The remains of 15 Turkish Cypriots – including 14 women and children – slaughtered by EOKA-B gunmen in the North Cyprus village of Muratağa on 14 August, 1974, have been finally laid to rest in their own graves.
The victims, ranging in age from just four to 79, were among 126 people massacred in the villages of Muratağa, Sandallar and Atlılar by Greek Cypriot terrorists.
They were killed before Turkish troops, advancing east across the Mesaoria plan towards Gazimağusa during the second phase of their military intervention, could reach them.
Their bodies were discovered 19 days later in a mass grave at a nearby rubbish dump.
An Associated Press report on the gruesome find said that the corpses were “so battered and decomposed that they crumbled to pieces when soldiers lifted them” and that “at least two of them were women holding babies in their arms”.
In 2015 a process to exhume and individually identify them using DNA analysis was launched as part of efforts by the Committee on Missing Persons.
Sevgül Uludağ: “one of the biggest crimes against humanity in Cyprus”
The latest group of victims to be identified and re-interred at the Muratağa-Sandallar Martyrs’ Memorial site were Rahme Hasan, 18; Hasan Hüseyin, 79; Nadire Süleyman Ruso, 68; Sevim Arif, 16; Şeniz Arif, 4; Seval Arif, 13; Emine Bayram, 35; Ayşe Hüseyin Osman, 50; Emine Mehmet Salih, 79; Serpil Mehmet, 19; Sevgül Mehmet, 18; Emine Halil Kasap, 55; Fatma Erdoğan, 40; Emine Süleyman, 14; and Rahme Hasan, 73.
They were emotional scenes as the 15 caskets, draped with TRNC flags, were lined up side by side during the funeral service, which was held with military honours on Thursday, 20 December.
Soldiers fired shots into the air and a minute’s silence was observed. The flags were then handed over to relatives of the victims before the burials took place.
Cyprus Turkish Peace Forces Commander Major-General Yılmaz Yıldırım, Security Forces Commander Brigadier Tevfik Algan, TRNC Deputy Parliamentary Speaker Zorlu Töre and Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Kudret Özersay were among those to pay their respects.
Gürsel Benan, head of the Association of Martyrs’ Families and War Veterans, said during a speech that the Turkish Cypriot people would “never forget” the killings that took place 44 years ago.
He said that while the massacre had “not been the first” perpetrated by the “Eoka terror organisation” in the name of Enosis – union with Greece – it “would be the last for as long as the Turkish Armed Forces continue to provide security for the Turkish Cypriots”.
“There should be no new suffering on this land,” he stressed. “Learning from the lessons of the past, building on a solid foundation, we must look for ways to leave a secure future for the next generations.
“Peace came to this island thanks to the Turkish army. Turkey and the Turkish troops are the only guarantee of peace on this island.”
Mr Benan added that the relatives of the dead now had a place to mourn and leave flowers for their loved ones.
The 15 victims from Muratağa village, murdered and buried in mass graves by Greek Cypriot terror group EOKA-B in August 1974, were laid to rest on 20 Dec. 2018
Turkish Cypriot journalist and campaigner Sevgül Uludağ, who was also among those to attend the funerals, said that the murders of 126 people had been “one of the biggest crimes against humanity in Cyprus”.
Writing for Yenidüzen newspaper last Friday, she said that she had taken a photo of a “small coffin” of the “little girl Şeniz Arif, who was four years old”.
Uludağ said that the girl’s “mother and six brothers and sisters” were all killed and buried in mass graves.
“Her sister Hayriye was only six months old,” she wrote. “Her father passed away this year, so no-one from her very close family was there to receive her coffin except some cousins. . . Whole families were exterminated by the fascists.”
Main photo top: relatives mourn as 15 Turkish Cypriots from Muratağa village, murdered and buried in mass graves in August 1974 by Greek Cypriot terror group EOKA-B, are laid to rest on 20 Dec. 2018. Photo © TRNC PIO