Friday, November 21, 2008

False flag operations, 1958-1963

I'm currently trying to write a conference paper on "treatment of cultural heritage in Cyprus, 1963-1974". One thing distracting me is treatment of cultural heritage between 1958 and 1963. It seems that all organised nationalist attacks were false flag operations - extremists' attacks upon their own symbolic sites, which they blamed on their enemies to frighten their own community and force it to accept their own extremism. There were also somewhat spontaneous nationalist attacks caused by the extremists' false flag operations and open anti-left-wing attacks by nationalists (but against their own community).

[Correction: there were intercommunal attacks on community places that were not false flag operations. In the two months of intercommunal violence that followed TMT's 1958 false flag operation, Greek Cypriots were expelled from Omorphita/Küçük Kaymaklı, and Turkish Cypriots were expelled from a(n uncertain) number of villages. 'Many [of those] Turkish [Cypriot] villages were burned'. I've also learned of other false flag operations, which I will record later (here or elsewhere). (Correction added on the 18th of January 2008.)]

There had not been significant violence against symbolic sites before 1958. During disturbances in 1895, some Christian Cypriot children had thrown stones into a Muslim Cypriot school in Nicosia (Asmussen, 2004: 74). At a time of widespread unrest in 1912, some Christian Cypriot adults had thrown stones at a mosque in Limassol. That caused a riot - the "Djoumada Incident" - in which five were killed and either 123 or 134 were wounded (123 according to Bryant, 2004: 92; 134 according to Asmussen, 2004: 79). Around the same time, after a Muslim Cypriot family fled from threats, their Christian Cypriot neighbours looted their evacuated home in Monagroulli (Asmussen, 2004: 78; 79).

Obviously, the 1912 riot was a significant, tragic event, but the physical destruction that triggered the trouble was minimal and it didn't cause any other attacks upon property. In the 1922 riots, there was no noted violence against symbolic sites (in Asmussen, 2004: 84-85). The violence was local, personal. There was threatening nationalist rhetoric (Asmussen, 2004: 74-75), but it didn't work. Locals didn't accept their leaders' opportunistic nationalism, or their extremists' desire for nationalist violence. Between 1922 and 1957 there was no intercommunal violence. The only violence against symbolic sites was anti-colonial: the destruction of the British colonial Government House in 1931 (detailed by Schaar, Given and Theocharous, 1995: 64). Then, in 1957, EOKA killed a British colonial auxiliary; because that auxiliary was Turkish Cypriot, Turkish Cypriots smashed Greek Cypriot shops.

From 1958, there was also intra-communal violence against symbolic sites. EOKA and TMT tried to destroy the bicommunal, anti-nationalist class struggle, not primarily by attacking the others, but by attacking their own. They frightened their own into "appropriate national(ist) behaviour". Trade unionists were intimidated or killed. Sites of left-wing activism were blown up or burnt down.

Protest against EOKA's destruction of the office of the Limassol District Committee of the Communist Party, AKEL; unknown date ((c) Ezekias Papaioannou, 1975(?): 8)

On the 7th of June 1958, the Turkish Consulate Press Office was bombed; however, it was not bombed by EOKA. It was bombed by TMT. Either unaware Turkish Cypriots or TMT agents rioted and Greek Cypriots were expelled from a mixed district in Nicosia. Turkish Cypriot nationalist extremists then turned over or torched the evacuated Greek Cypriot homes.

Lots of Turkish Cypriots fled from mixed or isolated villages. According to Nancy Crawshaw, Turkish Cypriot nationalist extremists were responsible for most of the hundreds of individual arson attacks against homes and religious sites, but according to Keith Kyle, '[m]any Turkish [Cypriot] villages were burned' wholly.

(There are English, Greek and Turkish-language sources for the details of the Turkish Consulate Press Office bombing/βόμβα στο Γραφείο Τύπου της Τουρκίας/Türk Haberler Merkezi'nin önüne TMT tarafından bomba konması. Unfortunately, when I was in Cyprus I didn't know to take a photograph, and now I can't find one. I've looked everywhere in English and Turkish. I would be very grateful if someone knew where I could find one!)

On the 25th of March 1962, TMT bombed Bayraktar Mosque and Ömeriye Mosque, then murdered Ayhan Hikmet and Muzaffer Gürkan when they revealed that TMT were responsible. They bombed Bayraktar Mosque again on the 23rd of January 1963, and it was probably TMT who bombed Ömeriye Mosque again on the 30th of May.

Bayraktar Mosque, Nicosia

Ömeriye Mosque, Nicosia

TMT was not alone in its activities. On the 3rd of December 1963, the EOKA successor, the paramilitary Akritas Organisation (οργάνωσης "Ακρίτας"), bombed the statue of EOKA fighter Markos Drakos (η βόμβα στο άγαλμα του Μάρκου Δράκου/Eokacı Markos Drakos'un heykeline bomba attılar).

Markos Drakos Memorial, Nicosia

As Richard Patrick observed of the outbreak of inter-communal violence in 1963, 'most Cypriots expected an outbreak of violence to be precipitated by armed extremists'. Both communities' nationalist extremists wanted conflict and tried to create it, but neither wanted to be held responsible for it.

They needed their own community's support, so the extremists wanted their community to believe they were protecting them from others' violence. The paramilitaries didn't want the civilians to know they were not simply failing to protect them, but actually trying to get them harmed in order to excuse their own nationalist violence. 'Had the incident of 21 December not occurred, there can be no doubt that a similar Incident... would have been precipitated'.

