Speech at the memorial service of the 4 anti-fascist Heroes and Martyrs of the working class neighbourhood of Ayi Yianni
Speech by Nikos Ioannou, Member of the AKEL Political Bureau
AKEL C.C. Press Office, 12th July 2020, Nicosia
46 years have passed since that black July of the summer of 1974!
Black-clad mothers are passing away with bitterness on their lips and a big question unanswered. A generation of people is passing away with the hope of returning to their homes! Memories are fading. Hope is becoming distant.
No matter how much faith may be shaken, no matter how much memory may fade, there is one thing we will never stop doing. We will never stop honoring and bowing before the greatness shown by our brave comrades, by all those who sacrificing their very lives watered the tree of democracy and freedom.
And even if we wanted to forget them, we can’t. Every year on such days the wrath of memory surrounds us.
We owe them eternal gratitude and we will honor them forever.
We will forever honor those who fearlessly stood up in their youth in front of the tank’s tracks and resisted against the armed underground ultra-right EOKA B organisation.
We will forever honor the young men who, betrayed by the “saviors of the Nation” fought against Turkey’s invading occupying army and fell fighting on the battlefield.
We will forever honor the victims of the Cyprus tragedy.
We curse the traitors who brought so much destruction that clad so many mothers in black to mourn their sons, the traitors that left so many orphans and brought so much pain and tragedy to such a small country.
But no matter how much memory fades, on such days we also draw strength. We draw strength from their sacrifice and heroism. The Heroes and Martyrs call us from where they are to continue the struggle….
And we are continuing to struggle so that our Homeland vindicates their sacrifice and will find eternal peace for the souls of those who sacrificed their lives.
Today we commemorate and pay tribute to the heroes of the working class neighbourhood of Ayi Yianni in Larnaca, to the “4 of Ayi Yianni” who have gone down in the History of Cyprus. To the “4 of Ayi Yianni” who in the summer of 1974 defended Democracy, Freedom and our Homeland:
Four Heroes of the Cypriot people who on the 15th July 1974, did not shrink and were not scared when facing the guns of the coupists. They took to the streets of the city of Larnaca to join their voices with those of other democrats. They sacrificed their lives so that the message is transmitted to the people that “Makarios is alive!” and that Democracy must not be overthrown, that the people will not bow their heads and surrender to fascism.
Today we commemorate the “4 of Ayi Yianni”, and at the same time we remember and honor the city of Larnaca and the heroic working-class neighbourhood of Ayi Yianni that wrote its own story in the Resistance against the crime committed against Cyprus.
Upon hearing the news of the coup on the morning of 15th July 1974, the people of Larnaca took to the streets. In just a few hours the centre of the city was filled with inhabitants of the city of all ages who arrived by any means, to rally together and shout out that fascism was not going to pass. The mass organisations of the Left were at the forefront of the people’s rage. At the same time, groups of AKEL militants and cadres, such as the group headed by comrade Vladimiros Charalambous, together with the democrats supporting President Makarios began to organize cells of armed resistance in other areas of the city and the district. Many comrades who upon hearing the appeals for support of the Resistance rushed to join forces with the lawful forces of the state, approached the police station to take up arms to resist and fight against EOKA B.
The 4 heroes of Ayi Yianni were on the side of the Resistance that was growing. Their decision in those critical moments to join the Resistance was a conscious choice. It was a conscious decision taken by people who were raised in the ranks of the people’s movement of the Left; people who were nurtured with the values of democracy and justice.
On 15th July 1974, for the four heroes, there was no hesitation or any dilemma. The choice was either democracy or fascism. There was absolutely no way they would be intimidated by the danger.
The murderous bullets fired by the known/unknown killers right there in the Acropolis Square pierced the bodies of four young men who at that time were in a column of cars and pickup trucks, protesting with their fists raised together with other comrades. Their bodies were taken out of the crates of the trucks and found lying where the Easter Epitaphs of the City are held every Easter.
They became the banner of the Resistance of Larnaca.
The banner of Democracy.
The Banner of Struggle and Patriotism.
The Banner watered with the blood shed by the people; people, who demonstrated their patriotism with their blood and not with big talk and sloganeering; people, who proved their patriotism in deeds and not in words.
Today we honor the immortal “4 Heroes of Ayi Yianni”, Yiorgos Chajistefanis, Ahilleas Kourtellis, Yiorgos Charalambous and Andreas Theodosiou. With them, we honor all those who in July 1974 rushed to defend the Republic of Cyprus and Democracy at the Presidential Palace, at Kolossi, at the Eftapato crossing in the city centre of Limassol, in the city of Paphos.
We also honor all those who a few days later on 20th July 1974 resisted and fought against Turkey’s invading army in Kyrenia and the plains of Mesaoria.
For years now, certain forces and circles have for obvious reasons been promoting the idea that to honor the heroes of the Resistance, to tell the historical truth about 1974 and to point the finger at those guilty of the crime committed is looking to the past and “opening up old wounds”.
We reply that the historical truth eases the wounds of Cyprus. That historical truth is the torch that illuminates the way forward for the vindication of this people.
The first and main responsibility for the tragedy of 1974 lies with the American-NATO imperialists, who organized both the coup d’état and subsequent Turkish invasion. This is yet another reason why we do not accept today that our country should become a military launching pad at the service of foreign powers and an arena for conducting military exercises for the US military, as is currently being discussed. The Americans don’t have any good reputation among the Cypriot people because of the tragedy our country has suffered. Instead of the US lifting the sale of arms to Cyprus and expressing their willingness to train the Cypriot army, we would have preferred to see actions and initiatives taken for the solution of the Cyprus problem.
It wasn’t the beloved sea of Kyrenia that brought us the Turkish Attila army.
It was imperialism that sent Turkey’s invading army after being invited first by fascism.
In 1974, there was neither some “fratricidal division”, nor a “civil war” in Cyprus. The 15th July coup d’état was not some action by “misguided fools”. It was a treacherous, fascist and American-driven act by a puppets and sell-outs.
46 years after the twin crime was committed, we continue the struggle of Cyprus for freedom and reunification.
A struggle so that partition and the Turkish occupation won’t be with us forever.
A struggle for the liberation of Cyprus and its people, to free our country from Turkey’s guarantee and intervention rights, from the occupying troops and from the barbed wires of division.
A struggle to solve the Cyprus problem on the basis of the agreed framework and reunite our homeland, so that the people of Cyprus – Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots together – and no third power, will be the true masters of our island and common homeland.
These are the oaths we make to the 4 of Ayi Yianni and to all the heroes of the Resistance and Freedom of Cyprus, who fell fighting in that terrible summer. Since neither the murderers of the 4 of Ayi Yianni and almost none of the traitors of 1974 have never paid for their crimes, given that there was no punishment and justice delivered, let there be at least vindication with the freedom and reunification of Cyprus.
This is the only way the sacrifices of 1974 will not have been made in vain.
This is the only way the faces of the 4 of Ayi Yianni will shine with justice over the sky of Larnaca and all over Cyprus.
This is the only way peace and prosperity will prevail over our island.
This is the only way the Cypriot people will emerge victorious in the future – a Free, united and unyielding People.
Glory and honor to the 4 Heroes of Ayi Yianni!
Their memory lives on forever!
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