both communities."
The 1960 constitution froze the situation and provided an unworkable framework in which to resolve issues of dispute – which neither party was willing to do. Both sides adhered strictly to their ethnic identity and no mechanisms were put in place to foster even the beginning of a Cypriot identity separate from ethnicity. Statements from both Greek and Turkish Cypriots contributed to this sense of ethnic exclusion, with Makarios saying when first elected president in 1959 that "For the first time in centuries, the government of the island passes into Greek hands" and Turkish Cypriot leaders saying they couldn’t be "tools of Turkey" because they were part of Turkey.
In addition the agreement was dependent on stable power relations between the two sides and the other parties to the agreement (Greece, Turkey and Britain). When one side felt the power relations had shifted it could simply abandon the agreement or seek to change it unilaterally – as Makarios did later. Power relations can shift because of changing military capacities, demography or, as in the case of Cyprus, international actors.
In 1963 after Makarios unilaterally threatened to change the constitution the two sides embarked "on a hostile and protracted process of separation and segregation." Intercommunal violence broke out "shortly before Christmas 1963" when British forces left their sovereign bases and intervened to halt the violence – establishing the "Green Line" which still divides Nicosia today. They were followed by the deployment of a United Nations peacekeeping force (UNFICYP), which remains in Cyprus. In 1964 Turkey threatened to intervene in Cyprus but after strong warnings from the United States used only air power in support of its Turkish brethren instead.
The outcome of Makarios’s rejection of the constitution and the following intercommunal violence was a large number of internally displaced persons (IDP), mainly Turkish Cypriots, who coalesced into a series of small fortified "enclaves run by the community’s political leaders" (Souter 662). These enclaves occupied less than 3% of Cyprus’s total land area but held almost 18% of its population. Movement to and from the enclaves was restricted and those inside felt powerless and fearful of attacks by Greek Cypriots.
"It is difficult to overestimate the magnitude of the 1964 crisis for the Turkish Cypriot community. This was a seminal event for them. The Greek Cypriots failed to comprehend the significance of the 1964 crisis in the Turkish Cypriot narrative. Their inability to to grasp the centrality of this "chosen trauma" only compounded the "mistrust factor" in any prospective endeavor toward coexistence and reunification. Cast in bereaved language, the 1964-1974 trial would underline all future negotiating predispositions for the Turkish Cypriots." After the events of 1964 "the remainder of the 1960s and the early 1970s saw continuing hostility and increasing segregation between the two communities, punctuated by intermittent crises sparking Turkish involvement and repeated calls for enosis by nationalist elements in the Greek-Cypriot community."
The events of 1964 represent a "chosen trauma" by the Turkish Cypriots – an event which has gathered in their historical memory and has become mythologized by the group. Each group accuses the other of refusing to understand or acknowledge its suffering and then mythologizes a particular period of suffering, "Once a terrible event in a group’s history becomes a chosen trauma, the truth about it does not really matter." "One of the biggest problems is that people tend to forget what the others suffered and remember only their own sufferings. We went through difficult times in 1963 but Greek Cypriots never mention these. But Greek Cypriots went through difficult times in 1974. But the Cyprus problem did not start in 1974."
By 1970 the percentage of ethnically-mixed villages in Cyprus had fallen to less than 10%.
The Invasion of "Attila."
Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus in July 1974 is the event which led to the partition of the island and the forced displacement of over 250,000 Greek Cypriots. For Greek Cypriots this event, hailed as "liberation" by Turkish Cypriots, was as traumatizing as the 1964 crisis and subsequent exile to small enclaves was to the Turkish Cypriots.
In response to a coup engineered in Athens by the right-wing junta then in power and led by Cypriot Nikos Sampson, characterized as "an extremely violent man... well-known for his hatred of Turks" who once advocated "cleansing the island of the stench of Turks," Turkey began a two-part invasion designed to "establish facts on the ground."
The first part of the invasion, on July 20th, was followed by ethnic cleansing of Cypriot Turks from Greek-held areas almost immediately. On August 14th, following the end of talks in Geneva between the four guarantor powers designed to seek a settlement to the previous round of fighting, Turkey attacked again and pushed inwards from the beachheads it had established, causing greater displacement of people, both Greek Cypriots heading south (away from the Turkish invasion) and Turkish Cypriots heading north (towards the occupied areas) and eventually occupying almost 37% of the island. For Greek Cypriots the events of 1974 leading up to the invasion of Turkey, constitute their own "chosen trauma" in the same manner the events between 1964 and 1974 mean to the Cypriot Turkish population.
