Rule of Law in Cyprus : The First Public Lecture taking place in the UCLan Law School

On the 1st of December 2016, the Law School launched a new public lecture series. The first lecture of the series regarded the Rule of Law in Cyprus, both within a modern and a historical context. The event started with a presentation given by Dr Andreas Karyos entitled ‘The Military & Political Advancements 60 Years Ago’, regarding mainly the period of 1955 – 1959.

The period of the British Occupation in Cyprus, which spanned from 1878 to 1960, was closely related to the movement for the Union of Cyprus with Greece (Enosis).  This movement was expressed by peaceful means, save on two occasions, one in 1931 and the other during the EOKA struggle of 1955-1959.  It was supported by the overwhelming majority of Greek Cypriots and it was led by the Church of Cyprus. 

Britain was negative towards the prospect of Enosis, due to the geostrategic position of Cyprus that enabled the British to maintain their interests in the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East.  However, they were willing to draft a Constitution for Cyprus, which however, did not grant it true self-governance.  The Turkish Cypriots opposed the prospect of Enosis and argued for the continuation of the British Rule.  Alternatively, they argued for the return of Cyprus to Turkey and supported the idea of Division of Cyprus from 1956 onwards.

On the 1st of April 1955, EOKA started an armed struggle in conjunction with mobilisation of the masses.  This aimed to inflict political loss on the British and force them to negotiate the Cyprus Question. Britain reacted to this both politically and militarily.  A three-part meeting was held in London in August of 1955 between Britain, Greece and Turkey.  The latter was presented as an important actor for the future of Cyprus, despite the fact that Turkey abandoned its rights in Cyprus through the Treaty of Lausanne. Also, Field Marshall Sir John Harding who was placed as Governor, declared Cyprus to be in state of emergency and recruited Turkish Cypriots in the Police.

During 1956, 2449 incidents of violence took place. The negotiations between Archbishop Makarios and Harding were unsuccessful, and the former was exiled in Seychelles.  The British closed down schools and imposed measures such as curfews and limits of transportation.  Eight members of EOKA were hanged, and at the end of the year the British Minister of Colonies, Sir Alan Lennox-Boyd, presented the proposals of Lord Cyril Radcliffe regarding double self-determination.

The exile of Archbishop Makarios created a gap in the leadership of the Greek Cypriots.  This led to EOKA having the responsibility at the political level too, and Grivas’ popularity rose, which would have consequences at the later stages of Independence. 

Britain used the threat of partition of Cyprus in order to intimidate the Greek Cypriots, with the goal of making them abandon the idea of Enosis and maintain colonial rule.  In the meantime, Turkey embraced the division of Cyprus as a political aim.  This resulted to the conversion of the Turkish Cypriot minority of 18%, to a Community, equal to the 80% that Greek Cypriots constituted.  Also, Greece shifted its foreign policy on Cyprus, and prioritised the prevention of the Division through the Independence of the island.

The situation became more intense with the attacks of Turkish Cypriots against Greek Cypriots.  The attacks of EOKA against Turkish Cypriots police officers were regarded as attacks against the Turkish Cypriot Community itself.  As a consequence, tensions rose between the two communities, as Greek Cypriots perceived the attacks on them as help from the Turkish Cypriots towards Britain for the defeat of EOKA.  In the centre of Nicosia, the two communities were split to different districts, which can be seen as the predecessor of the Green Line.

Dr Karyos also showed many important documents and pictures relating to that specific period.

The second part of the Lecture was delivered by Dr Klearchos Kyriakides, who began by posing a question to the audience. The question asked was  “ Is what  we are seeing today behind the closed doors in Nicosia (re the negotiations), the same series of events that were seen previously in history?”.

Dr Kyriakides began by explaining that communalism promotes strong allegiance to one’s own religious or ethnic group rather than one’s country or the best interest of the general population.  He described the origin of the bi-communal system, going back as far as the Ottoman invasion and subsequent instalment of the “millet” system. The British Empire preserved the system after acquiring the island. The British government initially installed two electoral lists, one for Mohammedans and the other for non-Muslims, essentially implementing divide and conquer tactics. The government proceeded to Anglicize the religious tribunals and turn them into courts and created segregated schools. Dr Klearchos made the following remark, “Greek Cypriot is a colonial label and not a term that identifies you legally according to your religion”. This is particularly important as it appears that Dr. Klearchos is making the suggestion that everybody on the island is Cypriot, and that terms such as Greek Cypriot were used for division as opposed to identification according to ethnicity or religion.

Dr Kyriakides proceeded with giving the audience a short background on how the dominant positions were changed between the two ethnic groups, the non-Muslims category become the Christian category, then the Orthodox category, with the Mohammedan category becoming the non-Christian category.  He pointed out another division scheme enacted by the British Government, namely the gender division. The British government banned women from the electoral list until 1960, as per the Turkish tradition. Men were allowed to marry at 18 while women were allowed to marry at 16. Marriage was prohibited between a Muslim woman and a non-Muslim man, citing 1951 British Family Law as the authority for this. Dr Kyriakides briefly discussed other aspects of division enacted by the British government. One such tactic was the preferential and overwhelming employment of Turkish Cypriots in the police force. Those who crack down on crime tend to be easily disliked and the Greek Cypriot population did not overlook the overwhelming presence of Turkish Cypriots within the police force. It is not unreasonable to think that many people at the time would suggest that the Turkish Cypriots were not as interested in liberation of the island as the Greek Cypriots were, but rather sought to preserve the British Regime. Then, Dr Kyriakides’ speech began heading in a more political direction as it focused on the prelude to the British exit from the island of Cyprus. This included an acute observation by Dr Kyriakides with regards to the British government meddling in foreign affairs in the Middle East, Egypt and Iraq which all are in turmoil today as they were during the 1950’s. 

Proceeding, Dr. Kyriakides explained that the Turkish community was in opposition to the idea that Cyprus would be ceded to Greece, with the British being sympathetic to Turkish arguments such as geographical proximity and historical presence on the island. Simultaneously the EOKA campaign began on the basis of “ENOSIS” and sought largely to unite the island with Greece. With valid arguments from both sides, the British Empire was faced with a crucial decision to make. It was decided that Sir Radcliffe , who partitioned India, would be brought in to oversee the partition of the island. This resulted in the Radcliffe report, which proposed a modern bi-communal state. Radcliffe realised the shortcomings of bi-communalism but tragically perpetuated it, with the argument being that due to social and cultural entrenchment of bi-communalism, there was virtually no way of getting rid of it. 

Bi-zonality, as Dr. Kyriakides pointed out, is nothing more that the geographical representation of the term bi-communality. In essence it ensures territorial bi-communality by exercising social relocations of citizens en mass. 

The Greek Cypriots were keen on a unification with Greece whilst the Turkish Cypriots wanted the British to remain in charge or unite with Turkey. To the British Government both arguments made sense. On the 31st of May the proposition for partition was given by Sir Ivone Kirkpatrick the under-secretary in the foreign office. It was estimated that 30 thousand Greek Cypriots and 54 thousand Turkish Cypriots would have to relocate.  The British government would divide key buildings, such as ports, equally amongst the two sides. 

Dr Kyriakides concluded his lecture with the suggestion that what the British State’s activities were “unfair , immoral and contrary to human rights” and the “British were thinking of legalising inhumanity through this method”.

Written by Constantinos Alexandrou and Artur Dobrota

Posted in Events, Rule of Law