The painful wound of the Cyprus tragedy that was kept in the dark: Rape as a tactic of war
AKEL Bulletin, february 2016
One of the most tragic and painful aspects of the Cyprus tragedy, which was kept in the dark for decades, has recently come to light. It is the sexual violence against women. a repulsive practice that is used consciously, as a tactic of war, in almost all the war conflicts around the world so that the perpetrators “humiliate, dominate, instil fear in, disperse and/or forcibly relocate civilian members of a community or ethnic group”, as Resolution 1820 of the UN Security Council (2008) states.
There are horrifying testimonies of Greek Cypriot women during the 1974 invasion who suffered the atrocity of rape committed by men of the Turkish army, some of them were raped over and over again and in the most terrible ways. There are cases of women who survived and are living today with the psychological wounds. There is also the well-known case of a woman victim raped in 1974 who a few months later committed suicide. Society and the state chose then to view the issue as taboo. As in other situations of war and conflict, the particular character these crimes assume against the female population was downgraded. The Church accepted to allow abortions for women who became pregnant by their rapists, but nothing else was done to provide support for these women. Women weren’t encouraged to speak about their suffering openly, and as is usually the case, they felt that they should be ashamed for what happened to them. In most cases, the victims’ families tried in every way to hide the “shame” by sending them abroad or through marriages with summary procedures.
Rape as a tactic of war was used by the Turkish invasion army during the summer of 1974 in order to terrorise the Greek Cypriot population and to force it to move to the southern part of the island. In the prisoner of war camps that operated in the summer of 1974 in the areas under the occupation of the Turkish army, Turkish soldiers and Turkish Cypriots chose girls that were even just 12 years who they raped repeatedly and even gang raped. There are even testimonies of rapes inside Christian churches. Besides it is known that the Church of Cyprus accepted back then to permit abortions for women who became pregnant by their rapists, while the Red Cross was sending to the prisoners and enclaved people in the occupied areas also pills in case of pregnancy.
AKEL of course, together with the terrible crimes committed by the Turkish army, also condemns and denounces the crimes committed by the fascists of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities throughout the period from the beginning of the inter-communal clashes of 1963-64 until the summer of 1974. Besides, it is well-known that the Greek Cypriots fascists of the EOKA B armed illegal organization in the summer of 1974, raided Turkish Cypriot villages, captured – and afterwards murdered – the male population, while they then raped and slaughtered civilians. As has been pointed out many times by AKEL, of course the Turkish invasion and occupation is not being equated with any intercommunal clashes. However, the pain and the suffering experienced by a woman who is raped or when they bring her the body of her dead husband and her son, doesn’t change depending on the circumstance.
It should be noted, moreover, that two women from the Turkish Cypriot community had the strength and the courage to speak openly about these crimes. The Turkish Cypriot researcher Sevgul Uludag brought to light a lot of these tragic “untold stories” from both sides. The Turkish Cypriot politician of the Republican Turkish Party Dogus Derya, who boldly spoke up about the rapes committed by the Turkish army in 1974, came under a barrage of vulgar attacks from the circles of the Turkish and Turkish Cypriot chauvinists in the occupied territories.
Nonetheless, a characteristic of the specific nature of this aspect of the Cyprus tragedy is that the majority of the women raped were never included as war-stricken victims of the invasion, nor did they ever receive some psychological, medical and economic help and assistance to overcome, as far as possible, the suffering and its consequences. They also had to submit applications and suffer all the psychologically arduous procedures.
AKEL and the Progressive Women’s Movement of POGO raised the issue of the rehabilitation and support towards the victims of rape in 1974, after some women contacted the Party. AKEL and POGO raised the whole issue before the Government and requested that support be offered discreetly to the victims, albeit with a delay of 40 years. The General Secretary of POGO and AKEL MP Skevi Koukouma indeed sent a message of support to the women stating that “neither the victims, nor their families, should feel ashamed. The shame belongs to the perpetrators and in this case, to the Turkish invasion army”. However, a huge uproar broke out when last spring the government agencies made a terrible blunder by sending letters to the victims which requested medical certificates that would confirm their rape 40 years ago. After the public intervention of AKEL, the Labour Minister was forced to publicly admit the mistake and swiftly withdraw the relevant letters.
As expected, there were those who argued that the time isn’t right to raise such matters, while the issue on the other hand was exploited by the nationalist circles in order to argue that the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots cannot live together in a united state. However, the Left of Cyprus, with AKEL at the forefront, insists that the historical truth is not an enemy, but an ally to all those who are struggling to reunify Cyprus and its people. By shedding light on these wounds, we also reveal the causes that provoke them and shed light on why it is vital to solve the Cyprus problem and to resolve it correctly and definitively; to solve it in a way that will liberate and reunite our island, which will free it from armies and any “guardians” and isolate forever nationalism-chauvinism.
Intervention of Georgos Koukoumas, member of the C.C. of AKEL and the International Relations Department, at the Hearing “Palestine: What’s Next?” organized by GUE/NGL2015-07-1
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