A group of British MPs have sparked outrage among the Turkish Cypriot community in the UK and its supporters after taking part in a Greek Cypriot “propaganda” video.
Parliamentarians from the Conservative Party, Labour Party, Scottish National Party (SNP), Liberal Democrats and The Independent Group for Change were slammed after they recorded messages for a social media release timed to coincide with the 45th anniversary of Turkey’s military intervention in Cyprus.
On 20 July, 1974, Turkey, exercising its rights as a Guarantor power of the island, launched its Peace Operation by air, land and sea to protect the Turkish Cypriot population following a bloody attempt to annex Cyprus to Greece, orchestrated by the Greek military junta, five days earlier.
The coup came nearly 11 years after Greek Cypriot EOKA terrorists opposed to the rights given to Turkish Cypriots in the fledgling Republic of Cyprus and in favour of Enosis – union with Greece – launched an island-wide assault on the Turkish Cypriot community forcing them into enclaves.
The 1974 Turkish action eventually led to the present day boundaries in Cyprus and an end to the violence, but not before mass graves of slaughtered Turkish Cypriot civilians from villages such as Muratağa, Sandallar, Atlılar and Tochni (Taşkent) were discovered.
The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) was created in 1983.
CTCA chair Leyla Kemal: “I’m glad the MPs featured in this propaganda video by Greek Cypriots are being exposed for their gross bias. They should know we will never accept efforts to whitewash history.”
In a video montage released on social media by the dubiously named National Federation of Cypriots in the United Kingdom (NFCUK), some MPs claimed that Turkey had “invaded” and “occupied” Cyprus – terms that Turkey and the TRNC find offensive.
The video – entitled “45 years since Turkey invaded Cyprus” – has been viewed almost 30,000 times on the NFCUK’s Facebook page, with nearly 400 comments.
“Here’s what some of our Parliamentary friends had to say on this tragic anniversary,” reads NFCUK’s introduction to the four-and-a-half-minute-long presentation, with no mention or explanation of the chain of events that triggered the arrival of Turkish troops nearly half a century ago.
The names of the 17 British MPs who featured in the Greek Cypriot propaganda video:
Politicians who took part included Kate Osamor and Bambos Charalambous, MPs for Edmonton and Enfield Southgate respectively, who just weeks earlier had attended festivals for London’s Turkish Cypriot community and a meeting of the Turkish Cypriot Friends for the Labour Party group.
Other MPs who contributed to the NFCUK social media campaign were: Sir Roger Gale, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Cyprus and MP for North Thanet; APPG vice chairs Theresa Villiers, representing Chipping Barnet, and Joan Ryan (Enfield North); Mike Freer, the MP for Finchley and Golders Green; Shadow Minister for Peace and Disarmament Fabian Hamilton; SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford; Tom Brake, Lib Dem Brexit and International Trade Spokesman; Ilford South MP Mike Gapes; Roger Godsiff (Birmingham Hall Green); Sheryll Murray (South East Cornwall); Bob Blackman (Harrow East); Sir Graham Brady (Altrincham and Sale West); Rupa Huq (Ealing Central and Acton); Martin Vickers (Cleethorpes); and Jack Dromey (Birmingham Erdington).
T-VINE has approached a number of the MPs for further comment.
Propaganda video prepared by the National Federation of [Greek] Cypriots featuring British MPs has enraged Turkish Cypriots
Their participation in the NFCUK exercise brought condemnation from Turkish Cypriots in the UK and also from a former Conservative Party MP.
In a statement to T-VINE the Lib Dem’s Baroness Hussein-Ece, who is of Turkish Cypriot heritage, said: “Forty-five years since the illegal coup staged by the Greek Junta, organised to overthrow the democratically elected government of Cyprus, it’s disappointing that there is still no permanent solution to bring peace and equality between Turkish, Greek and all Cypriots.
