The Terrible Secrets of the Turkish Invasion of Cyprus

The following summary of the report of the European Commission of Human Rights appeared in The Sunday Times of London on 23 January 1977, and was written by the newspaper’s Insight team.


The plight of Cyprus, with 40 per cent of the island still occupied by Turkish troops who invaded in the summer of 1974, is well known. But never before has the full story been told of what happened during and after the invasion. This article is based on the secret report of the European Commission of Human Rights. For obvious reasons, Insight has withdrawn the names of witnesses who gave evidence to the Commission.


Relevant Article of Human Rights Convention: Everyone’s right to life shall be protected by law.

Charge made by Greek Cypriots: The Turkish army embarked on a systematic course of mass killings of civilians unconnected with any war activity.

Turkish Defence: None offered, but jurisdiction challenged. By letter dated November 27, 1975, Turkey told the Commission it refused to accept the Greek Cypriot administration’s right to go to the commission, “since there is no authority which can properly require the Turkish government to recognise against its will the legitimacy of a government which has usurped the powers of the state in violation of the constitution of which Turkey is a guarantor.” No defence therefore offered to any other charges either.

Evidence given to the commission: Witness Mrs K said that on July 21, 1974, the second day of the Turkish invasion, she and a group of villagers from Elia were captured when, fleeing from bombardment, they tried to reach a range of mountains. All 12 men arrested were civilians. They were separated from the women and shot in front of the women, under the orders of a Turkish officer. Some of the men were holding children, three of whom were wounded.

Written statements referred to two more group killings: at Trimithi eyewitnesses told of the deaths of five men (two shepherds aged 60 and 70, two masons of 20 and 60, and a 19-year-old plumber). At Palekythron 30 Greek Cypriot soldiers being held prisoner were killed by their captors, according to the second statement.

Witness S gave evidence of two other mass killings at Palekythron. In each case, between 30 and 40 soldiers who had surrendered to the advancing Turks were shot. In the second case, the witness said, “the soldiers were transferred to the kilns of the village where they were shot dead and burnt in order not to leave details of what had happened.”

Seventeen members of two neighbouring families, including 10 women and five children aged between two and nine were murdered in cold blood at Palekythron, reported witness H, a doctor. Further killing described in the doctor’s notes, recording evidence related to him by patients (either eye-witnesses or victims) included:

   •    Execution of eight civilians taken prisoner by Turkish soldiers in the area of Prastio, one day after the ceasefire on August 16, 1974.

   •    Killing by Turkish soldiers of five unarmed Greek Cypriot soldiers who had sought refuge in a house at Voni.

   •    Shooting of four women, one of whom survived by pretending she was dead.

Further evidence, taken in refugees camps and in the form of written statements, described killings of civilians in homes, streets or fields, as well as the killing of people under arrest or in detention. Eight statements described the killing of soldiers not in combat; five statements referred to a mass grave found in Dherynia.

Commission’s verdict: By 14 votes to one, the commission considered there were “very strong indications” of violation of Article 2 and killings “committed on a substantial scale.”



Relevant article: No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Charge by Greek Cypriots: Turkish troops were responsible for wholesale and repeated rapes of women of all ages from 12 to 71, sometimes to such an extent that the victims suffered haemorrhages or became mental wrecks. In some areas, enforced prostitution was practised, all women and girls of a village being collected and put into separate rooms in empty houses where they were raped repeatedly.

In certain cases members of the same family were repeatedly raped, some of them in front of their own children. In other cases women were brutally raped in public.

Rapes were on many occassions accompanied by brutalities such as violent biting of the victims causing severe wounding, banging their heads on the floor and wringing their throats almost to the point of suffocation. In some cases attempts to rape were followed by the stabbing or killing of the victims, victims included pregnant and mentally-retarded women.

Evidence given to commission: Testimony of doctors C and H, who examined the victims. Eyewitnesses and hearsay witnesses also gave evidence, and the commission had before it written statements from 41 alleged victims.

Dr H said he had confirmed rape in 70 cases, including:

   •    A mentally-retarded girl of 24 was raped in her house by 20 soldiers. When she started screaming they threw her from the second-floor window. She fractured her spine and was paralysed;

   •    One day after their arrival at Voni, Turks took girls to a nearby house and raped them;

   •    One woman from Voni was raped on three occassions by four persons each time. She became pregnant;

   •    One girl, from Palekyhthrou, who was held with others in a house, was taken out at gunpoint and raped;

   •    At Tanvu, Turkish soldiers tried to rape a 17-year-old schoolgirl. She resisted and was shot dead;

   •    A woman from Gypsou told Dr H that 25 girls were kept by Turks at Marathouvouno as prostitutes.

Another witness said that his wife was raped in front of their children. Witness S told of 25 girls who complained to Turkish officers about being raped and were raped again by the officers. A man (name withheld) reported that his wife was stabbed in the neck while resisting rape. His grand-daughter, aged six, had been stabbed and killed by Turkish soldiers attempting to rape her.

A Red Cross witness said that in August 1974, while the island’s telephones were still working, the Red Cross Society received calls from Palekyhthrou and Kaponti reporting rapes. The Red Cross also took care of 38 women released from Voni and Gypsou detention camps: all had been raped, some in front of their husbands and children. Others had been raped repeatedly, or put in houses frequented by Turkish soldiers.

These women were taken to Akrotiri hospital, in the British Sovereign Base Area, where they were treated. Three were found to be pregnant. Reference was also made to several abortions performed at the base.

