Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Arif Hasan Tahsin - a Cyprus History of the 50s and 60s by a former TMT commander

Spoken in Turkish with English subtitles superimposed over the Greek subtitles which were the basis of the translation - the history outlined is informed by a long term view spanning many decades of Cyprus history by a former leader of the TMT (Turkish Resistance Organisation) which was created in 1958 to counter the Greek Cypriot demands for self-determination meaning union with Greece and the corresponding Turkish Cypriot insistence on partition. The interview provides a brief outline of the relationship of the Turkish Cypriots with the Republic of Turkey which invaded the island in 1974 following the short-lived coup by the Greek Junta which collapsed as a result of that invasion. A brief analysis is also provided of geopolitical developments following WW2 and the relationship with Britain, the US and the Soviet Union, primarily focusing on the period 1955 - 65.

Broadcast by the Biz Emeis bi-lingual program by Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation on 22nd March 2011.

A full translation of the spoken content into English (from the Greek subtitles) is available below.

See also the wikipedia item, "Cypriot intercommunal violence" article here, which provides the information that:
"Arif Hasan Tahsin was a Turkish Cypriot who joined the Colonial police, became a member of Turkish Resistance Organization (TMT) and eventually rose as the number two in hierarchy of the Turkish Cypriots."

This same video, uploaded to the YouTube profile of Huseyin Halil who conducted the interview, spoken in Turkish, with the original Greek subtitles is available at:

Arif Hasan Tahsin

Readers of this item are urged to also look at the very considerable archive of other videos available at that profile.

(The video with Greek subtitles is embedded at the end of this blog item)

Good evening dear viewers. We are together again in another program about clearly Cypriot subjects. We will begin tonight's program with a very interesting and informative report from Mr Arif Hasan Tahsin. There is no Turkish Cypriot who does not know of him. He is a person with very noteworthy knowledge about the Cyprus issue. Our journalist Huseyin who made this interview  had to edit it and shorten it otherwise a single program would not be sufficient to hold all his knowledge and experience. Arif Hasan Tahsin made some truly noteworthy assessments in relation to the past and the present of Cyprus. I will not speak longer so we can go and hear directly from him.
Arif Hasan Tahsin, known to the Turkish speakers of Cyprus as Arif Hodja (teacher), is a retired primary school teacher. As he says himself he is one of the Cypriots who had closely followed every phase of the Cyprus issue from its beginning after the second world war, since which time he was at the centre of certain developments whose lives were stolen by the Cyprus issue from its beginning.
 "A Summary of our recent past" - "There can be no rosegarden in the middle of the dirt" - "A Cyprus history" - Arif Hodja has written many books and continues to write as a columnist with the newspaper Afrika, so here now is a brief summary by Arif Hodja of the Cyprus problem.
(AH) When we look at the Ottoman Empire, we see that there is no country which was under Ottoman rule where, following the Ottomans' departure people were able to live together or which progressed. When we look again, where Greeks coexisted with Turks, the one [group] just had to annihilate the other.
Only on Cyprus they were not able to wipe out each other, and that because the British were here. There are a few [Turks] in Greece and also Greeks in Turkey. Despite the agreements however, Turkey does not miss a chance to expell the Greeks. This unfortunately is a historical reality and it has unfortunately also affected Cyprus.
The Greek Cypriots, to whom we usually refer as Greek speakers though I sometimes avoid doing that because there were also the Linovamvaki [Crypto-Christian Moslems of Cyprus] who spoke Greek, with some of them having adopted the Orthodox religion and others became Moslems. At this stage I will omit the terms Greek speaker and Turkish speaker without this meaning that I accept that this part belongs to the Greeks or to the Turks. 
No, the island belongs to the Cypriots and the rest is all lies which are a matter of interests which have sowed enmity between the two groups. 
This situation was in the interest of the English. In 1936 the then Governor of Cyprus sent a letter to London saying that with the passing of time the topic of 'enosis' would weaken and its place would be taken by Cypriot nationalism. "In order to extend our presence on Cyprus", he wrote "we must delay as much as possible the creation of a Cypriot nationalism". Relations were created between the two communities with Greece and Turkey and Greek and Turkish nationalism was imported into the country. 
Basically this nationalism affected certain small groups of people which were imposed by force on the two sides, dividing people into Greeks and Turks. People were forced under those pressures to follow those small groups. Besides, that is the norm in such situations. A clandestine organisation can impose itself on a society, however much it may react, through the use of force, killing or ill-treating people. The society is coerced and no one can speak against the organisation. You see people who had initially been against, to suddenly appear to be extreme nationalists. Those are the rules of the game which was also played out in Cyprus.
We must however also consider the following. The English gave Greece the Dodecanese, Crete, they created Greece. After each defeat Greece took over territory as if it had won. All these things were the work of the English. They had furthermore married an English princess to the son of the King of Greece. If it would have benefited the English would it not also have given Cyprus to Greece? And yet, there is movement for the creation of an organisation which would try to achieve 'Enosis'. 
Let us not forget however that in agreement with Stalin they had exiled the rebels. We must not forget that the winners of the second world war, England, America and the Soviet Union had carved up the world. Churchill and Stalin divided, in the absence of the Americans, their own areas.
According to this arrangement, Greece, Turkey, Cyprus and the Middle East would belong to the English sphere of influence. America on the other hand had created such a great military power that it could no longer withdraw its army and disband it. It wanted to take the Middle East from the English and place it under its own control. In the conflict which followed the Americans tried to use Cyprus against England. 
In the meantime Greece had replied negatively to the demand by the Cyprus Church for the creation of an organisation which would fight against the English. The reason was because the areas of interest had been determined and Cyprus belonged to England and if they wanted it would give Cyprus to Greece. 
NATO had sections for 'special war' [Gladio] which were created by America with England and which were funded by America. Their aim was to hide guns which in case of Soviet occupation could be used by clandestine resistance groups. The Greek section created EOKA. Later, the corresponding Turkish section took under its influence the TMT which had in the meantime been created. 
The whole thing began as a conflict between England and America. America pushed Greece and England put Turkey in the middle. Later England and America sorted things out. 
At the  NATO summit in Paris, in 1957, Eisenhower suggested to the presidents and the foreign ministers of Greece and Turkey the creation of a small new independent state. The one wanted enosis and the other partition and he suggested an independent state. Instead of thinking about it they nearly clashed. 
In 1958 the matter of self-determination was again raised. Whenever the matter of self-determination was raised America would maintain a neutral position. However the last time the matter was raised America voted against Greece. After the summit Zorlu approached Averof. Averof described the scene as follows: "I saw Zorlu coming towards me smiling. I thought of punching him twice in the face".
That is where the talks began in February 1957 in Zurich and then in London the matter was closed. As is generally said, these were the games of the Americans and the English.
OK, but if there were not the preconditions, if the communities were not predisposed, would they maybe begin to kill each other?
Therefore, there was a vacuum in the relations of the two communities in order for the English and Americans to be able to become involved with the result that there were so many murders and for the two communities to clash.  

