1974 Cyprus mass grave victims: five members of the Akansoy family finally laid to rest

A Turkish Cypriot family has been laid to rest in North Cyprus, 47 years after they were brutally murdered by Greek Cypriot terror group EOKA-B and dumped in a mass grave in Muratağa/Maratha, eastern Cyprus.

The five members of the Akansoy family were buried after prayers at the Muratağa-Sandallar Martyrs’ Memorial on Saturday morning, 27 March.

There were emotional scenes as Hüseyin Akansoy said goodbye to his mother and four siblings, whom he had last seen in July 1974. Akansoy gave a short talk ahead of the religious service, where he also thanked the Committee of Missing Persons in Cyprus (CMP).

Painstaking work by the CMP helped to identify the remains of Emine Rüstem Akansoy (female, 36), Sezin Rüstem Akansoy (female, 20), Mustafa Rüstem Akansoy (male, 13), Erbay Rüstem Akansoy (male, 11) and Sibel Rüstem Akansoy (female, 8).

The family were among 126 Turkish Cypriots from the Muratağa and Sandallar villages, located in Famagusta District, who were slaughtered by EOKA on 14 August 1974. Their bodies were buried in a mass grave next to a nearby rubbish tip.

EOKA had rounded up men and boys deemed old enough to hold a gun from the villages of Atlılar, Muratağa and Sandallar on 20 July and taken them to a prisoner of war camp.

The Turkish army, which had landed in Girne/Kyrenia, northern Cyprus, on the same day in response to an Athens-backed coup in Cyprus, launched a second military operation on 14 August to rescue the besieged Turkish Cypriot population in the island’s east.

The troops crossed the Mesaoria Plain, quickly advancing towards Famagusta. While they managed to liberate those who had taken refuge inside the fortified walls of the town, they could not reach the outer lying villages in time.

EOKA returned to Muratağa and Sandallar on 14 August and launched a ferocious attack on the remaining villagers: the elderly, women, and children. The youngest victim was just 16 days old, and the oldest was aged 95 years.

An Associated Press report on the gruesome discovery of the mass grave, some 19 days after the villagers had been killed, said 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 December 2020, re-interred the remains of 14 Turkish Cypriot children, who were slain in the same Muratağa Massacre.

No one has ever been held accountable for the horrific crimes committed at Muratağa and Sandallar.

Cyprus was formed as a power-sharing republic between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots in 1960. The island has been ethnically split since December 1963, when the Cyprus Conflict broke out and Greek Cypriots seized power.