Lobby was set up in the UK in the early 1990s by Greek Cypriot refugee associations based in the UK and is and has always been entirely non-party-political. It has become the voice of the Greek Cypriots in the UK. Lobby campaigns for the reunification of Cyprus on the basis of the 3Rs.
Presentation by Lobby for Cyprus at the first convention for refugees and expelled Europeans held in Trieste, Italy, 31 March 2007
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for the kind invitation to speak today on behalf of the Lobby for Cyprus. I would also like to congratulate the organisers of this important event in the campaign of the displaced persons of Europe for their right to return. Lobby was set up in the UK in the early 1990s by Greek Cypriot refugee associations based in the UK and is and has always been entirely non-party-political. It has become the voice of the Greek Cypriots in the UK. Lobby campaigns for the reunification of Cyprus on the basis of the 3Rs:
Removal of all Turkish occupying troops from Cyprus
Repatriation of all Turkish colonists
Return of all refugees to their homes without restriction and pre-condition
“The demographic Turkification of the north will soon be complete. Towns and villages such as Kyrenia and Lapithos which stood empty and ghostly until April are now filled with settlers, some Turkish Cypriot, some mainland Turks. The return of the original inhabitants is ruled out, and the Turkish authorities now say quite openly that the remaining 5,800 Greek Cypriots in the north will be reduced by half this Christmas”.
The Economist, 4 September 1976
Since the brutal and illegal Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974 Turkey, the UK and the US have been obsessed with achieving a permanent partition of Cyprus. They seek to do this by creating two politically equal states, one Greek and one Turkish, within the guise of a loose federation. However this obsession overlooks one important factor, the historical, geographical and cultural reality that has existed in Cyprus for thousands of years.
Let us look at the facts. Greeks have lived in Cyprus for at least 3,000 years. Some historians claim that they were descendants of the Mycenean Greeks following the Trojan war, others that they were Achaean Greeks, descendants of Agamennon. It doesn’t really matter. The point is that Greek language, Greek culture, and Greek religious practices have been part of the fabric of Cyprus for over 3,000 years. When the apostles left the Holy Land to spread Christianity, Cyprus was one of the first places they reached and St Paul and St Barnabas established Christian communities there. Since that time Cyprus has had a very rich Christian heritage. There are monasteries containing the bones of St Lazarus, icons painted by St Luke, monasteries commemorating visits by other disciples of Jesus. Its Christian history and culture is unrivalled and second to none in Europe.
Cyprus is a small island, smaller than Sicily or Sardinia. Greeks lived all across the island, for these 3,000 years until 1974. They continued to do so even after the Ottoman Turks first seized Cyprus in 1578 from the Venetians. Prior to 1974 the Christian Greeks and their comparatively new neighbours, the Muslim Ottoman Turks, lived side by side in villages and towns across the island,
As you have heard however in the summer of 1974 30 percent of the Greeks were ethnically cleansed from the northern part of the island by the Turkish army in order to enable the Turkish community, which in 1974 made up just 18 percent of the population, to have their own geographical racially pure area. In 1983 the 18 percent declared their own 'state' in the occupied area. Although no state recognised this pseudo-regime except Turkey, the US and the UK have turned a blind eye since 1974 to the massive violations of human rights, which took place then and continue today. Indeed as you have heard from Mr Sherkesavvas only three years ago they tried to foist a political settlement on Cyprus giving the 18 percent equal say in running the country to the 82 percent majority and legitimising the theft of much of the property of this 82 percent. Not surprisingly the 18 percent said yes and the 82 percent said no to this deal!
Turkey has brought in over 160,000 illegal immigrants from Turkey to repopulate our lands in an attempt to ethnically engineer a change in the demographic composition of the occupied area and make the north Turkish. Before the invasion, land owned by Greeks in Cyprus exceeded 80 percent of the occupied area. Turkey’s pseudo state in the occupied area, which under its constitution claimed to have acquired ownership of all of the land in the occupied area, issued new title-deeds and either gave our property to colonists from Turkey or sold the property to property developers.
For the last ten years thousands of Greek properties have been sold using these bogus title-deeds to non-Greeks. There is massive development taking place in the occupied area as our homes and lands are being concreted over by Turkey to try to create a new political reality on the ground. No Greeks are allowed to live in their ancestral lands but every other European in this room can if they so wish buy property there. This is obviously apartheid and a complete rejection of the EU principles of freedom of movement. Let us not forget that Turkey sill harbours delusions of EU membership.
As regards the property issue you should know that every Court of law that has looked at the issue of property ownership in the occupied area has declared that the original Greek owners of the property remain the owners. For example this has been confirmed in the Loizidou and Xenides cases in the European Court of Human Rights, and in the Orams case in the High Court of Justice in London. Indeed Mrs Loizidou was awarded over US$900,000 compensation for loss of use of her lands. The payment was not for loss of ownership as the Court held she still owns the property.
Given this state of affairs why would anyone agree to an exchange of properties or compensation, which would probably never be paid by Turkey, for loss of ownership when they can claim successfully for loss of use?
OK so the Greeks have been pushed out, but what about the Christina heritage of Cyprus, now Europe’s heritage also? Well this is perhaps the saddest part. All the monasteries and churches of the occupied area have been destroyed, turned into stables or toilets. Artistically irreplaceable icons and other works of art have been defaced or looted, to be then sold at auction by the thieves. Christian cemeteries have been systematically vandalised, Greek place names changed. In short every attempt has been made to obliterate the rich Greek and Christian heritage of the north of Cyprus.
Ladies and gentlemen this is a crime against humanity and genocide, human and cultural according to the 1948 UN Convention on Genocide. We all know of the terrible Armenian genocide, and we will hear of the equally awful Pontian genocide but Turkey’s genocide in Cyprus continues every day, even as we meet here today.
We the Greek refuges from occupied area will not give up on our right to return. We owe this not just to our children and grandchildren, but to our parents and grandparents. We also owe this to the people of Europe, who deserve to share in the culture and history of Cyprus. We must not allow 33 years of barbarism to triumph over 3,000 years of European culture and religion.
I hope that the discussions over the next few days will begin the process of establishing the right to return not just for my people but for all of yours also.