Anniversary event marked bi-communal acts of courage in Cyprus

Representatives from the Greek and Turkish communities on Cyprus came together to honour the unsung heroes from both sides who risked their lives to save people during the 1974 invasion.

An event to honour the courage of ordinary Turkish and Greek Cypriots who risked their lives to save those labelled as ‘enemies’ by nationalist groups during the inter-communal clashes of the 50’s, 60’s and 1974 invasion, was held two weeks ago in Nicosia.

The event – organised by the ‘Bi-communal initiative of relatives of missing persons and victims of massacre and war,’ a collective of Turkish and Greek Cypriot organisations – is calling for an end to nationalist hatred to support a ‘peaceful and democratic re-unification of the island.’

Although the organisation holds an annual memorial event for the victims of war on or near the anniversary of the invasion, this year was the first celebration of individual acts of humanity and courage.

“The actions of the people of both communities who risked their lives to save people will be remembered and honoured,” explained organisation spokesman, Christos Stavrou, from Dali.

The organisation has managed to trace unsung heroes from both the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot communities, many of whom shared their stories at the Ledra Street event which also brought together relatives of the missing and reunited several survivors with the individuals who provided them with protection.

Christos became involved in the bi-communal initiative as a result of his own efforts to investigate the disappearance of his brother Antonis who has been missing since 1974.

He says that many relatives of missing persons have made the journey across the Green line since 2003 and often find themselves sharing and helping other grieving families in their search for information about their loved ones.

“We realise that in coming together we have experience to share rather than them dividing us.

“People from both sides feel a common pain and this is bringing them together. Most have been very positive about it and the majority of victims share this feeling,” he said.

In addition to collecting data and evidence related to the events of the past five decades, the group aims to establish an official bi-communal body to investigate the atrocities carried out on both sides of the divide.

“We are trying to work with other groups to form a formal reconciliation commission group with statutory status agreed by the two leaders with a legal framework to enable it to carry out formal investigations and hearings. It would have to be decided if there would be an amnesty for people testifying but this is one of the controversial issues to be resolved,” Christos explains.

The organisation had a good turnout at the event.

For Christos it is another step on a personal journey to find the answers regarding his brother’s fate, and toward achieving recognition of the need to provide an accurate account of the events that have shaped Cyprus’ political and social landscape.

“We have a responsibility to establish the truth and a true history of Cyprus over the last fifty years to benefit the generations of Cypriots to come,” he said.

List of persons honoured

Alpay Topuz from Ebiho (Abohor – Cihangir) – he was in charge of Voni prisoners camp in 1974 where around 600 Greek Cypriot prisoners of war were kept. He stopped and prevented rapes and gave help to women with children, bringing them milk and finding them toys to play… he treated prisoners with humanity.

Stavros Poyrazis – He was the muhtar of Strongylos (Turunchlu). He saved the lives of Turkish Cypriots from his village in 1963. Then, twice in 1974 when some Greek Cypriots from other villages came to Strongylos (Turunchlu) in order to kill some Turkish Cypriots, Stavros Poyrazis stopped them and said, `Go back to your villages! You can’t touch the Turkish Cypriots of Strongylos!` Stavros Poyrazis has been`missing` since 1974.

Ertan Akincioglu – a shepherd from Lapathos (Bogazici). He saved 8-9 Greek Cypriots from being killed, mainly from Gypsou in 1974. He also saved some other Greek Cypriots from villages around his own.

Cengiz Ratip – was an MP in the Republic of Cyprus. In 1963, he risked his own life travelling all the way from Polis to Kochino (Erenkoy) in order to save a busload of Greek Cypriot kids from Polis that had been kidnapped in retaliation for the disappearance of two Turkish Cypriots. Cengiz Ratip has been`missing` since 1964.

Christos Kiprianou from Lefkonico saved Ahmet Yorganci from Catoz (Caoz – Serdarli) during the coup in 1974, hiding him at a friend’s house in Nicosia. During the war in 1974, Ahmet Yorganci saved Christos Kiprianou from being killed in Catoz (Caoz – Serdarli).

Christofis Poseidias from the village Dali, together with the help of some of his Greek Cypriot neighbours, saved the lives of Turkish Cypriot women and children from Dali from being attacked and raped by EOKA-B in 1974, by hiding them in his house.

Papa Kleanthis (priest) from Dromolaxia (Mormenekse) Panagiotis Kosti Patsalou (old muhtar of Kiti – Cite)  and Yorgi Mouzouros (the former muhtar of Dromolaxia – Mormenekse) saved Turkish Cypriot men of Dromolaxia (Mormenekse) from being executed by EOKA-B in 1974. EOKA-B had arrested all the Turkish Cypriot men of Dromolaxia (Mormenekse) and put the on a bus and brought them to Kiti (Cite) to be executed. It was the priest and the muhtar Panayi Kosti and the muhtar Yorgi Mouzouros who ran to save them.