Dimitris Rapidis

Cyprus, 38 years later

The Committe of the Missing People is set in front of the biggest mass grave in the Turkish-occupied territory of Cyprus, according to information provided by the Cypriot daily Liberal. The first bone remnants have started to be collected being attributed to killed and captured Greek-Cypriot soldiers that had been trapped when the defensive frontline in Milia area fell down on the 14th of August 1974.

It seems that many soldiers had been left abandoned without high-ranked coordination by their officials and that they had been captured and murdered afterwards. Hamitköy was the munition base of the Turkish army and when the advance of the military had started it was impossible to be intercepted by the few militants of the Greek-Cypriot national guard.

The reportage of Liberal is also fueled with details about the way some of the Greek-Cypriot soldiers had tried to escape to the free zone but had been massacred by the Turkish soldiers that had all the ease to run after them. The very place were the grave was found was known for a long time, but those few who knew it wanted to keep it secret. Now that the disclosure is underway, it is certain that this issue will stir up a fresh debate over the atrocities of the Turkish side and will re-open the “big door” of national guilties for both sides.

Coming back to the initials, the Turkish invasion in Cyprus in 1974 was realized in the 20th of July when 40,000 soldiers invaded the island with the support of the navy and the aviation. The military operations had been realized in two stages, with one month away each other, and had ended up in a landed occupation of 37% of the island. Nearly 200,000 people were uprooted, 4,000 were killed, while 1,619 militants and civilians -including women and children- were declared missing. The latters had been either arrested by the Turkish invasion units or disappeared shortly after ceasefire was reached in regions being controlled by the Turkish army.

The issue of missing people -being estimated around 1,500- concerns for decades public opinion in Greece and Cyprus as well as the European Court of Human Rights, which has repeatedly condemned Turkey for violating human rights of missing people and their relatives. Despite the fact that many have tried -for electoral purposes- to maintain the hope of relatives that missing people may still alive, possibly being detained in prisons of Anatolia, reality seems to be the one that the deceased Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktaş had once described: that the missing people never fled from the island, but they had been executed massively by extreme, radical Turkish-Cypriots and been been buried into massive graves. The men in charge of these atrocities had never been sought nor been brought into justice for their deeds.

In 1981, after strenuous efforts, the Investigating Committee of Missing People was established and functioned under the auspices and the participation of the United Nations. Even if from 1999 some excavations started to see the light, the work of the Committee was only officially recognized in 2006, when DNA identification process with the return of the bone remnants to the relatives was applied. Still, there is much time needed to come to a conclusion but it is certain that whatever the outcome of the Investigating Committee might be, pressure over the findings will start to be even more hard.

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