The First years of the Republic of Cyprus
The contention that the Cypriot people did not accept the Republic of Cyprus, its independence, is false. I don't know about EOKA, but the TMT which I was a member of, and also many others naturally, believed that the Republic of Cyprus would endure. No one told us that our aim was partition and that we would dissolve the Republic. So much so that while the two communities had the right to keep their English citizenship, so many of us had trusted the new state that very few felt the need to keep their status as English subjects. We had such great confidence that we all took out loans. Myself, my father, my brothers, all our fellow-villagers who had arable land took out loans in order to dig wells, to put in water turbines, and the same was happening in other parts of Cyprus. 
I remember that in older days the Turkish Cypriots had difficulties in selling their produce. I remember how my father had to go to Nicosia and beg to sell a sac of almonds to the traders. Many times they would not be bought. The produce would remain unsold at home. But then sales had started to happen. Moreover I remember that the period was marked by the beginning of some intensive cultivation by both sides.  
There was also however a reaction against the Republic. There was the conflict between Makarios and a group of people, and of Denktash with another group of people whom Denktash had led. 
On the other hand the Turkish ambassador was intensely against any move against the Republic of Cyprus. 
There was however a small group of people in each of the communities who did not embrace the Republic of Cyprus. 
I do not believe that after independence Makarios still pursued Enosis. However, because he had signed for independence, the supporters of Enosis declared him to be an enemy of Enosis and consequently he was forced to make statements in favour of Enosis. Until 1967/68. 
After that he started to state that there can be no Enosis and that he would work for that which was 'realisable'. I believe that what Makarios had aimed for was not Enosis. He only wanted to reduce the rights which had been granted to the Turkish Cypriots. 
(Huseyin) We are talking about the 13 points.   
There was the issue of separate municipalities, the issue of the need for a separate majority of the Turkish Cypriot community on certain matters, the taxation ... 
In reality agreement had been achieved on these topics.
However, because of the information which Georgadjis was providing to Makarios in relation to TMT Makarios did not sign the agreement. When he did not sign the agreement and the 13 points were published that which followed happened.
If you ask me how it happened, I will tell you that I don't know.

