Trauma of 'Bloody Christmas' still fresh in minds of Turkish Cypriots

Starting on Dec. 21, 1% of Turkish Cypriot population killed, 25% displaced in less than 2 weeks of 'Black Christmas'.

Trauma of 'Bloody Christmas' still fresh in minds of Turkish Cypriots

Although nearly 60 years have passed, the trauma of the 1963 "Bloody Christmas" massacre, also called Black Christmas by Greek Cypriots, is still fresh in the minds of Turkish Cypriots.

Starting on Dec. 21, following the Greek Cypriot coup of the Cyprus government, some 1% of the Turkish Cypriot population was killed and 25% displaced by Greek Cypriot nationalist terrorist group EOKA in less than two weeks.

The horrors of the deadly, systematic attacks on Turkish Cypriots by members of the Greek Cypriot terrorist group EOKA live on in people’s memories 59 years after they led to the deaths of hundreds and displaced thousands from their ancestral homes.

It is remembered as the infamous "Bloody Christmas" massacre, also called Black Christmas, in which they killed more than 370 Turkish Cypriots and displaced 25,000-30,000 others during the 1963 Christmas season.

Turkish Cypriots deserve their own sovereign state

Speaking to Anadolu Agency on the occasion of the 59th anniversary of the deadly massacre, Kenan Yaman, chair of the British Turkish Cypriot Association (BTCA), said that for far too long, the Turkish Cypriots have not been given a voice to explain to the world what they have suffered since then.

He said that although Greek Cypriots and their supporters would like the world to believe that the Cyprus problem started around July 1974, in reality it started over 10 years earlier.

"This is an absolute total lie. If that is the case, then what was United Nations peacekeeping force doing in Cyprus in March 1964?” he asked.

“So there is proof that the Cyprus problem started in 1963, when the Greeks overthrew the partnership state formed between the Greeks and the Turkish Cypriots of the island and tried to declare ‘enosis’ (union of the island with Greece) even back then, and this was unsuccessful."

Recalling how the Greek Cypriots again tried enosis in 1974 and were unsuccessful, Yaman stressed that Turkish Cypriots are a part of the island and part of the history of Cyprus.

"The Turkish Cypriots must have a voice ... The Greek Cypriots have tried to shut us out. They have shut us out for far too long. The Turkish Cypriots deserve their own sovereign state."

The only solution that they see today, he said, is a "two-state solution for Cyprus."

Turkish Cypriots suffered quite a lot

Ersu Ekrem, who arrived in the UK from Cyprus in 1970, told Anadolu Agency that they remember those who were killed during Black Christmas and continue to work to get everybody to remember them as well.

"The trauma that was caused in 1963 by the Greeks attacking us has remained in our memories for a long time," underlined Ekrem, adding that many people were taken from their homes or on the road during that terrible time.

Saying that there were around 100,000 Turkish Cypriots living on the island, he added that he knew people who lost their relatives during those events and knows the pain those people have gone through.

"As we were young boys growing up together ... So the memory is fresh in their minds. And they obviously suffered quite a lot. And we Turkish Cypriots in general suffered quite a lot," said Ekrem, who is a former chair of the British Turkish Cypriot Association.

On the dimensions of the massacre, he pointed out that although the casualties – 133 deaths in a 10-day period – may look relatively small, “it's about 0.05% of the Turkish Cypriot population of the time, which equates to around 90,000 English persons being killed in a 10-day period, and over 13,000 of them being taken from hospitals when they were inpatients."

Even taking inpatients from hospitals is “a great sadness" as "it's a war crime," said Ekrem.

He added that no one was found guilty or prosecuted for the massacre, and there was not even an inquiry by the Greek Cypriot police, which took over the whole government of the Cyprus, usurping Turkish Cypriots' power.

"We find that after 60 years, although we’re not at fault, we haven’t done anything to actually deserve this," underlined Ekrem, adding that Turkish Cypriots still face embargoes, which is "very unjust."

The events leading up to the Bloody Christmas started in 1955 with the foundation of EOKA, led by Georgios Grivas, a veteran soldier as well as a staunch opponent of Turks.

Active in Cyprus, then ruled by the UK, EOKA targeted not only British soldiers and civil servants but also Turkish and Greek Cypriots who opposed its extremist ideology and its goal of union with Greece.

Decades-long dispute

Cyprus has been mired in a decades-long dispute between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots despite a series of diplomatic efforts by the UN to achieve a comprehensive settlement.

Ethnic attacks starting in the early 1960s forced Turkish Cypriots to withdraw into enclaves for their safety.

In 1974, a Greek Cypriot coup aiming at Greece’s annexation of the island led to Türkiye’s military intervention as a guarantor power to protect Turkish Cypriots from persecution and violence. As a result, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus was founded in 1983.

It has seen an on-and-off peace process in recent years, including a failed 2017 initiative in Switzerland under the auspices of guarantor countries Türkiye, Greece, and the UK.

The Greek Cypriot administration was admitted to the EU in 2004, the same year when Greek Cypriots thwarted a UN plan to end the longstanding dispute.