July 20, 1974 - A day Cyprus will never forget
On July 20, 1974 at 5:20am, Turkish troops landed on the Republic of Cyprus’ coast five miles off Kyrenia. Since that day, nothing on the island has ever been the same.
Every year since, on the anniversary of the invasion, sirens have blared out over the Republic, recalling the moment Turkish troops invaded.
In 1974, approximately 40,000 Turkish troops under the command of Lieutenant Nurettin Ersin implemented their invasion plan, code-named ‘Attila’, illegally invading the island in violation of the UN Security Council Charter.
INVASION IN NUMBERS
The deep blue summer sky of Cyprus quickly dulled with smoke from bombs dropped by the Turkish warplanes. Hundreds feared for their lives as the invading Turkish troops murdered 4000 men, women and children from Kyrenia and the villages surrounding Nicosia in cold blood.
Chaos and panic ensued, people fled their homes taking with them a mere handful of memories on their journey into the unknown. Parents were separated from their children, brothers and sisters from their siblings.
Around 200,000 Greek Cypriots were driven from their homes and became refugees in their own country. To date, 1,619 people are still amongst the missing.
Turkey still illegally occupies 37 per cent of Cyprus’ territory.
Turkey launched the invasion following the coup d'état on July 15, 1974 that had been ordered by the military Junta in Greece and staged by the Cypriot National Guard in conjunction with EOKA-B.
It deposed then-Cyprus President Archbishop Makarios III and installed pro-Enosis Nikos Sampson. The aim of the coup was the annexation of the island by Greece, and the so-called Hellenic Republic of Cyprus was declared.
In a country already wounded by the coup, which opened the doors to Attila, the resistance was minimal. The invasion on July 20 was the first part of the Cyprus tragedy. On August 14, 1974 the tragedy ended with the occupation of Famagusta and the Karpas Peninsula.
JULY 20, 2016
42 years on from the most tragic page in the Republic of Cyprus’ history, at 5:20am the war sirens rang around the island once more.
Leader after leader since that terrible day has been engaged in countless meetings in an attempt to find a solution to the illegal division of the island.
The baton is currently in the hands of Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci, who are working for a solution under UN auspices with the UN Secretary General's Special Representative on Cyprus, Espen Barth Eide, and the United Nations Peacekeeping Force (UNFICYP) led by Elizabeth Spehar.
Today, the political and religious leadership on the island are attending memorials and other commemorative events. In the morning, a memorial service for army officers and soldiers killed during the invasion is to take place at Nicosia's Makedonitissa Tomb, at which Anastasiades will attend.
A formal church memorial service at Nicosia's Faneromeni Church is also to be held and attended by the President. Other anti-occupation events will also take place during the day.
In the evening an event will take place at the Presidential Palace marking the coup and invasion anniversaries.
Anastasiades and Akinci have expressed their hope that a solution can be reached in 2016, with both also stating that they are jointly the best hope the island has had since the invasion for reunification.
Over the years Cypriots have learnt to be cautious regarding political promises, and view with a sense of calculated optimism any promises made regarding the reunification of the island. However, Anastasiades and Akinci have given hope to the citizens of an island still divided.
And all Cypriots – Greek and Turkish – are surely hoping that in 12 months, on July 20, 2017, it will not be the sirens that wake them from their slumber, but the sun rising on a reunified Cyprus, devoid of occupying forces and divisions and with equal rights for all.