(Huseyin) How did you experience the events?
At that time I was at Fota. While we should have been informed that in Nicosia the guns had been dug-out, that things were dangerous and for an alarm to be issued, none of these things had happened, and we had no idea about what was happening.
While they were taking out the guns and distributing them to left and right  ... there were armed people circulating in the Greek Cypriot quarter ... I learned of these things many years after 1963/64, that is that on the 15th or 30th November the guns had been dug-out in Nocosia, that the guns were given to people that were not correctly trained ... and that the same thing was happening on both sides.
Both sides were equally to blame for things which followed, since both sides had been giving guns to people who were not trained.
Someone pressed the trigger, I don't know on which of the side that was ... the other side one way or another was ready ... that is how the bad things happened and we ended up where we did.

The intercommunal clashes and the Inonu letter
During the first days of the armed clashes no one could remain on the other side. Rafik-Bey and Niyazi-Bey remained ... and what happened? Were they able to keep their places? They were not able to. The one was the second in command of the police and the other the commander of the gendarmerie. They were not killed, but they were removed from their positions. But we can not claim that our own people did not wish to withdraw.
There is in relation to this the letter by Ismet-Pasa [Mustafa İsmet İnönü]. Dated 9th March 1964. Before the decision was taken, on 4th March, Ismet-Pasa had made an agreement with the English and with the United Nations, that the Republic of Cyprus was the state which was created in 1960. In order for the Republic of Cyprus to function the Turkish Cypriot state employees should return to their posts, and the members of parliament, and state officials, and that people should return to the villages they had fled from. That is how constitutional order would be restored.
After that agreement Ismet-Pasa sent Dr Küçük a long letter which you can read in my book, telling him the Turkish Cypriots should return to their duties. We learnt of this many years later when Denktash wrote his memoirs. Denktash did not however write that agreement had been reached. This became known when the English archives were published. In other words that there had been an agreement between Ismet-Pasa and England.
On 10th March Dr Küçük sent a reply letter to Ismet-Pasa saying that "we will not return, it is dangerous, they will kill us ... if however you insist you must grant us the right of asylum ... so that as many Turkish Cypriots as wish to leave Cyprus should be able to do so. If however we do take it upon ourselves to leave what will become of our cause? We will lose our cause ..."
What was the cause he was speaking of? This was likely to have been that of partition.
Within the context of the agreement previously reached, America was making preparations to intervene on the island and was in consultation with the English. The English told America that they should not be in a hurry to intervene because Dr Küçük wanted partition and that they would not return to the Republic. In the end it became understood that there was not to be a return and that is where things remained.
If our people had listened to Ismet-Pasa the situation would have ended there. Naturally this was not something which Makarios had agreed to. That was however the agreement between two of the guarantor powers with America and the United Nations which our people had made irrelevant in order that they should not return to the Republic and in order to achieve Partition.

TMT is placed entirely under the control of Turkey 
 I can not know the extent to which certain others may have had different instructions, however according to the orders I had from TMT the struggle we had been engaged in after those events had happened was not in order to cause Turkey to intervene, but for our autonomy, and that we had to act accordingly. 
I don't know if anything had happened which we had not been told about, because the organisation was placed under the Special War Office in Turkey. The Turkish Cypriots however had never been able to communicate with the Turkish officers. At some point they rebelled and some of them went and betrayed their colleagues ... Bairaktaris organised special teams and opposed Kemal Semi until he was expelled from the organisation. In other words they divided us into two ... our own stupidity ...
On the other side there was also division with EOKA B and I don't know what else ... 
Once they had separated out those who believed that Cypriots should rule, they used the others who were opposed to Kemal Semi who had led the movement. Kemal Semi was the commander of Nicosia. He never allowed the Turkish officers to give instructions to the Turkish Cypriots.
In 1964 I was relieved of my duties and in my place they brought officers from Turkey. I felt that they would also get rid of Kemal Semi. I had never hid that I did not want Turkey to come to rule us or for us to be placed under orders from the Turkish officers. My position was known. From the position I held previously I had under my command a powerful armed group. When they got rid of me no one opened their mouth. Lets leave all that however, there is considerable dirt ...
In summary things happened as follows. They got rid of Kemal Semi and none of his close colleagues opened their mouth. I had warned all of them. I had told them that all those things were happening so they could get rid of Kemal Semi and that they had to be careful because after they get rid of Kemal Semi they would also get clipped and that after that the Turks would take everything in their hands. Unfortunately they didn't listen to me. In that way Turkey in 1964 placed the armed forces under its control, whereas previously the armed forces had been under [Turkish] Cypriot control. 
The Turkish officers had no right of contact with the armed forces since these were controlled by [Turkish] Cypriots. In 1964 they made things as they wanted them to be. They brought many officers from Turkey and thus subjugated the Turkish Cypriots. 
The [Greek] coup and the invasion of 1974   
That which happened in 1974 was expected. It is true that EOKA B was created by [the junta of mainland] Greece who had sent Grivas to Cyprus, and Turkey had no objection about this. The given scenario on our side was that they would assassinate Makarios, something they had attempted to do a number of times before the coup, when they fired at his helicopter etc. They would assasinate Makarios and put Clerides in his place who would sign the agreement which Makarios refused to sign. That is what was being whispered on our side. I don't know the extent to which that scenario was real. The reality is that there were attempts against Makarios.
Suddenly, while we were not expecting it, the coup happened. 
 It was clear that Turkey would intervene.
They thought that Ecevit was a true pacifist, that he was a true leftist, that he was full of love for humanity. They thought he would intervene to restore constitutional order and that the two communities would thus be rid of the problem and would not in future easily quarrel. 
Things however did not happen like that. We saw what the outcome was.

