GeoPolitical Tales Episode 6 CYPRUS Issue | A Dispute Between Turkey and Greece Part 1 | مسئلہ قبرص | سائپرس ترکوں اور یونانیوں کا صدیوں پرانا جھگڑا کیا ہے ؟
Welcome to Big Socho Lets take you to the most important island in the Mediterranean sea, Cyprus. Cyprus has been the apple of discord between Turks and Greeks for last 60 years. Turkey has even fought a war in 1974 to get its hands on this island. Today we will explain the whole issue of Cyprus. What is the historical background of this problem? Who is currently in control of Cyprus? What makes Cyprus strategically so important that Turkey had to fight a war…? Before going any further, lets first study its geography.
It is situated in the eastern Mediterranean sea and its total size is 9000 sq. km. It’s the 3rd largest island by size in the Mediterranean. However, strategically it’s the most important island in Mediterranean. To its north, merely 80 km away, lies Turkey. And to its east, about 120 km away is Syria and Lebanon. Palestine and Israel lie in the south east. Egypt’s Suez canal is 200 km towards the south of Cyprus. Cyprus is situated at the convergence point of three continents, namely Asia, Europe and Africa. It has a very high strategic significance but there’s a reason for that.
And that is … if some country wants to conduct air attacks on oil rich countries like Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran or Saudia, Cyprus is the best spot. Its close proximity to the Suez canal makes it very to choke or block all sea traffic through the canal. It can potentially stop all trade between the east and the west. Because of this significance, it has been a point of conflict between great empires. And it has been shifting hands since ever. It has been a part of some of the most powerful empires such Egyptians, Persian, Greeks, Romans, French, Ottomans and the British.
Due to its natural beauty and amazing climate, it is still a hot tourist destination. Tourists from around the world visit Cyprus to enjoy its amazing sandy beaches and pristine blue waters. But that’s just one face of Cyprus with a much darker and painful other side as well. This second face tells the story of barbed wires, land mines, aimed guns and the hatred of locals for each other. This hatred has divided Cyprus into two parts. North Cyprus, making 37% by size, with a population of Turk Muslims.
North Cyprus considers itself to be a free and independent country, but no country except for Turkey recognizes that. In the south, spanning over 60% of the island, is the Republic of Cyprus. Its population is Greek Christian Orthodox. Most of the countries worldwide recognize Republic of Cyprus as a free country. That’s why it’s a member of the UN and EU. There’s a 180 km long buffer zone establieshed by the UN between North Cyprus and Republic of Cyprus. This buffer zone practically divides Cyprus into two parts.
It was put in place to stop the fighting between the Turks and Greeks of Cyprus in 1974. United Nations peace keeping troops are positioned in the buffer zone to save both the Turks and the Greeks from fighting. To this day, there are two British Military Bases present in the south of Cyprus, because of its strategic importance. These two bases are considered as British territory on foreign soil. 8000 British soldiers are permanently stationed there. That was all about the geographic importance. Now lets discuss the rather interesting history of the Cyprus dispute.
The Ottomans attacked Cyprus in 1571 and took it under their control. Before that, it was inhabited by the Greeks. The local population was mainly Orthodox Christians but after the conquest Ottoman Muslims started coming and getting settled here. Nevertheless, the majority was still Greek Christians. Peace prevailed in Cyprus under the Ottoman rule. People were free to perform their religious duties. During that period, mainland Greece on the other side of the Mediterranean was also under the Ottoman control.
But in 1820, mainland Greece rebelled against the empire and got their freedom after fighting a winning battle. Following their example, an attempt at rebellion was made by the Cyprus Greeks but it was crushed by the Ottomans. However, despite their defeat, a desire to unite with the mainland Greece had woken up in Cyprus Greeks. This concept of uniting Cyprus with Greece is called Enosis. The Orthodox Church played a vital role in spreading the idea of Enosis in the Greeks of Cyprus. In 1878, Britain signed a secret agreement with the Ottomans.
