15th July 1974: We Never Forget!
“Air-raid sirens blaring over Nicosia this morning at 08:20, spreading anxiety and exasperating post-traumatic shock for all those who lived the violence of the 60s and 70s in Cyprus. Today marks 41 years since the illegal Greek coup d’état that laid the red carpet for the Turkish invasion that divided our island and caused even further heartache. Our island has never been the same. Today we fight to reunify the island and free it from the pain of the past and look forward to the future with prosperity and peace together as one island again. It’s only a matter of time!”
A brief report on the events of the 15th of July 1974
The Cypriot National Guard, EOKA B which were led by the Greek Junta overthrew the President of the Cypriot Republic, Archbishop Makarios III. After the coup d’ etat a puppet government under Nikos Sampson was formed.
The situation at the time between the Greek Junta and Makarios were tense as they believed that Makarios had abandoned the unification with Greece and was a communist – lover.
In the 1950s Cyprus had established a national policy of “Enosis” in order to achieve union with Greece. However due to Makarios’ unwillingness to obey Athens in 1964, they attempted to destabilize the government.
Even though Cyprus had become more co-operative following 1967, the election of an extremist millitary junta in Greece which supported EOKA B did not support the policy of “Enosis” between the Cypriots and the Greeks. EOKA B was a far right group in Cyprus that did not support Makarios.
The 15th of July unravels as follows:
Early in the morning, President Makarios was returning back to the Presidential Manor in Nicosia, following a weekend in his holiday house in the Troodos Mountains.
His escort team passed in front of an army base in Kokkinotrimithia where it was said that the tanks had been already warmed up for the upcoming coup. However, they passed by undisturbed without anyone from his service suspecting something suspicious.
At 8.15, the first tanks began leaving their bases, heading towards the Presidential manor. At the same time, a team of commandos took over the most important areas and public buildings. The coup started off with the code:
“Alexander has entered the hospital”
Makarios at the time had a group of Greek young people from Egypt with him. They heard gunshots, but he urged them to remain calm. After the gunshots increased, Makarios, while protecting his guests helped them escape from the West of the Presidential Manor. He then proceeded to escape with the help of three bodyguards and arrived at the Monastery of Kykkos. From there, he headed off to Paphos.
By lunchtime, the rebels had already taken control of the whole of Nicosia and were looking for a person who could take over the position as President of the Cypriot Republic. Three Supreme Court Judges and Glafkos Kliridis were asked to fill in but they all declined. Finally, they decided to ask a reporter and old fighter of EOKA Nikos Sampson.
Ioannidis, the orchestrator of the coup after it was decided that Sampson would take over the role was not pleasant.
“500.000 Greeks are in Cyprus and you chose him to become president?”
By the morning of the 16th of July all of Cyprus was under the control of the rebels. The results of the coup were tragic; 450 dead. Makarios boarded a plane to London where he met with the Prime Minister Harold Wilson and Minister of Foreign Affairs James Calahan in order to discuss tactics and policy in Cyprus.
5 days later, Turkish troops invaded Cyprus.