Facing Cyprus’ past (The Cyprus Weekly, 30 May 2015)
By Esra Aygin
Documents from the BritishV archives published in the Turkish Cypriot media confirm that the Turkish Resistance Organisation – TMT is responsible for the murders and attempted murders of a number of leftist Turkish Cypriots in May 1958.
In the documents, which are the English translations (by the British Sovereign Base Headquarters) of a number of leaflets signed and distributed by the TMT at the time, the Resistance Organisation openly claims responsibility for the murders of journalist Fadıl Önder, barber Ahmet Yahya, and attempted murder of trade unionist Ahmet Sadi Erkurt. The original of these leaflets do not exist.
Fadıl Önder, editor in chief of the İnkılâpçı newspaper, was stabbed to death on May 24, 1958 in the middle of a street in the walled city of Nicosia.
Barber Ahmet Yahya was killed while sleeping at his home on May 29, 1958. Ahmet Sadi Erkurt, who was the head of PEO’s Turkish bureau, and his wife, were shot by masked men on the morning of May 22, 1958 in front of their house.
They were both seriously injured and soon after fled Cyprus.
Despite rumours that TMT may be behind these crimes, the officials of the Organisation had repeatedly denied any involvement in them.
Also, since TMT had officially come to existence only on August 1, 1958, it was particularly difficult to prove that it may have been active and involved in any of the events that took place before that.
Among the British archive documents, published both by Havadis and Yenidüzen newspapers, a leaflet signed by the “TMT Central Committee” states that; “The Turkish Resistance Organisation has passed into action and has begun meting out the merited death penalty to the nation’s mean traitors who, with complete disregard for the actual existence of 120,000 Turks in Cyprus, and in spite of due warnings given to them, have felt pleasure in serving the Reds.”
The leaflet goes on to say that “Sadi Erkurt and Fadıl Önder, who have been branded as national traitors and communist tools, have received their merited punishment” and adds that “our only answer to persons who try to split and break up or weaken our national unity will be a bullet fired into their brains.”
A second document, another leaflet signed by the “TMT Central Committee” – and distributed on May 31, 1958 according to the S.B. headquarters – referring to Ahmet Yahya, states: “Another Traitor, who is not a genuine Turk, has been eliminated by our (Killer) Teams”.
This leaflet also helps explain why, during that period, hundreds of Turkish Cypriots had resigned from bi-communal Greek Cypriot trade unions and announced their decision to do so in newspapers.
“We have given the necessary instructions to our Killer Teams to suspend actions till the June 10, 1958.
“All persons whom we have definitely listed as traitors should take the necessary steps, during this 10-day respite, to convince the community that they have changed heart and are with us,” reads the leaflet.
A third document shows how the TMT demanded the separation of municipalities in an effort to creating ethnically homogenous Turkish regions, forced mukhtars to resign, put pressure on Turkish Cypriot workers to quit trade unions, demanded that Turkish Cypriot students only attend Turkish schools and that Turkish Cypriots only buy from Turkish Cypriot merchants.
Since the publication of these documents in the media, a number of columnists and opinion leaders have taken up the issue and demanded that the Turkish Cypriot community face the past and restore the honour of the people branded as traitors, attacked, tortured and murdered only because they advocated a peaceful life in Cyprus together with Greek Cypriots and rejected the partition policies.
“They killed Fadıl Önder 57 years ago on a street parallel to Büyük Han, where Mustafa Akinci and Nicos Anastasiades had coffee together. They did not even allow a funeral for him.
A couple of brave hearts had to bury him in his clothes in the middle of the night… The price for wanting peace and cooperation on this land, has been paid with blood and sorrow… You know how they say Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots have to apologise to each other for the evils they have committed… How about apologising from ourselves first… How about setting the record straight about our history. And how about facing our past crimes,” wrote Başaran Düzgün, the general manager of Havadis newspaper, in his column.
Niyazi Kızılyürek, dean of the School of Humanities of the University of Cyprus, wrote in Yenidüzen newspaper: “It is now up to this generation to face this dark past and restore the honour of the victims… If we don’t find in our hearts the strength to do this, we will continue to live in shame.”