According to this agreement, Britain temporarily took over the control of Cyprus. However, the sovereignty of Cyprus was still with the Ottomans. The Ottomans gave Britain the temporary charge on the condition that Britain will defend Ottomans against Russia. In exchange, Britain got the strategic advantage of being able to defend the Suez canal from Cyprus. British trade with subcontinent took place through the Suez canal. That’s why it was rather important for them. With 1914 came the World War I in which Ottomans fought against Britain. As a response, Britain unilaterally took over Cyprus.
In the Peace Treaty of Lausanne in 1923, Turkey accepted Cyprus to be a part of Britain. And that marked the end of the Ottoman rule in Cyprus after 350 years. However, under the British control, relationship between Turks and Greeks in Cyprus kept on getting worse. After the World War II, a wave of sentiments against the colonialism set into motion through out the world. And Britain had to let go of its colonies like India, Pakistan and Sudan. Similarly, the demand of freedom from the British started getting stronger in Cyprus.
But despite everything, Britain was not ready to leave Cyprus, as it realized fully well the importance of Cyprus. That’s why it wanted to keep Cyprus under its control at any cost…. even if it had to let go of all its other colonies around the world. 1950s is marked as a decade of political struggle in Cyprus. That phase saw the rise of two political greats in the Greek community of Cyprus. One of them was Archbishop Makarios, who was selected as the head of Cyprus Orthodox Church at an age of 37, due to his charismatic personality.
He was the beloved of Greek community in Cyprus and was regarded as the Father of the Nation. He was a very staunch supporter and promoter of Enosis. But he wanted to lead a peaceful revolution. The second personality was George Gravis… born in Cyprus but had served as Colonel in the Greek Army during World War II. He was allegedly sent to Cyprus by the Greek government, so that he can prepare gorilla fighters against Britain in Cyprus. The aim was to destabilize the British hold in Cyprus and eventually kicking them out of the island. And that would end as fulfillment of Enosis.
For that purpose, George Grivas prepared an armed group of gorilla fighter, EOKA, in Cyprus. You can say that Greeks in Cyprus had two groups now. A larger group that believed in peaceful movement for Enosis. The other was EOKA, which wanted to carry out armed struggle to kick Britain out of Cyprus. EOKA carried out militant activities from the mountains, against the British government and their army in Cyprus, throughout 1950s. At first, the target of EOKA was British government machinery in Cyprus… but later on, Turk Muslims also became a target.
That’s because the Turk Muslims in Cyprus were strictly against Enosis. Rather they believed that since the British took control of Cyprus from the Ottomans, therefore, its control still belongs to Turks. And they wanted Britain to merge Cyprus with Turkey before they leave it. That’s what made the Turks targets of terrorist activities of EOKA. But overall it only brought more hatred in the two communities towards each other. The Turks there had an example in the form of Muslims of the island of Crete. That’s why they didn’t want to merge with Greece.
Crete is another, rather large island, in the Mediterranean. Like Cyprus, it was also ruled by the Ottomans and a large population of Turk Muslims lived there. After the Ottoman rule ended in Crete, it was merged with Greece and it was followed by Muslim genocide. The left over Muslims were thrown out of Crete. That’s what made the Turk community of Cyprus scared of a similar treatment by the Greeks. However, the Turk community in Cyprus had realized that they can’t put enough pressure to meet their demands as they were only 20%. That’s why they wanted Cyprus to be divided into two parts.
One for each of the two communities of Cyprus. Interestingly, the same formula of division was also used in the Indian subcontinent. However, unlike the subcontinent, the Turk Muslim population was not concentrated in one area. Rather, they were spread throughout Cyprus in small numbers. The big question was that if a division formula has to be utilized, which part should go to the Muslims.
Because they didn’t have a clear majority in any part of the country. What solution was adopted to take care of this dispute? What lead to the mass murder of Turk Muslims? Why Turkey had to jump in Cyprus and fight a war? You’ll find the answer to all such questions in the next part of this video.
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Part 7 :: GeoPolitical Tales Episode 7 CYPRUS Issue | A Dispute Between Turkey and Greece Part 02
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