“It’s also disappointing that a number of British MPs simply point to the ‘invasion by Turkey’ – ignoring the events that led to the intervention of Turkey after the coup, and the intense ethnic cleansing of Turkish Cypriots on the island.
“They do not appear to know about, or ignore the events that led up to this intervention. I would’ve expected MPs from the APPG for Cyprus to at least have a grasp of the history of events since 1974.
“I am no longer a member [of the APPG] nor, as the only Turkish Cypriot parliamentarian, welcome in this group.
Turkish troops in Cyprus “would’ve gone by now” had Greek Cypriots voted in favour of the Annan Plan in 2004, she pointed out.
Baroness Hussein-Ece added that Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades passed up an opportunity to reduce Turkish and Greek troop numbers down to the hundreds in 2017 during the ill-fated UN-led Crans-Montana peace talks.
“Instead we have the status quo,” she said. “It seems there are too many politicians in Cyprus who prefer a divided island.”
Ersu Ekrem, chair of the British Turkish Cypriot Association, told T-VINE he was “dismayed” and “disappointed” that some MPs “remain ignorant of historical facts regarding Cyprus despite the fact that the UK is one of the Guarantors of Cyprus under [the 1960] Treaty of Guarantee, along with Turkey and Greece”.
He accused the MPs in question of doing a “great disservice” to the “large number of their constituents” who are of Turkish Cypriot descent and who “rightly expect equal representation from their MPs”.
“Many Turkish Cypriots . . . feel offended to say the very least with the remarks from some of these MPs, especially when even the basic human rights of Turkish Cypriots have been and are still being denied to them since 1963 by the so-called state of Cyprus,” he said.
“We would like to remind these MPs once more that the invaders are actually Greek Cypriots who are unilaterally controlling the ‘Cyprus republic’ [which] was destroyed in December 1963 when the Greek Cypriot side attempted to make 13 illegal changes to the Constitution, ejected Turkish Cypriot MPs from Parliament by force of arms and attacked hundreds of Turkish Cypriot villages all over the island, killing many innocent people.”
Turkish Cypriots spent the next decade living in “ghettoes” comprising of just three per cent of the land in Cyprus “even though they owned 40 per cent of it”, Mr Ekrem explained, and were “forced to live void of their human rights until 1974”.
“Then and to this day the so-called Cyprus state is not adhering to over 100 articles of its own Constitution,” he continued.
The “treacherous act by Greece” on 15 July, 1974 was described as an “invasion of Cyprus” by then President Archbishop Makarios, Mr Ekrem noted, who “called on the world to stop it”.
He said that Turkey was “the only country to heed this call from Makarios” and that Turkey’s intervention was deemed to have been legal by an Athens High Court decision [2658/79] on 21 March, 1979, a ruling Mr Ekrem said was later upheld by an appeals court.
“Further to this … the Council of Europe adopted resolution 573 on July 29, 1974 … stating that Turkey’s intervention on Cyprus was a legitimate act emanating from the Treaty of Guarantee, Part IV.
“I would like to remind the MPs that have taken part in this clip that Turkish Cypriots all over the world celebrate the 20 July intervention as the day of rescue and liberation from the inhumane conditions they were forced to live under from 1963 to 1974.
“British MPs who refuse to also recognise the past and present pain and hardships suffered by the Turkish Cypriot people of Cyprus to this day, as a result of international embargoes imposed on them by the Greek Cypriot administration of Cyprus, cannot expect the support of their Turkish Cypriot constituents at the ballot box or anywhere else!”
ATCA’s Kerem Hassan: “We take these remarks as a great insult, because had Turkey not used her rights as a Guarantor power to save us Turkish Cypriots . . . there would not have been any Turkish Cypriots left to save, and Cyprus would long have been annexed to Greece.”
