Cyprus Table of Contents
Relatives demonstrating for information about the fate of
the 1,600 Greek Cypriots missing in action since the summer of 1974
Courtesy Embassy of Cyprus, Washington
There has been little political violence in Cyprus since the Turkish invasion of 1974. Violence on behalf of enosis, which had been prevalent from 1955 until the invasion, was rejected by the vast majority of Greek Cypriots after 1974, although union with Greece continued to command strong emotional appeal in the right wing. Moreover, Turkish troops acted as a deterrent against terrorist operations aimed against the Turkish presence or threatening change in the status quo. Turkish sources have claimed that the Republic of Cyprus supplied arms and possibly even guerrilla-warfare training to Kurdish and Armenian opponents of the Turkish government at secret camps in the Troodos Mountains, but such allegations have been rejected by the Greek Cypriot authorities, and most observers thought it unlikely that such activities could be carried out clandestinely. Nonetheless, leaders of the Kurdish rebels had been received officially by members of the Cyprus House of Representatives, and a former head of the National Guard had reportedly visited training camps for Kurdish guerrillas in Syria.
EOKA B became a factor of diminishing importance after its role in the coup of July 1974, although it continued to be involved in some violence against the Makarios government. Fears that the organization might conduct a terrorist campaign against Turkish occupation in the north never materialized. Many former EOKA B activists accepted an offer of amnesty from Makarios, while several dozen of the most extreme leaders, including Nicos Sampson, were arrested and imprisoned. A law enacted in 1977 provided the basis for purging EOKA B members from the public service, the police, and the National Guard. In early 1978, the group announced its formal dissolution. During the 1980s, there was no further EOKA B activity, although veterans of the group came together periodically on patriotic occasions, as did other disbanded paramilitary groups. Sampson returned to Cyprus from exile in June 1990, but was immediately arrested by the Greek Cypriot police.
The danger of intercommunal violence was greatly reduced by the buffer provided by UNFICYP. It was feared initially that refugees from the north after the Turkish intervention in 1974 might resort to arms in an effort to regain lost houses and property. The rapid recovery of the economy in southern Cyprus, coupled with large amounts of international aid, enabled the refugees to be accommodated and absorbed by the community. Although permanent housing had by 1990 been provided for all of the refugees, many still wished to return to their homes; this desire was a source of emotion and tension, but not of significant violence.
Beginning in 1987, a series of demonstrations known as the Women's Walk Home were carried out by Greek Cypriot women trying to force their way into Turkish-controlled territory. For the most part, the women were turned back without casualties by UNFICYP and Turkish security personnel after entering the buffer zone and sometimes advancing a few meters into the Turkish-occupied north. The most serious incident occurred in July 1989, when about 1,000 women and religious leaders, some displaying Greek flags, crossed the buffer zone without interference from the Greek Cypriot police, spearheaded by a group of men who pushed aside barriers. More than 100 were arrested by Turkish Cypriot forces, and some women were injured in scuffling. The arrested women were released within a few days, but ten men, including two priests, were detained for ten days. In March 1990, five youths were sentenced to jail terms of up to three months for infiltrating Turkish Cypriot territory and attempting to pull down a Turkish flag. The Women's Walk Home was mainly an effort to bring pressure on the Greek Cypriot government to stand firm on issues of freedom of movement and settlement and compensation for property in the negotiations with the Turkish Cypriots. Nevertheless, it had the potential to provoke a confrontation of forces in the buffer area.
The spillover of terrorism from the Middle East injected additional tensions and violence unconnected to the conflict between the Greek-and Turkish-speaking communities. With its strategic location, Cyprus had increasingly been used as a transit point for the movement of individuals and arms as well as terrorist actions arising out of the fighting in Lebanon and the Arab-Israeli dispute. The presence of missions of Syria, Libya, and Israel and a liaison office of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) all within close proximity in Nicosia complicated the efforts of the Greek Cypriot authorities to counter the security threat.
With the curtailment of direct air service to Beirut, a relatively safe way of travel to war-torn Lebanon was by flying to Cyprus and then continuing by ferry. Palestinian terrorist groups regularly transited the island to other destinations, particularly to Eastern Europe. A weekly flight of the Iranian airline linking Tehran with Cyprus also facilitated the movement of terrorists. Helicopter flights connected Cyprus with the beseiged Christian enclaves in Beirut, permitting the movement of personnel and arms.
A number of international incidents involving Palestinians or Lebanese refugees occurred in the late 1980s. In 1985 three Israelis were murdered aboard their private yacht in Larnaca harbor by gunmen linked to the PLO. This action provoked a damaging raid six days later by the Israeli air force against the PLO headquarters in Tunisia. In 1988 seven PLO officials were killed in two car bombings in Cyprus, and a ship slated to carry Palestinian deportees to Israel was bombed at its dock in Limassol. The Abu Nidal terrorist organization, headquartered in Libya, was suspected in an attempt to bomb the Israeli Embassy; the bomb exploded some distance from the embassy, killing one of the terrorists and two Cypriots. In October 1989, six Lebanese were found guilty of possessing Soviet SAM-7 antiaircraft missiles with the intent of shooting down an airplane carrying the Lebanese dissident Christian leader, General Michel Aoun.
Other violence was linked to protests over the continued existence of British bases on the island and their use by the United States. In 1986 British service personnel and their dependents were targets of attacks by groups believed to be linked with Libya. The attacks were believed to be in retaliation against Britain for making its bases in England available for United States raids against Libya.
The Greek Cypriot communist party, known as the Progressive Party of the Working People (Anorthotikon Komma Ergazomenou Laou--AKEL) has campaigned vigorously against the bases and the use of them for United States intelligence-gathering. AKEL also proclaimed its opposition to what it regarded as the linkage of Cyprus to NATO through the bases, the presence of the United States Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean, and United States "provocation" against Libya, all of which were perceived as threatening the peace and security of the region. Despite its adamant foreign policy, AKEL has never pursued a violent course in pressing its political demands nor has it been regarded as a security threat.
Data as of January 1991
Cyprus Table of Contents