Friday, December 11, 2009

President Tassos Papadopoulos: grave robbed

Following the iKypros link on the Modern Greek Studies Association listserv (MGSA-L), I learned that Greek Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos's grave had been robbed.

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

According to Cyprus Mail journalist George Psyllides (2009a), 'unknown individuals last night dug up the grave of former President Tassos Papadopoulos and stole his remains' from the village of Deftera, the day before the anniversary of his death.

In addition, 'white powder, reported to be lime, [had been] scattered around' (to disguise or destroy evidence that might have identified the perpetrators).

(This has been reported widely, from the BBC to Hürriyet Daily News (via AFP).)

His family stated that '[ό]που κι αν βρίσκεται η σορός του, η φωνή του θα ακούγεται [[w]herever his body may be now, his voice will be heard]'.

Nationalist extremists, enemies of the state, foreign interests

No-one yet knows the identity of the tomb-robbers; but Papadopoulos's family may be right and the act of desecration may promote Greek Cypriot nationalism generally and Papadopoulos's politics specifically; but that does not mean that Greek Cypriot nationalists did it.

There are also Turkish Cypriot nationalist extremists, who may have committed an act of provocation; and there are Greek Cypriot anti-nationalists who may have committed an act of revenge or punishment.

There is already wild speculation about the identity of the perpetrators, as the following examples from the Cyprus Mail demonstrate.

(Presumably Turkish Cypriot) Hasan Has has already blamed the crime on,
Nationalist elements in action again. Stirring up the climate.
Has did not single out either community's nationalist extremists. As Has commented,
I never liked the man but nobody deserves this.
Lets hope the responsibles are brought to justice soon.
(Presumably Greek Cypriot) Pavlos from Larnaca wondered whether the theft was an act of 'the "Enemies of the State" to inforce the status quo and force the boarders [sic - borders] closed'.

(Presumably himself foreign) Matthew alleged 'foreign intervention.... foreign interests', while (presumably Greek Cypriot) Rimbaud from Nicosia thought it had nothing to do with politics, and everything to do with profit, as he 'guess[ed]' that,
the thieves will no doubt be holding out for a ransom. Oh and of course if they're found to have any connection with our friends up north, all hell will break loose.
As Katherine Toumbourou from the Cyprus Mail observed, Papadopoulos's 'relatives and close friends might be reading your comments. Imagine how you would feel if this happened to one of your loved ones'.

Paranoia and conspiracy

Toumbourou warned that '[o]ffensive comments will be removed and users possibly banned from commenting on articles', and sadly, the Cyprus Mail has already had to remove comments.

Helpfully (for me, if no-one else), commentator John Alexander - presumably a foreigner rather than a Greek Cypriot - flagged up the deletion of his comment, defended it, then reposted it:
Why was my comment, which I reprint below, deleted?

It is factually accurate – there has been widespread grave robbing in occupied Cyprus – and the possibility that Tassos' body was stolen by Turkish nationalist provocateurs has to be seriously considered. CM [the Cyprus Mail] shouldn't censor uncomfortable truths.

Obviously, it's too early to say at the moment who's responsible for this sick crime; but what we can say is that after the invasion in the occupied areas of Cyprus, Turkish Cypriots and Turkish settlers engaged in widespread desecration and looting of Greek graves, stealing jewellery from the dead and so on.

We also know that Turkish nationalist terrorists on the island have a long history of provocations aimed at stoking up tension between the two communities.(1)
Apart from exhibiting the paranoia and conspiracy theories rife in Cyprus (e.g. in talk of 'Enemies of the State', 'foreign interests', etc.), these comments seem to display how deeply propaganda has penetrated and polluted Cypriot (and international) thought and understanding.

John Alexander not only used categories from Greek Cypriot propaganda, but also used them in the same way, comfortably switching between specific 'Turkish nationalist provocateurs' and 'Turkish Cypriots and Turkish settlers' generally.

Alexander also used phrases like 'after the invasion in the occupied areas of Cyprus, Turkish Cypriots and Turkish settlers engaged in widespread desecration and looting of Greek graves', which sounded like close paraphrases of Greek Cypriot propaganda.

It's also worth noting how the cultural heritage propaganda has polluted understanding of non-cultural political violence; it is another reason why challenging cultural heritage propaganda has real social and political value in the struggle for peace and human rights.
  1. I broke John Alexander's comment into paragraphs to make it easier to read in the blog post.

AFP (Agence-France Presse). 2009: "Body of Greek Cypriot president stolen from grave". Hürriyet Daily News, 11th December. Available at:

BBC. 2009: "Grave robbers steal former Cyprus president's remains". BBC, 11th December. Available at:

iKypros. 2009: "The organised theft of the remains of Tassos Papadopoulos [Organomeni i klopi tou leipsanou tou Tassou Papadopoulou: They covered their tracks with lime (Οργανωμένη η κλοπή του λειψάνου του Τάσσου Παπαδόπουλου: Κάλυψαν τα ίχνη τους με ασβέστη)]". iKypros, 11i Dekembriou. Brisketai sto:

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

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