Commission’s verdict: By 12 votes to one the commission found “that the incidents of rape described in the cases referred to and regarded as established constitute ‘inhuman treatment’ and thus violations of Article 3 for which Turkey is responsible under the convention.



Relevant article: see above under Rape.

Charge by Greek-Cypriots: Hundreds of people, including children, women and pensioners, were victims of systematic torture and savage and humiliating treatment during their detention by the Turkish army. They were beaten, according to the allegations, sometimes to the extent of being incapacitated. Many were subjected to whipping, breaking of their teeth, knocking their heads against walls, beating with electrified clubs, stubbing of cigarettes on their skin, jumping and stepping on their chests and hands, pouring dirty liquids on them, piercing with bayonets, etc.

Many, it was said, were ill-treated to such an extent that they became mental and physical wrecks. The brutalities complained of reached their climax after the ceasefire agreements; in fact, most of the acts described were committed at a time when Turkish armed forces were not engaged in any war activities.

Evidence to Commission: Main witness was schoolteacher, one of 2,000 Greek Cypriot men deported to Turkey. He stated that he and his fellow detainees were repeatedly beaten after their arrest, on their way to Adana (in Turkey), in jail in Adana and in prison camp at Amasya.

On ship to Turkey—”That was another moment of terrible beating again. We were tied all the time. I lost sense of touch. I could not feel anything for about two or three months. Every time we asked for water or spoke we were being beaten.”

Arriving at Adana—”...then, one by one, they led us to prisons, through a long corridor ... Going through that corridor was another terrible experience. There were about 100 soldiers from both sides with sticks, clubs and with their fists beating every one of us while going to the other end of the corridor. I was beaten at least 50 times until I reached the other end.

In Adana anyone who said he wanted to see a doctor was beaten. “Beating was on the agenda every day. There were one or two very good, very nice people, but they were afraid to show their kindness, as they told us.”

Witness P spoke of:

   •    A fellow prisoner who was kicked in the mouth. He lost several teeth “and his lower jaw came off in pieces.”

   •    A Turkish officer, a karate student, who exercised every day by hitting prisoners.

   •    Fellow prisoners who were hung by the feet over the hole of a lavatory for hours.

   •    A Turkish second lieutenant who used to prick all prisoners with a pin when they were taken into a yard.

Evidence from Dr H said that prisoners were in an emaciated condition on their return to Cyprus. On nine occasions he had found signs of wounds.

The doctor gave a general description of conditions in Adana and in detention camps in Cyprus (at Pavlides Garage and the Saray Prison in the Turkish quarter of Nicosia) as reported to him by former detainees. Food, he said, consisted of one-eighth of a loaf of bread a day, with occasional olives; there were two buckets of water and two mugs which were never cleaned, from which about 1,000 people had to drink; toilets were filthy, with faeces rising over the basins; floors were covered faeces and urine; in jail in Adana prisoners were kept 76 to a cell with three towels between them and one block of soap per eight persons per month to wash themselves and their clothes.

One man, it was alleged, had to amputate his own toes with a razor blade as a consequence of ill-treatment. Caught in Achna with another man, they had been beaten up with hard objects. When he had asked for a glass of water he was given a glass full of urine. His toes were then stepped on until they became blue, swollen and eventually gangrenous. (The other man was said to have been taken to hospital in Nicosia, where he agreed to have his legs amputated. He did not survive the operation.)

According to witness S, “hundred of Greek Cypriots were beaten and dozens were executed. They have cut off their ears in some cases, like the case of Palekythro and Trahoni...” (verbatim record).

Verdict by commission: By 12 votes to one, the commission concluded that prisoners were in a number of cases physically ill-treated by Turkish soldiers. “These acts of ill-treatment caused considerable injuries and in at least one case, the death of the victim. By their severity they constitute ‘inhuman treatment’ in the sense of Article 3, for which Turkey is responsible under the convention.”



Relevant article: Every natural or legal person is entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of his possessions.

Charge by Greek Cypriots: In all Turkish-occupied areas, the Turkish army systematically looted houses and business premises of Greek Cypriots.

Evidence to commission: Looting in Kyrenia was described by witness C: “...The first days of looting of the shops was done by the army, of heavy things like refrigerators, laundry machines, television sets” (verbatim record).

For weeks after the invasion, he said, he had watched Turkish naval ships taking on board the looted goods.

Witness K, a barrister, described the pillage of Famagusta: “At two o’clock on organised, systematic, terrifying, shocking, unbelievable looting started... We heard the breaking of doors, some of them iron doors, smashing of glass, and we were waiting for them any minute to enter the house. This lasted for about four hours.”

Written statements by eyewitnesses of looting were corroborated by several reports by the secretary-general of the United Nations.

Verdict of Commission: The commission accepted that looting and robbery on an extensive scale, by Turkish troops and Turkish Cypriots, had taken place. By 12 votes to one, it established that there had been deprivation of possessions of Greek Cypriots on a large scale.


Other charges

On four counts: the commission concluded that Turkey had also violated an Article of the Convention asserting the right to respect for private and family life, home and correspondence. The commission also decided that Turkey was continuing to violate the Article by refusing to allow the return of more than 170,000 Greek Cypriot refugees to their homes in the north.

On three counts: the commission said Turkey had breached an article laying down the right to liberty and security of person by confining more than 2,000 Greek Cypriots in schools and churches.

Finally the commission said Turkey had violated two more articles that specify that the rights and freedoms in the Convention shall be secured without discrimination on any ground, and that anyone whose rights are violated “shall have an effective remedy before a national authority.”