Letter to The Washington Post, September 10, 1996

Letters to the Editor

The Washington Post

1150 15th St., NW

Washington, DC 20071

                       RE: "Try Everything", August 26, 1996

To the Editor:

Your conclusion--that the recent killings of unarmed Cypriot demonstrators by Turkish security forces and right-wing militants imported from the Turkish mainland demonstrates the inability of Greek and Turkish-Cypriot communities to coexist--was wholly misguided.

Although your analysis attempts to characterize the incident as one involving "intercommunal violence", the facts tell another story. Other than sporadic rock throwing, an act of symbolic defiance which posed no real danger to the well-armed Turkish occupation forces, the unarmed protesters' demonstration was clearly a peaceful one. In fact, the demonstration was organized by motorcyclists from Europe who planned a progressive and, above all, non-violent protest which included their riding from Berlin through Europe and into the occupied territory.

The beating and shooting deaths of the two Greek Cypriot protesters were so shocking and uncalled for that even our own State Department, notorious for its head-in-the-sand approach when dealing with Turkey's human rights violations, was shocked "deplor[ing] the actions of the Turkish Cypriot security forces in firing on protesters [and using] force . . . disproportionate to the threat posed by the protesters." Spokesperson Nicholas Burns continued, stating "frankly, protection of a flag cannot excuse the horrible events of August 14. Human life and the sanctity of human life are ultimately more important than protecting a piece of cloth. The reaction by Turkish Cypriot security forces were entirely disproportionate to the events."

Moreover, the deaths, shootings and beatings of the demonstrators were by and large perpetrated by Turkish security forces, Turkish settlers illegally imported from mainland Turkey, or militants from the Grey Wolves, a violent right-wing paramilitary organization intentionally flown in by the Turkish Government by the hundreds to ensure that violence did indeed mar the protest. Why would Turkey intentionally kill and maim peaceful demonstrators while hundreds of cameras from around the world were there to record the event? Your report on Cyprus seems to answer that question; to create an image of inter-ethnic strife that simply does not exist.

The Turkish Cypriots fared far better under Cyprus' pre-invasion Government, both economically as well as in terms of civil and political rights. The same atmosphere of political oppression that characterizes Turkey today pervades occupied Cyprus, and while free Cyprus has achieved stunning economic prosperity, occupied Cyprus has deteriorated into a virtual ghetto wholly subsidized by Turkey. Many Turkish Cypriots, particularly those old enough to remember life while Greeks and Turks coexisted in a unified Cyprus, openly welcome reunification. Every day hundreds of Turkish Cypriots swarm across the "Green Line" to work in free Cyprus, welcomed and encouraged by the Greek Cypriots. Turkish Cypriots themselves have protested the culture of violence imported from Turkey. On March 11th Turkish Cypriots held a march in occupied Kyrenia to oppose the regime's wholesale importation of Turkish settlers and in protest against a rash of armed robberies and killings by mainland Turks, many of whom view occupied Cyp rus as a crime haven.

Even during the most violent intercommunal fighting between Greek and Turkish Cypriots during the 1960's, deaths and serious injuries, Turkish or Greek, were relatively few and certainly did not approach the magnitude inflicted by the 1974 invasion, when thousands of Greek Cypriots were killed, maimed and raped by Turkish troops. Anyone familiar with the island's recent history would understand that neither the Greek nor the Turkish Cypriots pose a serious threat to one other. It is the occupation forces from Turkey that do, and that have inflicted the overwhelming number of fatalities on the island since its independence from British rule.

Given these facts, the Post correspondents responsible for the piece either had an inexcusably superficial grasp of the issues underlying the incident or thoroughly discredited themselves trying to fit an agenda into a reality that that would not have it. Conjuring up from these facts a Bosnia-esque scenario of ethnic strife between the two legitimate communities of Cyprus, the 80% ethnic-Greek majority community and the 18% ethnic-Turkish one, in order to legitimize Turkey's morally audacious and patently illegal occupation of almost 40% of a foreign country constitutes nothing less than unethical journalism.

Very truly yours,

Phillip Spyropoulos, Esq.

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