At the same time, each side's extremists had to destroy its own community's alternative to it, so the community had no alternative but to acquiesce to the nationalists' violence. It was particularly important for the nationalists to destroy the non-nationalist alternatives, because they were not only rivals for power within their community, but completely different programmes for the island. The non-nationalist alternatives strove for coexistence, equality and social justice; they held the promise of peace. The nationalists could not tolerate that.

Once violence had broken out the false flag operations were no longer necessary to manufacture fear. Instead, the paramilitaries tried to secure power by oppressing the left wing within their own community and displacing or eliminating the other community. An important part of that programme of ethnic cleansing was the destruction of other communities' cultural heritage between 1963 and 1974 and since.

Asmussen, J. 2004: "Limassol 1912-Dali 1922: Cypriots in nationalist conflict". Journal of Cyprus Studies, Volumes 8-9, Numbers 1-2, 72-92.
Bryant, R. 2004: Imagining the modern: The cultures of nationalism in Cyprus. London: I. B. Tauris and Co. Ltd.
Papaioannou, E. 1975(?): Cyprus, victim of imperialist conspiracy and Turkish aggression, appeals to all peace and freedom-loving peoples of the world. Nicosia: Anorthotiko Komma Ergazomenou Laou (AKEL) [Ανορθωτικό Κόμμα Εργαζόμενου Λαού (ΑΚΕΛ)] (Progressive Party of Working People). Available at:*
Schaar, K W, Given, M and Theocharous, G. 1995: Under the clock: Colonial architecture and history in Cyprus, 1878-1960. Nicosia: Bank of Cyprus.

* "Cyprus, victim of imperialist conspiracy and Turkish aggression, appeals to all peace and freedom-loving peoples of the world", or "Cyprus: victim of imperialist conspiracy and Turkish aggression - appeals to all peace and freedom-loving peoples of the world? (Is "appeals" a verb or a noun here?)

[Updated on the 22nd of November 2008: the section on violence in 1957-1958 was extended; a note on intra-communal class violence was inserted.]


  1. The name is probably Tzamouda: "the little tzami", i.e.: "the little mosque".

    Many people, influenced by inglish, think that the sound tz (actually an influence from turkish, as in the name: Cemal) should be written dj, or with some other patented method. Then, I guess that someone mispelled the name further.

    There is still a toponymy Tzamouda in Lemesos, today.

    Toponymies do not come in pairs. They have one form --usually Greek. You are not scholarly on toponymies, you are usually considering that each person who talked with you while coughing is actually reporting a new version.

    And toponymies are cultural heritage. Or, so says the UN Convention for the Standardization of Toponymies. (Have a look at it). You are not respecting that. You are senselessly reporting two forms, or many forms, as if there were actually a Greek and a turkish form, as if there had to be a Greek and a Turkish side in everything. This is ideological bias.

  2. Thank you for this comment. The tip on Tzoumada/Tzamouda is really helpful. I agree with you that toponymies are indeed cultural heritage. As such, I believe that all toponyms should be preserved.

    However, I fear you have misunderstood my use of toponyms. It has nothing to do with ideology; it has everything to do with practicality.

    The existence of standard toponyms does not erase alternative toponyms. I record them so that people who only know the alternative toponyms can still find information about the places (including their standard names); and so that people who know the standard toponyms can learn more about those places through their alternative names.

    You will note that, even when one community's name for a place is a translation or even transliteration of the other community's name for it, I give both. Not everyone knows the other community's name for a place; not everyone has the other community's map of places; even when the communities' names for a place are very similar, not everyone can recognise the the other community's name.

    Where I have listed many toponyms, they are not toponyms that I have heard; they are toponyms recorded in Jack Goodwin's Historical Toponymy of Cyprus; and those are derived from maps, records and other contemporary written documents.

    The "people influenced by English" aren't wrong (though neither are those who transliterate the Cypriot "tz"). Only Greek/Cypriot-speakers know that "tz" should/could be pronounced like a Turkish "c". Everyone else only knows the literal native English pronunciation. We and they have to use "dj" for readers to be able to recognise and correctly pronounce the word. I assume the "people influenced by English" want non-Cypriots to be able to pronounce Cypriot place names correctly. (As a Greek/Cypriot-speaker, I use the Cypriot transliteration.)

  3. The Djoumada Incident may also be named after the time of the event according to the Islamic calendar (in the same way that Greeks discuss Septemvriana, Oktovriana and Dekemvriana). Obviously, in that case, it would be wrong to use "Tzoumada", because it would be a translation from Arabic rather than Cypriot.

  4. There is no United Nations Convention for the Standardisation of Toponymies (though there have been ten UN conferences on the standardisation of geographical names).

    The UN has recommended that, in multilingual areas, states should:

    '(a) Determine the geographical names in each of the official languages, and other languages as appropriate;
    (b) Give a clear indication of equality or precedence of officially acknowledged names;
    (c) Publish these officially acknowledged names in maps and gazetteers.'

    The 2006 Manual for the National Standardisation of Geographical Names, by the United Nations' Group of Experts on Geographical Names, explicitly recognises that '[i]t can sometimes be difficult to achieve this one name/one feature ideal, especially in multilingual areas where name usage is divided along language lines'.

    It states that authorities can:

    '(a) Choose only one name, based on specific criteria, as the official form;
    (b) Recognize and make available for use in other languages, one or more names (that is to say allonyms—Glossary, 005), not equal to the official form in rank, but chosen for use in specified contexts; or
    (c) Choose two or more forms as official on an equal basis (multiple names would thus most likely be shown on maps where scale permitted).'

    So, I am not in any way disrespecting UN principles; in fact, I am honouring them.