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History Background

Journey Through Time: Unveiling the Rich History of Northern Cyprus

The history of Northern Cyprus is a tapestry woven with threads of ancient civilizations, medieval fortifications, Ottoman heritage, and modern complexities. As we explore its past, we gain a deeper understanding of the region's identity and the forces that have shaped it. Stay tuned to Proyand for more insights into the fascinating history of Northern Cyprus!

The Island of Cyprus is situated in the far eastern end of the Mediterranean at the crossroads of three continents – Europe, Africa and Asia. Due to its strategic location, it was ruled by many civilizations throughout history, namely the Assyrians, Egyptians, Persians, Romans, Arabs, Knights Templar, Lusignans, Venetians, Ottomans and the British.

Ottoman rule (1570-1878)
During the rule of the Ottoman Empire between 1571 and 1878, two distinct people of Cyprus, namely the Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots, despite their differences in terms of ethnicity, religion, language, culture and traditions, have lived in peace and harmony, under Ottoman Millet System.
The Greek war of independence by Greek revolutionaries against the Ottoman Empire between 1821 and 1829, gave rise to Greek nationalism aspirations in Cyprus, resulting in the revival of Hellenistic megali idea that also paved the way for the Greek Cypriot demand for “enosis” (union of Cyprus with Greece).

British Rule (1878-1960)
In 1878, pursuant to the 1878 Cyprus Convention, the United Kingdom assumed the administration of the Island, while the island still remained de jure part of the Ottoman Empire. In 1914, when the Ottoman Empire entered World War I against Britain, Cyprus was unilaterally annexed to Britain, and was formally declared a Crown Colony later in 1925.
The period following the formal annexation of Cyprus by Great Britain can be characterized as the high tide of Greek nationalistic ambitions in Cyprus, during which, the Greek Cypriots intensified their demands for enosis.
In order to achieve enosis, the Greek Cypriots started rioting against the British presence on the Island, which culminated in the burning of the British Governor’s House in 1931. In the under the guidance of Greek Orthodox Church and the support of the rulers in Greece, the Greek terrorist organization EOKA was established with the specific aim of mounting a military campaign to end the status of Cyprus as a British crown colony and achieving the island’s unification with Greece. Soon after its establishment on 1 April 1955, EOKA launched a violent campaign and indiscriminately murdered everyone in their way, the then colonial rulers (the British), the Turkish Cypriots and even some of the Greek Cypriots who questioned the idea of “enosis”.
The Turkish Cypriot people, as co-owners of the Island, refused the annexation of the Island to Greece, and rightfully sought equal say over the future of Cyprus, and, thus, resisted the Greek Cypriot ambitions. The Greek Cypriot armed attacks against the British were also directed toward Turkish Cypriots, which, as a result, led to the deterioration of relations between the two communities. By 1959, the situation on the Island became intolerable to both Turkish Cypriots and the British administration.

The Partnership Republic of Cyprus (1960-1963)
Following the Greek Cypriot violence in the 1950s, a compromise was reached by Turkish Cypriot Leader, Greek Cypriot Leader, Türkiye, Greece and Britain through the London and Zürich agreements, and the partnership Republic of Cyprus was established in 1960 between Turkish Cypriot people and Greek Cypriot people, in accordance with the international treaties, namely the Treaties of Establishment, Guarantee and Alliance. Through this compromise, Cyprus gained its independence; guarantor rights given to Türkiye, Greece and the United Kingdom; while Britain retained two military bases (Sovereign Base Areas –SBA) at Akrotiri and Dhekelia, under British jurisdiction.
The 1960 Republic of Cyprus recognized the political equality of Turkish Cypriot people and Greek Cypriot people as the co-founding partners of the new Republic. The Constitution of the Republic of Cyprus was designed, in effect, as a functional federation. Communal affairs, such as birth, death, marriage, education, culture, sporting foundations and associations, some municipal duties as well as taxes, were managed separately by the respective administrations of each community.
The legitimacy of the 1960 Republic laid in the joint presence and effective participation of both peoples in all organs of the State.
Neither of the parties had the right to rule the other or assume the right to be the government of the Island as a whole, in the absence of the other in all organs of the State and its government.

