On August 8, Muslim Turkish Cypriots and illegal settlers from Turkey celebrated the 53rd anniversary of Turkey’s napalm bombing of Greek Cypriot civilians in the Turkish-occupied enclave of Kokkina in Cyprus. Mustafa Akıncı, the president of the self-styled “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” (TRNC), which is recognized only by Turkey, also participated in the celebrations.
In August 1964, Turkish warplanes dropped napalm bombs on Kokkina in the Tillyria peninsula, hitting residential areas and a hospital, and killing more than 50 people, including 19 civilians. Ten years later, in 1974, Turkey invaded Cyprus and has occupied almost 40 percent of the island ever since.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Greece issued a note of condemnation regarding the celebrations:
“We are dismayed to note the celebrations of the Turkish Cypriot leadership, including Mr. Akinci himself, of the 53rd anniversary of the use of chemical weapons and dropping of napalm bombs by the Turkish air force on the Tillyria peninsula. This was the first use of banned chemical weapons in the history of our planet.
“Today, when the whole planet bows to the victims of wars and such hostile acts, the holding of and participation in such celebrations is an affront to international law, to the memory of the fallen, and to the whole of humanity.”
The Republic of Cyprus declared independence in 1960. Afterwards, Turkey escalated its preparations to invade the island, which included but were not limited to establishing a bridgehead at Kokkina in 1964 and smuggling arms and fighters from Turkey into the area in order to strengthen Turkish positions there.
According to the High Commission of the Republic of Cyprus in London,
“When in August 1964 the [Cypriot] Government attempted to contain the Kokkina bridgehead, Turkey's air force bombed the National Guard and neighboring Greek villages with napalm and threatened to invade. The other major purpose served by the enclaves was the political and physical separation of the two communities.”
Another preparation for the occupation by Turkey was its disguised violent attacks against Turkish Cypriots to further escalate inter-communal conflicts and alienate Turkish-speaking Cypriots from Greek Cypriots.
General Sabri Yirmibeşoğlu, a Turkish army officer, for example, said in televised comments in 2010 that Turkey burned a mosque during the Cyprus conflict “in order to foster civil resistance” against Greeks on the islandand that “The Turkish special warfare department has a rule to engage in acts of sabotage against respected values [of Turks] made to look as if they were carried out by the enemy.”
The deadly military assault against Kokkina in 1964 is celebrated by many Turkish Cypriots and settlers from Turkey as the “8 August Erenköy Resistance Day.” Turks now call Kokkina “Erenköy,” Turkish for “the village of the [Islamic] saints.”
In 2014, for example, the community leader of Kato Pyrgos, Costas Michaelides, condemned the formal Turkish celebrations in Kokkina, describing them as a “disgrace.” “The memories are alive because the victims, those who survived, are here. The crosses [on the graves] are here. However, many years pass, 50 or 150, we will see this in our daily lives, because they remind us of this cowardly attack against the unarmed people of Tylliria,” he said.
The Turkish narrative does not deny the smuggling of arms and fighters to Cyprus in 1964; the problem is Turks do not view these acts as illegal activities or crimes against the Republic of Cyprus. They see them as “heroism.”
During the celebrations on August 8, Mehmet Kadı, the mayor of Yeni Erenköy (Yialousa), said:
“53 days ago, today, in August 1964, the villagers, students and our mujahedeen [jihadists] struggled together, fought for this land and did not allow the enemy to enter here.”
The enemy that Kadı referred to is the Republic of Cyprus and Greek Cypriots, the natives of the island who still comprised the majority in the northern part of Cyprus back then.
The Turkish Cypriot Minister of Economy and Energy, Sunat Atun, also issued a statement regarding “the Erenkoy resistance” and referred to it as “an act of heroism.”
“Turkish Cypriot people engaged in powerful and honorable resistance in the face of the inhumane attacks by the dual of the Rum [ethnic Greeks] and Greece. About 500 students from Anatolia and a group of Turkish Cypriots from Britain started landing in Cyprus to defend their homeland when attacks against Turkish Cypriots escalated in 1964.”
