Delusions and Illusions: smoke and mirrors on the island of self-deception – part 1

I read a batch of documents relating to the times before the Cyprus became a crown colony; the time of annexation during and just after the First World War. For those in any doubt, Turkey sided with Kaiser Wilhelm and as a result left the Turkish Cypriots in a predicament in as much that they were regarded by the British as the enemy. If it talks Turkish then it is Turkish seemed to be the tenor of the times.

Many of the educated and wealthy TCs, under some “encouragement” from the British Administration and the Cypriot Greek community, packed their bags and left for the mainland; the alternative being not very pleasant internment. They quit, leaving properties, be it houses or agricultural land, attended by their Cypriot Greek servants or simply empty. The British Administration in 1917, in a deliberate attack on the Turkish speaking population, sold the vacated land and properties belonging to the now voluntarily exiled Turkish Cypriots to the judge of Kyrenia for the paltry sum of just three Cyprus pounds. He in turn gave these new titles more or less at whim to whichever Greek occupiers were there. This applied specifically to properties and land around the town of Lapta. This was a deliberate attempt to stop the Cypriot Turks from returning. Title deeds were issued to the Cypriot Greeks from the Land office in Kyrenia in complete contradiction to the existing Ottoman deeds, which if I interpret it correctly, were declared simply null and void by summary decree of the Governor General.

Not all the Cypriot Turks left at this time, only those with enough money and somewhere to go. The poorer, working class elements were left in situ. These were later to be harassed by successive programs to get them out; up to and including the troubles in the 60s. I have heard that the Makarios Regime actually paid premiums to ethnic Greeks who managed to purchase “Turkish title“ land as an encouragement for the ethnic cleansing that was desired. There are stories in Lapta of members of EOKA threatening Turkish Cypriots in order to force them out of their houses and sell at “bargain prices” to their Greek neighbours.

The Turkish community finally left Lapta  for the enclave of Boğaz on 17th January 1964 after the deaths of two local Turks at the hands of  their Greek neighbours. Their names are immortalised in two street names in Lapta today and also on the somewhat misleading Monument to the martyrs in the village square. There you will find the names of 23 “martyrs”; misleadingly as only two came from the village itself, the rest came from Sadrazamköy and surrounding area. The fact that their relatives are now living in Lapta explains the other names on the engraving.

To be continued…

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