Division of the island and Greek Cypriot atrocities against Turkish Cypriot people (1963-1974)
However, since the Greek Cypriots did not give up their ambitions for uniting the island to Greece, the 1960 partnership lasted only three years. With a view to initiating the Akritas Plan, which was the blueprint for the annihilation of the Turkish Cypriots and the annexation of the island to Greece, the Greek Cypriots proposed amendments to the Constitution, known as the Thirteen Points that entailed usurping the rights of Turkish Cypriots and degrading their equal co-founder status to that of a minority on the Island.
As the pursuit of such goals were prohibited under the constitution and the guarantee system of 1960, they could only be achieved by defying and destroying the legitimate order by forcibly overtaking the joint-State.
When the Turkish Cypriots objected to the amendment of the constitution, civilian massacres took place under the notorious “Akritas” plan. In December 1963 a planned “ethnic cleansing” was launched against the Turkish Cypriots across the island, many men, women, and children were killed, maimed or wounded by armed Greek Cypriot paramilitaries and a quarter of the Turkish Cypriot population were rendered refugees. Hundreds more were abducted never to be seen or heard of again. Those lucky enough to survive Greek Cypriot atrocities were confined to small enclaves.
In a short period of time, the Greek Cypriots forcibly usurped the 1960 partnership Republic of Cyprus, Turkish Cypriot members of Parliament, judges, and other officials were ejected from all state organs and illegally took over the partnership state. Shortly after, the Greek Cypriot administration unilaterally changed the basic and un-amendable articles of the 1960 constitution.
The foregoing historical facts are well-recorded in the relevant reports of the UN Secretaries-General submitted to the Security Council during the period between 1963 and 1974. In fact, the inhuman living conditions forced upon the Turkish Cypriot population were once described as “veritable siege” by the then UN Secretary-General in his report of 10 September 1964 (S/5950) to the Security Council.
As a result of these unprecedented cruelty, violence and human rights violations directed against the Turkish Cypriot people by the armed Greek Cypriot militia, the “Green Line” which separates the island into two zones was established in 1963 and the United Nations Peace-keeping Force (UNFICYP) was stationed in the island on 4th March 1964 with the United Nations Security Council Resolution 186 (1964).
Turkish Cypriots were forced to live in small enclaves for more than a decade between 1963-1974, 103 Turkish Cypriot villages were destroyed in full view of international community, including UN peacekeeping on the ground.
Since 1963, there has not been a joint central administration in Cyprus capable of representing the whole Cyprus, either legally or factually.
Following the destruction of the constitutional order by the Greek Cypriots in 1963, the two peoples have had their own separate administrations while the Greek Cypriot regime, which had usurped the title of the “Republic of Cyprus” in 1963, has continued to claim illegitimately that it is the “government of the Republic of Cyprus” even though it was not, and still is not, the bi-communal partnership Republic established in 1960 either in law or in fact.
Thus, thereafter the “Republic of Cyprus”, which was established in 1960 in the nature of a bi-national “functional federation”, was converted into a purely Greek Cypriot state.

Greek Army coup d’etat and Türkiye’s Response (15 – 20 July 1974)
On 15 July 1974, the Greek military junta in Athens, in collaboration with Greek Cypriot terrorist organization EOKA, staged a coup d’état in Cyprus to achieve aimed at realizing immediate enosis. Even Archbishop Makarios, in his address to the UN Security Council on 19 July 1974, defined the Greek coup as “an invasion which violated the independence and sovereignty of the Republic.” With the imminent danger of further bloodshed on the Island, Türkiye militarily intervened on 20 July 1974 under Article IV of the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee and prevented not only the annexation of the island to Greece but the total annihilation of the Turkish Cypriot people.

Population Exchange Agreement (2 August 1975)
In line with the Voluntary Exchange of Populations Agreement which was reached between the two sides at the third round of inter-communal talks in Vienna on August 2, 1975 under United Nations auspices, both Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots were respectively transferred to the North and South. Both the Agreement as well as its implementation are well-recorded in relevant UN documents (S/11789 of 5 August 1975, S/11789/Add.1 of 10 September 1975).

Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (15 November 1983)
Since the deliberate destruction, in 1963, of the bi-national Republic, there has not been a single constitutional Government or Republic capable of representing both peoples of the island. For almost 60 years now, neither side has had jurisdiction over the other, and, each side has ever ruled itself.
While the Greek Cypriot side usurped the state organs of the partnership Republic and continued unlawfully to claim to be the “Government of Cyprus”, Turkish Cypriot people have been administering themselves in their own area.
Turkish Cypriot people in 1964 formed a General Committee that functioned until 27 December 1967. Subsequently, the Provisional Cyprus Turkish Administration (which was renamed as the Cyprus Turkish Administration on 21 December 1971) followed by the Autonomous Turkish Cypriot Administration was established. Judiciary, executive and legislative authorities of the Turkish Cypriot people continued to evolve to the Turkish Federated State of Cyprus in 1975 and eventually, in exercise of their equal sovereign rights and right to self-determination, culminated in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) on 15 November 1983.
Today, the TRNC has an effectively functioning state mechanism, democratically elected Government and legislature, and an independent judiciary and all other state institutions intact.