Mustafa Arıkan, the head of the Erenköy Mujahedeen [Jihadists] Association, also announced that during the commemoration, “for the first time, family members of 28 martyrs were given plaques.”
On July 20, 1974, Turkey mounted a bloody invasion of the island. The second Turkish offensive, codenamed Attila 2, took place between August 14-18. The invasion was accompanied by the mass murder of Greek Cypriot civilians, including women, and infants, unlawful arrests and torture of Greek Cypriots, and rapes of Greek Cypriot children and women, among other atrocities.
Zenon Rossides, the then-Cyprus representative to the United Nations, sent a letter on 6 December 1974 to the UN Secretary General, which said in part that Turkey “launched a full scale aggressive attack against Cyprus, a small non-aligned and virtually defenseless country, possessing no air force, no navy and no army except for a small national guard. Thus, Turkey's overwhelming military machine embarked upon an armed attack including napalm bombing of open towns and villages, wreaking destruction, setting forests on fire and spreading indiscriminate death and human suffering to the civilian population of the island.”
The greatest consequence of the invasion was that Turkey changed the demographic structure of the northern part of the island, terrorizing around 200,000 indigenous Greek Cypriot majority population (more than one-third of the population) into fleeing to the southern part of the island. It is estimated that more than 100,000 Turkish settlers have been implanted in northern Cyprus since then. Lands and houses belonging to Greek Cypriots were then distributed to Turkish Cypriots and to Turks brought from Turkey to settle in those areas.
According to the official website of the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Cyprus has never been a Greek Island
Turkish supremacists act so blatantly in Cyprus because they claim Cyprus is a Turkish island. Thus, bringing in Turkish fighters to Cyprus to kill Greek Cypriots, importing tens of thousands of settlers from Turkey, deploying around 40,000 Turkish soldiers there, forcibly changing the demographics of the island, seizing the homes and other property of Greek Cypriots, and wiping out the island’s historic Hellenic and Christian identity through the destruction of its cultural heritage are all legitimate acts according to the Turkish narrative.
Cyprus is Turkish, after all. Turks can do whatever they want there. They can even celebrate dropping napalm on and slaughtering Greeks.
Employing Orwellian rhetoric, Turkey calls the military invasion of Cyprus “a peace operation.” In 1974, Kemalists and Islamists of all political parties supported the invasion of Cyprus. Moreover, Turkey does not recognize Cyprus as a Greek island or even as “a nation.”
According to the official website of the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Cyprus has never been a Greek Island. It is both useful and important to keep in mind that there has never been in Cyprus a ‘Cypriot nation’ due to the distinct national, religious and cultural characteristics of each ethnic people who, in addition, speak different languages.”
The Turkish ministry cannot be more wrong. Never until the Turkish invasion in 1974 did the northern part of the island have a Turkish majority. Both the north and south of the island were majority-Greek and majority-Christian until 1974. “Cyprus has been a part of the Greek world as far back as can be attested by recorded history,” writes the author Constantine Tzanos.
“After the collapse of the Byzantine Empire and the defeat of the Venetians, it fell to Ottoman rule from 1571 to 1878. In 1878 it was placed under British administration, was annexed by Britain in 1914, and in 1925 became a British colony.”
However, the Cyprus question has been one of the key aspects of the Turkish foreign policy for a very long time. Actually, Cyprus has never ceased to be a “national cause” for Turks ever since the Ottomans first invaded it in 1571. A Muslim sovereign is not allowed to relinquish land once it has been conquered. And they can even celebrate their war crimes and murders.
Showing no regard for the sufferings of Greek Cypriots, many Turkish Cypriots and their leaders – including Mustafa Akıncı – have celebrated the deadly assaults on their Greek neighbors. But a community leader who genuinely aims for a peaceful resolution and coexistence in Cyprus would condemn the use of napalm bombs on unarmed civilians and the destruction of that part of the island, and would commemorate the Greek Cypriot victims as well.
Sadly, Turkish Cypriots’ celebrations of the brutal warfare against Greek Cypriot civilians have discredited all of their erstwhile statements that they support a peaceful resolution of the conflict in the island and justice for all its inhabitants.