Letter to The Wall Street Journal, September 1, 1996

Letters to the Editor
The Wall Street Journal
200 Liberty Street
New York, NY 10281

To the Editor:

Your August 20th editorial's assessment of the apportionment of
culpability during the recent protests by Cypriots over the twenty-two
year occupation of their country by Turkish troops was morally bankrupt.
The demonstrators carried no weapons and posed no threat to the well armed
Turkish occupation forces. Yet, as confirmed by UN spokesperson Waldemar
Rokoszewski, Turkish troops intentionally fired live ammunition at the
demonstrators and under direct orders from their superiors. 

The culture of brutality that the Greeks and Greek Cypriots have been
lamenting all along was this time exposed and documented for all the world
to see. In the presence of UN peacekeeping troops a Greek Cypriot
protester was chased and, after being caught helpless while entangled in
barbed wire, was beaten to death by a mob which, according to a UN report,
included Turkish security forces. Leaving behind a wife who was
five-months pregnant, Tasos Isaac was beaten with sticks, pipes and other
objects and received his death blow after one of the Turks smashed his
head with a large rock, the force of which popped Tasos' eyeballs out of
his skull. 

A second unarmed Cypriot protester Solomos Spirou Solomou was shot dead as
he started to climb up a flagpole towards a Turkish flag only minutes
after the funeral of Tasos Isaac was held. He was fired at repeatedly by
Turkish soldiers and officers, receiving three gunshot wounds and falling
dead in front of a crowd of journalists and UN peacekeeping troops. Even
our own State Department, notorious for its head-in-the-sand approach when
dealing with Turkish transgressions of international law and human rights,
was shocked upon seeing the footage of the murders, "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." I urge the editorial
staff and correspondents of your newspaper to visit the Internet sites
which contain actual footage of the killings at either of the following
web sites: 

Although you coldly dismiss this human tragedy by blaming the Cypriots and
Turks in equal measure, condemning both sides as acting "like a couple of
adolescents", the facts belie your assessment of culpability. The Cypriot
Government was indeed very concerned about preventing the protesters from
crossing into the "buffer zone", fearing both bloodshed and political
repercussions, to the point where organizers of the event canceled the
protest upon the urging of Cypriot President Glafcos Clerides. Clearly,
the Cypriot authorities did take appropriate measures such as increased
security, erecting barricades, issuing exhortations forbidding the
protesters from crossing into the occupation zone, and issuing repeated
appeals to demonstrators to leave the buffer zone. One telling indicator
that the determination of the protesters had far more to do with their
crossing of the "Green Line" than any action or inaction on the part of
the Cypriot Government is that the unarmed demonstrators could not even be
stopped by the draconian measures taken by the Turkish security forces.
Although numerous peace demonstrators were shot by occupation forces
during the course of the demonstrations, the protesters were not even
deterred by Turkish bullets. 

After the two murders the Cypriot Government forbade all further
demonstrations near the buffer zone. While Turkish Foreign Minister Tansu
Ciller was further exacerbating the situation by traveling to Cyprus and
issuing inflammatory rhetoric--proclaiming that "nobody lays a finger on
the [Turkish] flag. If anyone dares do that, we'll break their hands"--the
Greek Prime Minister risked important political capital by postponing his
trip to Cyprus and canceling his attendance of the victims' funeral to
avoid the appearance of antagonizing the Turkish Foreign Minister. 

Finally, your argument that "the Turkish Cypriot population of the island
would be a powerless minority without Turkish troops" and thus Cyprus
should not be accepted into the EU is a patently irresponsible one. The
Turkish Cypriots fared far better under Cyprus' pre-invasion Government
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. 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
Cyprus 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

An appropriate analogy lending insight into the understanding of
Greco-Turkish strife in Cyprus is the African-American civil liberties
movement in the US. Far more repressive methods were used by our federal
and state governments against black civil rights militants during the
Fifties and Sixties, including many more per-capita deaths, incarcerations
and other civil liberty violations, than endured by the Turkish Cypriots
during the same period under unified Cyprus. Is the Wall Street Journal
then advocating a separate state for black America? 


Phillip Spyropoulos, Esq.

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