The Soviet support of Turkey
I will tell you something else you don't know. It is generally said that Turkey invaded Cyprus with America's support. The first invasion happened with the support of the Soviets. I don't know the reason why. It is however clear that when Turkey decided to intervene it contacted the Soviets and the ambassador of the Soviet Union asked the then President of the Republic of Turkey whether Cyprus would continue after the invasion to be a member of the movement of non-aligned nations. When he received a positive answer, he gave his approval for the intervention. 
Strange things happened.
Turkey did not have sufficient fuel for its aircraft. It asked Bulgaria to help. Someone who worked for the Turkish embassy in Bulgaria wrote a book in which he describes this. He says that the ambassador was given instructions by Ankara to ask the Bulgarians for fuel for the aircraft. The ambassador was puzzled. How could he ask for something like that and not be shown the door? He met the foreign minister of Bulgaria and conveyed Ankara's request to him. He asked him to wait a while, and he must have communicated with the Soviets and when he returned he told the ambassador to tell Ankara to send a petrol tanker. The ambassador informed Ankara and Ankara told him that they should provide the ship. Turkey did not have a petrol tanker to transport the fuel. This time the ambassador was really worried. He conveyed the request which was accepted.
This was a clear signal of support. I don't know the reason.
(Huseyin) You didn't learn the reason?
That is with reference to the first invasion.
After that America became involved. 

The Turkish army is a NATO army
(America) told Turkey that it can land as much force as they want. It is not a secret that the Turkish army is a NATO army and that Turkey is here as a NATO army. 
I don't know if you read this in the Afrika newspaper, but when the Prime Minister or President of Turkey was Turgut Ozal he had a Cypriot advisor, Boulent Semiler. He told us about the event and allowed us to publish it.
They had visited America and met President Bush, the father. Bush said to Ozal: "You warned me and I did not invade Iraq. It was a very poignant warning and I thank you for that. I would like to repay you. You can ask me for anything you want and I will do it for you."
Ozal answered him saying: "I want you to save me from the Cyprus problem. I do not want to leave on Cyprus even the 650 soldiers. I am ready to withdraw the entire army but just save me from this torture."
The Secretary General of NATO, and later Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whose name escapes me just now, intervened saying: "Turgut note my words" ... he spoke like that because he knew Turgut Ozal from the days when he had worked in America. "You" he said, "are not in Cyprus to protect the Turkish Cypriots. Your army is a NATO army and it is there for NATO. If you want to withdraw it tell us and we will bring other forces from Australia, Canada and other countries."
In other words when they close their eyes to the illegalities done here by Turkey, they do it because of their own interests. You must naturally know that the guarantor countries have also guaranteed the English bases. Lets not forget that.

The same video as above, is available at the Youtube profile of Huseyin Halil who conducted the interview, spoken in Turkish, with Greek subtitles. 

Readers of this item are urged to also look at the very considerable archive of other videos available at that profile.

Arif Hasan Tahsin


In view of the above fascinating interview with Arif Hasan Tahsin, it would be very illuminating if someone would be so kind as to make a translation into English of the comments by him during the following discussion in the NTV discussion about the significance of the recent massive Turkish Cypriot demonstrations against Turkey's Cyprus policies. Posting a link to such a translation into English in the comments section below, should one become available, would be particularly appreciated.


1 comment:

Sanjena said...


My name is Sanjena Sathian and I am a student at Yale University in the United States. I am the Editor in Chief of Yale's international affairs publication, the Yale Globalist (accessible online at tyglobalist.org), and we will be traveling to Nicosia this week to report on issues in Cyprus for our fall issue. I was wondering if you will be in Nicosia and if you could meet with us. We have reporters working on issues ranging from landmines in Cyprus to what it means to be a divided city to comparing Cyprus's religiosity to Turkey's secularism.

We are arriving in Cyprus from Istanbul tomorrow, May 18 in the evening and we could meet as early as that very evening. We will be in Cyprus through the 24th. I will be available by e-mail until then. Please do let me know if a meeting is something we could arrange -- or if you have suggestions on people we could speak with in Nicosia. Your blog has been very helpful to me and we would love to meet with you.

Sanjena Sathian

sanjena [dot] sathian [at] yale [dot] edu