Saturday, December 12, 2009

Cypriot conspiracy theories: Tassos Papadopoulos's grave robbers

In further news on President Tassos Papadopoulos's robbed grave, according to Guardian journalist Helena Smith, 'investigators said they had detained three people for questioning' [but according to the Daily Telegraph, they've now been released]; but I want to look again at (Cypriot conspiracy theories about) the possible identities of the grave robbers.

[10.45pm, 10th March 2010 update: the crime has been solved: Tassos Papadopoulos's body was stolen for ransom.]

Conspiracy, provocation

Without comment or query, Smith reported that
the former Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktas firmly rejected the charges [Greek Cypriot conspiracy theories]. "We are shocked, not only surprised," he said.

"I understand that it is being circulated among the Greek Cypriots that Turks have done it, if this is true then it means it has been done by provocateurs who do not want a settlement but want the two sides to be more apart than they are today."
Denktaş should know: he was the leader of the paramilitary Turkish Resistance Organisation, TMT (1), between 1958 and 1974, while it committed provocations, false flag operations, against the Turkish Cypriot community.

When TMT committed provocations, it blamed Greek Cypriot provocateurs; and when it was [going to be] exposed by two Turkish Cypriot Cumhuriyet journalists, TMT assassinated Ayhan Hikmet and Muzaffer Gürkan, civilian members of "its own" community. So Tassos Papadopoulos's grave robbers could be Turkish Cypriot nationalist extremists.

Tradition, culture

Less insulting to the intelligence, current Greek Cypriot President Demetris Christofias correctly observed that the grave robbery was
an unacceptable, unholy, unethical and condemnable act that damages our tradition, our culture and our respect toward the dead (Smith, 2009).
Greek Prime Minister Giorgos Papandreou described it as an '"unacceptable, sacrilegious act" that went against every Greek tradition' (Psyllides, 2009b).

But it also went against every Turkish tradition. And whether the grave robbers are Greek Cypriot or Turkish Cypriot, they are not representative of either community; indeed, they are barely even members of either community.

The only "tradition" or "culture" the grave robbers preserve is inhumane, nationalist extremism; it is a vile tradition that unites Greek Cypriot nationalist extremists and Turkish Cypriot nationalist extremists, and that divides nationalist extremists from Cypriot communities.

Certainly, Greek Cypriots too are capable of acts of desecration. Even ignoring the treatment of Turkish Cypriot and/or Islamic cultural heritage sites during the Cyprus Conflict, there is still evidence of Greek Cypriot acts of religious desecration, including violations of Christian cultural heritage sites.

On Tuesday the 10th of February 2009, Anna Hassapi documented how
A group of vandals attacked a Muslim cemetery in the Limassol suburb of Kato Polemidia at the weekend, destroying almost all the graves at the site.

The vandals broke the marble headstones....

[T]he vandals had also desecrated [a three-year-old] child's grave.
Moreover, on Friday the 23rd of March 2007, Leo Leonidou recorded that
A Catholic cemetery in Limassol was desecrated over the weekend,....

[E]ight headstones were destroyed along with several marble and wooden crosses. Two grave covers were also removed, while an icon of Saint Francis was smashed to pieces.
So Tassos Papadopoulos's grave robbers could be Greek Cypriot nationalist extremists.

With tragedy comes opportunity

Naturally (in an updated edition of the "breaking news"), '[Papadopoulos's] family expressed its deep shock at the "heinous crime of sacrilege"'.

Yet somewhat surprisingly, the family also commented that '[t]his unholy act by grave robbers... cannot in any way bury the policy or write off the legacy left by Tassos Papadopoulos'.

While the Cyprus Mail politely observed 'political spin on certain statements' (Psyllides, 2009b), the Guardian recorded that the Papadopoulos family's statement was 'heavy with political nuance' (Smith, 2009).

Greek Cypriot nationalists have exploited the opportunity that came with this tragedy; but we do not know whether they also created the opportunity.

More paranoia and conspiracy

Sadly, in another comment, John Alexander has only affirmed my fears of how deeply propaganda has penetrated and polluted public understanding of history. Alexander
claimed that
it is well documented that in the occupied areas Turkish Cypriots and Turkish settlers have engaged in grave robbing, looking for loot and as part of a systematic campaign to eliminate all traces of Hellenism in the north.
Alexander has again used 'Turkish Cypriots and Turkish settlers' as if it were the name of a single community, and as if the community were responsible for "its own" nationalist extremists; and Alexander's phrasing is again reminiscent of paraphrasing.

I wish I could believe that my work would help to destroy the propaganda.
  1. Türk Mukavemet Teşkilâtı (TMT)

Daily Telegraph, the. 2009: "Memorial service held for Greek Cypriot president after body stolen from grave". The Daily Telegraph, 12th December. Available at:

Hassapi, A. 2009: "Muslim cemetery in Limassol vandalised". Cyprus Mail, 10th February. Available at:

Leonidou, L. 2007: "Youths suspected in cemetery vandalism". Cyprus Mail, 23rd March. Available at:

Psyllides, G. 2009a: "Breaking news: Papadopoulos' grave desecrated, remains stolen". Cyprus Mail, 11th December. Available at:

Psyllides, G. 2009b: '"A macabre act of twisted minds"'. Cyprus Mail, 11th December. Available at:

Smith, H. 2009: "Grave robbers steal body of former Cypriot president". The Guardian, 11th December. Available at:

[I added paragraph breaks to make long quotations easy to read in a blog post.]

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