Leyla Kemal, president of the Council of Turkish Cypriot Associations in the UK, said: “It’s always disappointing to see British MPs take a one-sided stance on Cyprus, especially over the events of 1974 when Turkey lawfully intervened to stop the bloodshed between the Greek Cypriot coupists versus the pro-Makarios faction, and to also save Turkish Cypriots from annihilation.
“Our families were slaughtered, many left to rot in mass graves, while 50 per cent of all Turkish Cypriots became refugees between 1963 and 1974. To ignore these facts is deeply offensive to the island’s Turkish community and the UK diaspora.
“I’m glad the MPs featured in this propaganda video by Greek Cypriots are being exposed for their gross bias over Cyprus. They should know we will never accept efforts to whitewash history.”
Kerem Hasan co-founder and TRNC representative of the Association of Turkish Cypriots Abroad, expressed similar sentiments and called on politicians to “listen to the views of both sides” of the Cyprus issue.
“We are outraged to see a group of biased pro-Greek MPs calling the 1974 Turkish Peace Operation an ‘invasion and occupation’,” he said.
“We take these remarks as a great insult, because had Turkey not used her rights as a Guarantor power to save us Turkish Cypriots . . . there would not have been any Turkish Cypriots left to save, and Cyprus would long have been annexed to Greece.”
Mr Hasan said that similar inflammatory comments were made by MPs “year after year” at rallies organised in London by the Greek Cypriot community there.
“Rather than focusing on conflict and trying to rewrite history, these British MPs should try to understand the hardships lived by Turkish Cypriots who were the victims but who are continuing to be punished through isolation,” he continued.
“Ever since Turkey’s Peace Operation, there has been peace in Cyprus – and this has resulted in the introduction of new parameters for a solution.
“Cyprus has two co-owners: Turkish and Greek Cypriots and neither side has the right to dominate the other.
“We expect [British] MPs to take a neutral, balanced and informed approach when it comes to Cyprus, in full appreciation that we have an estimated 300,000 Turkish Cypriots living in the UK who feel passionately about their homeland and their families in North Cyprus.”
Former Conservative MP Stephen Day, who represented the Cheshire constituency of Cheadle from 1987 to 2001, expressed his support for the Turkish Cypriot cause.
Writing for T-VINE, he blasted the “usual suspects” who took part in the NFCUK video, saying they had “fallen over themselves to repeat, parrot fashion, every piece of Greek Cypriot propaganda ever invented since 1974”.
“What would these Greek Cypriot-supporting British MPs be lamenting now if the Turkish Army had never arrived?” he wrote.
“The extermination of the Turkish Cypriot community? Why do these MPs never mention such pre-Turkish intervention truths?
“Turkey did not ‘invade’ Cyprus, they intervened. They did not occupy it either.
“They gave the Turkish Cypriots back some secure, safe land of their own, on their own island, something they were effectively being denied by EOKA-B and the Greek military junta.
“The foreign intervention in Cyprus was not Turkey’s, it had already happened before they arrived, when the illegal Greek Colonel’s sponsored coup took place.”
Mr Day also hit out at calls made in the clips for the Guarantee system of Cyprus to be abolished.
“Where does the guarantee of continuing Cypriot peace exist in a return to such pre-1974 circumstances? It simply doesn’t,” he said.
“Can I remind our British parliamentary friends that between 1960 . . . and 1974, inter-communal strife and effective civil war were the norm in Cyprus for all but three of those years.
“What sane person, with the interests of Cyprus at heart, would want to go back to those nightmare days?”
He said the British MPs, “some of whom are respected former colleagues”, should join him in calling on the international community to treat both sides of Cyprus equally.
“It is time for the predominance of the extremely selective Greek Cypriot version of Cypriot history to end,” Mr Day declared.
“That history did not start in 1974. There will be no real fair future for either community until a balanced truth about the past is accepted by all.”
Main photos of British MPs (left to right): Theresa Villiers, Bambos Charalambos, & Kate Osamor, all official portraits © Chris McAndrew, [CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)]