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Turkey's Cyprus Policy Has Faced UN Condemnation

Guest Column by Spyros Maragos

The goal of an exhibit in the Infinite Corridor a few weeks ago was to remind the MIT community about the ongoing ordeal of the island of Cyprus that followed the Turkish invasion during the summer of 1974.

Without wishing to incite nationalist passions, the posters highlighted the mere fact of the invasion of Cyprus, the problem of the 1,600 people missing in action that are to this very day unaccounted for, the tragedy of 200,000 displaced refugees, the fact that Nicosia is the only city in Europe that is still divided, and the illegal status of the presence of a Turkish occupation army on 37 percent of Cypriot soil.

The guest column by Kerem Limon '97 and Levent M. Talgar '97 ["Infinite Corridor Posters Push Fascism for Cyprus," Oct. 14] as a response to the exhibit, was given disturbing titles loaded with aphorisms that I prefer to refrain from commenting on. I will comment though on what they called "the alleged Turkish invasion."

Numerous resolutions adopted by the Security Council and the General Assembly of the United Nations (more than 15) dispel any doubts as to the character of such an invasion. They all condemn both the Turkish invasion of Cyprus and the continuing presence of the occupation army as illegal acts of international aggression. In addition to the UN, other international bodies of similar stature, like the European Parliament, have voiced their opposition to the continuing drama of the people of Cyprus. In plain English, the international community has characterized the Turkish invasion of Cyprus as no less a crime than the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq.

What makes the invasion of Cyprus more hideous is the fact that Turkey is much bigger than Iraq, and Cyprus is even smaller than Kuwait. Despite the directives of the international community, the invasion of Cyprus has not been dealt with as decisively as the invasion of Kuwait. The oil of Kuwait is evidently a more precious commodity for the West than the olive-oil of Cyprus.

In the face of the unanimous international condemnation, the Turkish side deploys the conjured threat of "Enosis" (or annexation of Cyprus to Greece), to counterbalance the directives of the international community for the unification of the island. Limon and Talgar write that "Enosis' is a policy of the Greek Cypriots which emerged in the late 1940s as a combination of the influence of the extreme communist groups in Greece and Cyprus; and the consistent propaganda of the fascist factions in the Greek army and the extremists in the Cypriot community."

In the late 1940s Greece was entangled in a devastating civil war, the aftershocks of which were still felt a generation later. The elected government of Greece was facing a communist insurgency that took four years and the assistance of Great Britain and the U.S. to put down. It is highly unlikely that the two adversaries cooperated and created grandiose nationalistic plans for Cyprus, a British colony at the time, while they were waging a fierce civil war amongst themselves. While the authors accuse Greece of a "fascist policy," which was "calling upon the unification of the island with Greece," let's not forget that the country occupying 37 percent of the Republic of Cyprus is not Greece, but Turkey.

Limon and Talgar were "amused" by the vision of a unified Nicosia (the divided capital of Cyprus) and a unified Cyprus. I imagine they are equally amused by Resolution 541 adopted by the Security Council of the UN in 1983 that "Calls upon all States to respect the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and non-alignment of the Republic of Cyprus." Judging from Turkey's behavior over the last 20 years, I am afraid that the international law and the UN resolutions are equally amusing to Turkey.

Limon and Talgar claim that "In the Cyprus case, we are dealing with different ethnic groups who at no point in their history have shared a single independent and democratic nation status." That could not be further from the truth.

The Republic of Cyprus gained its independence in 1960 and until the Turkish invasion of 1974 the two communities coexisted, however imperfectly, in the framework of the Republic of Cyprus. The constitution provided that the post of the Vice President of the Republic and several posts of the cabinet be reserved for Turkish Cypriots. It is also true that the two communities were, by and large, living side by side and it took an ethnic cleansing that displaced almost 200,000 refugees, for the two communities to become segregated.

Limon and Talgar finish their article with a crescendo about the 21st century, democracy and tolerance. Such sweet talk is reminiscent of the official Turkish rhetoric, which seems to hold little weight with Amnesty International.

AI expresses its concern about Turkey, in a 1992 report, in the following way: "Successive Turkish governments have been profuse in their public statements and gestures which have been aimed at deflecting international criticism with respect to human rights abuses. However, little has been done to actually stop the practice in Turkish jails and prisons. People are still being tortured or ill-treated and allegations of extrajudicial executions continue to rise."

Such harsh criticism of Turkish attacks on civil and ethnic rights are made even without consideration of the current eradication of the Kurdish population in the eastern provinces of Turkey. Less than 20 days ago, the Turkish army burned down 13 Kurdish villages if we believe Associated Press, or 17 villages if we choose to believe Reuters.

Turkey invaded Cyprus 20 years ago. It hopes that with the passing of time, this aggression will be forgotten, the UN will stop producing resolutions condemning their violations of international law, and that the international community will accept the division of Cyprus as a fait accompli. This process can only be reversed by the efforts of the Cypriots to inform the international community and present the factual truth about the Cyprus issue. Is this what disturbs Limon and Talgar?