Today, July 15, marks 47 years since the 1974 coup d’état which led to the division of Cyprus and its occupation by Turkey.
The Greek military junta, then ruling Greece, toppled the democratically elected president of Cyprus, the late Archbishop Makarios III.
Sirens sounded at 8:20 am to remind people of the time the coup d`etat unfolded.
A number of events condemning the coup d’état and the subsequent Turkish invasion are taking place in the capital and in the southern government controlled areas of the Republic.
The 56-seat House of Representatives is holding a special session to denounce the coup and the Turkish invasion and honor those who sacrificed their life to defend democracy and their country.
Earlier, a memorial service took place at the church of Constantinou & Elenis in the presence of the Finance Minister Harris Georgiades, standing in for the President, political party leaders, government officials and other dignitaries, officiated by Archbishop Chrysostomos II.
Wreaths will be laid at the tombs of those killed defending the Republic. Political parties will also hold special events in various towns to commemorate the dead and condemn the twin crime against Cyprus. Similar events will be held in various countries abroad where Cypriots reside.
In 1967, a military junta seized power in Greece. The relationship between that regime and President Makarios of Cyprus was tense from the outset and became increasingly strained. The late president appeared convinced that the Athens junta was involved in efforts to undermine his authority and policies through extremist underground organizations in Cyprus conspiring against his government and his life.
On July 15 1974, the Greek military junta and its Greek Cypriot collaborators carried out a coup against the democratically elected president of Cyprus.
Under the slogan “Alexander has entered hospital,” the head of Greek military forces in Cyprus Brigadier M. Georgitsis announced to the leadership of the Greek junta, in the morning of July 15, 1974, the start of the coup against President Makarios.
Makarios had just returned to the Presidential Palace in Nicosia from his weekend retreat at Troodos mountain. As the coup was unfolding in central Nicosia, the President was meeting with a group of Greek children from Egypt.
As shooting became heavy and the Presidential Palace was attacked by the National Guard, Makarios protected the children and then escaped from an unguarded passage in the west side of the Presidential Palace. He fled to Kykkos Monastery and then to Paphos. While the state radio announced his death, Makarios addressed the people from a local radio station in Paphos, saying “You know this voice… I am Makarios and I am alive…“, encouraging them to resist the military junta.
Makarios, the first President of the Republic of Cyprus, fled the country as the coupist forces took control. He boarded a British military aircraft and went to London via Malta, where on July 17 met with British Prime Minister Harold Wilson and Foreign Secretary James Callaghan. The United States called for support for the independence of Cyprus and urged all states to do likewise, while Secretary of State Henry Kissinger rejected a proposal to support the ousted Makarios. From London he went to New York to address the United Nations, urging the international community to help restore legality on the island of Cyprus.
The coup provided Turkey with a pretext to launch an invasion against the defenseless island, which is only 75 kilometers south of Turkey. In a two-phase military intervention in July and August, and despite calls from the UN Security Council [Resolution 353 (1974)] for the quick restoration of constitutional order on the island, Turkish troops advanced and occupied 36,2 percent of the sovereign territory of the Republic and forcibly expelled about 200,000 Greek Cypriots from their homes. Another 20.000 Greek Cypriots, who remained in the occupied areas, were also forced to eventually abandon their homes and seek refuge in the safety of the government controlled areas. Today, fewer than 500 enclaved Greek Cypriots remain in the occupied areas.
The pretext Ankara used to justify its military invasion was that it had to offer security to the Turkish Cypriot population on the island, which made up 18% of the total population.