The toll on the people of Cyprus was fierce. 4000 Greek soldiers and Cypriots were killed as well as 2000 Turkish soldiers. The Turkish army "committed rapes and killed women and children." Over 1500 people today are still considered "disappeared" by their families. Almost no Turkish Cypriots remained in the south of Cyprus while less than 10,000 Greek Cypriots remained in the north – many of whom would be later placed under great pressure to leave. Subsequent agreements allowed a UN-supervised population exchange which further reduced the mixed communities in each state. Today less than 300 Greek Cypriots remain in the Turkish-occupied areas of Cyprus, mainly in the remote Karpas Peninsula. Figures on the number of Turkish Cypriots in the south – the internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus, are unavailable but it is thought less than 1000 chose to stay behind.
Each side has its own narrative for every significant event which has occurred in the history of Cyprus. "The year 1974 perpetuated the image of the "unspeakable" Turk as Orthodox Hellenism’s eternal enemy, out to expel them from their ancestral homeland, in a melancholic fatalism colored by betrayal, defeat and loss. Conversely 1974 is heralded as a "peace operation" and celebrated by Turkish Cypriots as "an antidote to Greek Cypriot oppression." Neither side appears willing to acknowledge the other’s narrative – not accept but acknowledge. The principle of "the ego of victimization" doesn’t allow empathy for one’s compatriot’s pain – when one suffers then the other must suffer in return.
The conflict in Cyprus has been stalemated since 1974. Contrary to the low-level ethnic violence which occupied the island from between 1955 and 1974 there have been very few incidents since the Turkish invasion – primarily or wholly because the two populations are unmixed now to the point where very, very few Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots still live in close proximity to one another.
Because this project is broken into two parts – conflict and escalation analysis followed by peacemaking analysis at a later date, we will not go any further into the history of the conflict as the conflict has remained essentially frozen since 1974.
Peacemaking and Peacebuilding Strategies
The conflict in Cyprus is complex and clouded with issues of ethnic nationalism, discrimination (and fear of discrimination), the use of enemy images to stereotype the "other" as barbaric and less than human, the over-involvement of guarantor powers Greece and Turkey in their co-religionists affairs which has resulted in a stunted and nearly non-existent Cypriot identity and a decades-long enforced separation which has allowed all of these elements and more to harden together until each side is almost incapable of moving from its rehearsed role and seeing half-way to the other’s position. The adoption of chosen traumas, chosen glories, the egoism of victimization and hard-held religious and ethnic identities by both sides in the dispute present a dizzyingly complex problem from which to embark on successful peacemaking and peacebuilding strategies.
Yet there are areas of agreement which can be approached as cross-border efforts and which do not require huge sacrifices on either side. These areas can then be used as confidence-building measures to draw the two sides closer to one another and to work towards building a Cypriot identity free of reliance on religious or nationalistic shibboleths. Several of the issues (women and the environment) recommended here for cross-community cooperation are mentioned as "instrumental in confidence building and in establishing a settlement that can be acceptable to the larger population" in other research, particularly in those dealing with conflict in Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Aceh.
The European Union (EU) has taken the initiative in some of these areas but unfortunately in the EU, where the Republic of Cyprus is a full member and the north and Turkey are not, "Greek Cypriots... have eagerly used all the levers available to them to pursue what they see as their national interest and need for justice." If opportunities for building cross-border cooperation are stymied in the EU then countries should make the decision to pursue these opportunities unilaterally – as Britain and the United States appear to be doing in certain areas – including the ones mentioned below.
Cyprus occupies a unique spot in the Mediterranean and features a huge number of species, plant and animal, which aren’t located elsewhere. In addition Cyprus serves as a nesting location for numerous rare sea turtles which have actually rebounded in number since the Turkish invasion due to the low number of tourists known to visit the Turkish-occupied north. As writer Alan Weisman wrote when visiting abandoned Varosha, "At night, the darkened beachfront, free of moonlight bathers, crawls with nesting loggerhead and green sea turtles."
The resurgence of the natural environment into the void left by humans can be a comforting and uniting factor if managed well. The Environment and Security Initiative (ENVSEC), a project formed between the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the United Nations Development Programe (UNDP) could serve as a framework within which to develop a process for cross-border cooperation on issues of mutual concern between the two parts of Cyprus today.
A main issue sure to arise is that the Republic of Cyprus doesn’t want to provide legitimacy to the Turkish-occupied north, which declared independence in 1983. But the environment is an issue which doesn’t respect artificial boundaries across land, air or sea. Tackling issues of joint concern between both communities, issues like ensuring sea turtles have clean beaches on which to nest, the status of Cyprus’s native donkey population or discussing ways to mitigate the effects of a dropping water table can be approached as joint-initiatives, if necessary done outside the framework of government-to-government contacts through NGOs or multilateral organizations.
The water issue, in particular, has been mentioned as having the potential to "function both as a unifier promoting collaboration between entities at different levels and scales but also an irritant worsening already bad relations." Using Cyprus’s dropping water table as "an opportunity to ensure structure dialogue with groups in the two communities" could be enormously valuable in building ties between the two groups.
Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus is not an internationally-recognized state so it does not have the right to participate in sporting events outside of Turkey. Forming joint sports teams between the Republic of Cyprus and the Turkish-occupied north could form a valuable source of cross-border attachment and appreciation. The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) has a football team which, because of the TRNC’s disputed status, cannot play in international FIFA tournaments. A team from Cyprus playing together, perhaps under a jointly agreed upon symbol, would act to bring the two sides together in a way they haven’t been for decades.
The Olympics are designed to bring the world’s states together in peace and harmony, united under the Olympic banner and committed to the ancient ideals of sportsmanship. Because the TRNC isn’t a recognized state it has no Olympic committee, any athlete who wanted to participate would be forced to get a Turkish passport and compete under the flag of Turkey. And the Republic of Cyprus up to this point has never won a metal in the Olympics – winter or summer. Approaching the Olympic committee in the south to accept and train athletes from the north, who could perhaps compete under a neutral banner until reunification was achieved (in the same manner as Taiwan) could serve as a visible and successful example of cooperation across the divide. If objections were to arise bringing the issue of Greece’s adoption of ethnic Greek minorities from the Pontus (Paraskevi Patoulidou) and Albania (Pyrros Dimas) to compete for Greece in the Olympics (each who won a gold metal) could serve as an important reminder of the role athletes from the TRNC could play in the Olympics on behalf of all Cypriots.
Reams of data show us that the less participation of women in government and society the more repressive and warlike a state turns out to be. Disenfranchising half of one’s population is a road to ruin whereas enfranchising women can act as a locus for advancement and prosperity.
Recognizing the valuable role women can play in peacebuilding the United Nations Security Council passed resolution 1325 in 2000, which called for broader participation for women in conflict resolution and "that involve women in all the implementation mechanisms of the peace agreements."
Because "in conflict societies, the ‘national problem’ historically dominates downplays social issues, including women’s issues" too often the concerns of women and their ideas for resolving conflict have been downplayed or ignored. Women are enlisted in the conflict as "sacrificing mothers" who "internalize their ethnic and national duty roles in safeguarding the nation." As such they "are denied their right to be full participants in the peace process" on both sides. "In the last 30 years of official negotiations, no Cypriot women has ever been appointed a member of the negotiating team." Because Cyprus is seen as a patriarchal culture this is accepted as normal but even within societies viewed as patriarchal women still have opinions and unique perspectives – and their absence from the political discourse is neither healthy nor wise for government, society or for women themselves.
The UNDP has funded (2006 – 2008) a $30,000,000 project in Cyprus based on mainstreaming women’s participation in peacemaking efforts on the island (UNDP). A report is expected soon on its results but a greater effort must be made to bind women from the Republic of Cyprus and the TRNC together in cross-border groups discussing issues of concern to women. As the UNDP has taken a lead role so far it could continue to do so – or delegate additional responsibilities to gender-based NGOs eager to help build the process of peacebuilding forward.
Because of the international isolation of the TRNC students from the statelet often have to procure Turkish passports to study abroad and are only allowed to study in Cyprus once they obtain a Republic of Cyprus passport. Creating an exchange mechanism whereby students of both the Republic of Cyprus and the TRNC could study on each side of the dividing line would be enormously beneficial in breaking down the negative stereotypes each community holds of the other. A more immediate impact would be a growing number of citizens of each ethnic group with the ability to speak the language of the other. It would also lift some of the sense of siege which the Turkish Cypriot community feels under and encourage greater ties between the two educational communities.
Each of the recommendations in this report for encouraging peacemaking and peacebuilding are predicated on direct contact between the citizens of Cyprus living in the north and the south. Encouraging contact and community building between the two communities is designed to begin the long-neglected process of forging a strong Cypriot identity free from the meddlesome influence of either Greece or Turkey – both of which have acted as negative, dominating factors on their co-religionists for decades.
The conflict in Cyprus was escalated and perpetuated by the involvement of the guarantor powers – both of which used Cyprus as a proxy to re-fight conflicts of the past. The results of this have been catastrophic for both the Turkish and Greek Cypriots and have resulted in a bifurcated state with two people who live entirely separate lives in states almost entirely disconnected from one another. In addition the security guarantees in the constitution of 1960 caused both sides to harden their positions and refuse to take any risks at all to bring peace to themselves and their communities. This dynamic going forward must be broken for Cyprus to realize its true potential as the jewel of the Mediterranean. Doing so will require the Greek Cypriot south to stop looking at Turkey as a security threat and vice-versa and require both communities to focus their hopes and fears inward – onto the island they both occupy instead of the two states which have long manipulated and dominated their affairs.