Cyprus coup d’état 1974

On this day, at 8.15AM, 15th of July, 1974, a military junta headed by Dimitrios Ioannidis, the hardliner Greek nationalist brigadier, shot Archbishop Makaris III/

The 1974 coup d’état in Cyprus was a military coup d’état by the Greek Army in Cyprus, the Cypriot National Guard and the Greek military junta of 1967–1974. On 15 July 1974 the coup plotters ousted President Makarios III and replaced him with pro-Enosis (Greek irridentist) nationalist Nikos Sampson as replaced president, only for 2 days. The Sampson regime was described as a puppet state, whose ultimate aim was the annexation of the island by Greece; in the short term, the coupists proclaimed the establishment of the “Hellenic Republic of Cyprus”. The coup was viewed as illegal by the United Nations and violated human rights laws.

On 3 May 1974, Makarios sent the Greek government a letter that identified certain Greek military officers stationed in Cyprus as undermining the Cypriot government.

The coup was ordered by Dimitrios Ioannidis, the shadow leader of the Greek junta, and Greek officers led the Cypriot National Guard to capture the Presidential Palace in Nicosia.[15] The building was almost entirely burned down.[16] Makarios narrowly escaped death in the attack. He fled the presidential palace from its back door and went to Paphos, where the British managed to retrieve him in the afternoon of 16 July and flew him from Akrotiri to Malta in a Royal Air Force Armstrong Whitworth Argosy transport and from there to London by a de Havilland Comet the next morning. On 19 July, he attended a United Nations Security Council meeting in New York and made a speech, in which he stated that Cyprus was invaded by Greece.

Another element working against Makarios was the fact that most officers of the Cypriot National Guard were Greek regulars who supported the junta

The newly established regime has been described as an extremist puppet regime of the Greek junta. On 15 July, between 8 am and 9 am, the coup leaders proclaimed their victory on the state channel Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation, saying “The national guard intervened in order to solve the problematical situation. […]. Makarios is dead.” However, before his flight, Makarios announced that he was alive from a private broadcast in Paphos. The new government heavily censored the press and stopped left-wing newspapers being printed. Only right-wing newspapers Machi, Ethniki and Agon continued publishing, and their style was very propagandistic. Sampson did not openly announce his intention of enosis in the days following the coup, but instead focused on suppressing any support for Makarios and heavy propaganda to vilify his government.

In response, Rauf Denktaş, the leader of the Turkish Cypriot Administration, stated that he believed that the events were among Greek Cypriots and called for Turkish Cypriots not to go out, as well as for UNFICYP to take extensive security measures for Turkish Cypriots. The Cypriot National Guard made no attempts to enter the Turkish Cypriot enclaves, but raided Greek and Turkish Cypriot homes alike in mixed villages to confiscate weapons. The Turkish government brought claims that ammunition was being carried to Cyprus by Olympic Air to the attention of UNFICYP.  Whether the Turkish Cypriots suffered as a direct result of the coup remains controversial, but Sampson was seen as an untrustworthy figure due to his pro-enosis policies and “brutal” role against Turkish Cypriots in 1963.

Following the coup, the newly established junta started a crackdown on Makarios supporters, resulting in a number of deaths and a “significant number”, according to Frank Hoffmeister, being detained. The number of deaths from the coup remains a disputed issue, as the Republic of Cyprus lists the deaths due to the coup among the missing due to the Turkish invasion. According to Haralambos Athanasopulos, at least 500 Greek Cypriots have been placed on the list of 1617 Greek Cypriot missing people and their deaths blamed on the Turks and Turkish Cypriots. According to Milliyet on 19 July 1974, violent clashes had broken out in Paphos, and even excluding Paphos, the death toll due to Greek Cypriot infighting was about 300 civilians and 30 Greek soldiers, whose bodies were brought to Athens.

This was the start of a chain of reactions that have left Cyprus divided ever since.  There is NO DOUBT that the actions of this group was to blame, even though there were many factors that had led to the breakdown of relations between Cypriots in the past, even resulting in bloodshed, it was this single act, that gave Turkey the reason (or excuse) to invade Cyprus.

Here we are, forty five years later and Cyprus is STILL divided, with every glimmer of hope, swiftly dashed by a pointless blame game…….NOBODY IS INNOCENT! It does not help that many of the instigators or supporters of EOKA B’ are either in government or at the very least, highly connected. How is Cyprus to move forward, if the actions of those to blame, from either side do not have the decency, the honour and the respect to admit what they did, accept the consequences of their actions and publicly condemn the politics that led to the division of Cyprus. We cannot re-write the past, but we cannot move forward unless we are all given the opportunity to hear the truth, to acknowledge it, accept it and confine it to the past. If the corridor that is the timeline of the last few decades, were to become a journey that all Cypriots could travel and close every door behind them, then maybe, just maybe, we could look to the future and move forward as a unified Cypriot nation.

This wass a day when the perpetrators of this tragedy led to a chain of events that would make the innocent people of Cyprus the true victims. The people who would ultimately be displaced, bereaved and divided.

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Andros Loizou
Andros Loizou

The young – we must put our faith in the young Greek and Turkish Cypriots. I was born here in London during WW2. But my roots are in Karpasia [Komi Kebir, Koma Yalou, Trikomo]. The loss to me has been that, lacking access to the home my parents built for their retirement in the late 1960/ early 1970s, on the coast outside Trikomo, I have been unable to bring my children up knowing Cyprus as their ancestral home. At best, they have been tourists. I would have taken them there for the whole summer, every year – something I could… Read more »

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