Bloody Christmas (Turkish language: Kanlı Noel) is the outbreak of the tension between the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots on the night between 20–21 December 1963 and the subsequent period of island-wide violence.
21 December: eruption
During the early hours of 21 December 1963, Greek Cypriot police operating within the old Venetian walls of Nicosia demanded to see the identification papers of some Turkish Cypriots who were returning home from an evening out. These Turkish Cypriots were being driven in a taxi by taxi driver Zeki Halil and were around Hermes Street en route to Taht-el Kale. When the police officers attempted to search the women in the car, Halil objected and a discussion ensued. As word of the incident quickly spread a hostile crowd gathered. Upon this, the police called for reinforcements from Paphos Gate; and Cemaliye Emirali, the ex-lover of Zeki Halil, who was similarly returning from a night out, saw the incident and got involved. One of the policemen that had been called as part of the reinforcements took out his gun and shot and killed Zeki Halil and Cemaliye Emirali. By dawn, two Turkish Cypriots had been killed and eight others, both Greek and Turkish Cypriots, had been wounded.
21 December to 23 December
After the shooting, crowds of Turkish Cypriots gathered in the northern part of Nicosia, often led by the Turkish Resistance Organisation (TMT). On 22 December, the funerals of the two Turkish Cypriots killed were held without incident. However, shooting broke out on the evening of 22 December. The Greek Cypriot administration cut off telephone and telegraph lines to Turkish Cypriot quarters of the city of Nicosia and the police took control of the Nicosia International Airport.
On 23 December, a ceasefire was agreed upon by Makarios III and Turkish Cypriot leadership. However, fighting kept on and intensified in Nicosia and Larnaca. Machine guns were fired from mosques in Turkish-inhabited areas. Later on 23 December, Greek Cypriot irregulars headed by Nikos Sampson committed the massacre of Omorphita: they attacked the suburb, killing Turkish Cypriots, including women and children, "apparently indiscriminately". The Turkish Cypriot residents of the quarter were expelled from their homes.
A number of Turkish Cypriot mosques, shrines and other places of worship were desecrated.
Greek Cypriot irregulars attacked Turkish Cypriots in the mixed villages of Mathiatis on 23 December and Ayios Vasilios on 24 December. The entire Turkish Cypriot population of Mathiatis, 208 people, fled to nearby Turkish Cypriot villages. A mass grave was exhumed at Ayios Vasilios on 12 January 1964 in the presence of foreign reporters, Officers of British Army and officials from Red Cross. 21 Turkish Cypriots' bodies were found in this grave. It was presumed that they had been killed in or near Ayios Vasilios on 24 December 1963. It was verified by the observers that a number of the victims appeared to have been tortured, and to have been shot after their hands and feet were tied.
H.S. Gibbons, a reporter in Cyprus at the time, reported the murder of 21 Turkish Cypriot patients from the Nicosia General Hospital on Christmas Eve. This is taken as a fact in the Turkish Cypriot narrative, but not in the Greek Cypriot narrative. An investigation of the incident by a "highly reliable" Greek Cypriot source found that three Turkish Cypriots died, of which one died of a heart attack and the other two were shot by a "lone psychopath".
The Republic of Cyprus states that between 21 December 1963 and 10 August 1964, 191 Turkish Cypriots were killed and 173 went missing, presumed killed, while Greek Cypriots suffered 133 killed and 41 missing, presumed killed. Overall, 364 Turkish Cypriots and 174 Greek Cypriots were killed in the 1963-64 conflict. 25,000 Turkish Cypriots from 104 different villages abandoned their homes. These consisted of 72 mixed and 24 Turkish Cypriot villages that were completely evacuated and eight mixed villages that were partially evacuated. The displacement amounted to a quarter of the Turkish Cypriot population. 1,200 Armenian Cypriots and 500 Greek Cypriots were also displaced.
Most of the property abandoned by Turkish Cypriots was ransacked, damaged, burned or destroyed by Greek Cypriots. A 1964 UN report that used aerial photographs determined that at least 964 Turkish Cypriot homes had been destroyed and that 2,000 Turkish Cypriot homes had suffered severe damage and ransacking.
Greek Cypriot official discourse, still reflected in history textbooks, follows a denialist approach to Bloody Christmas. According to this narrative, the Republic of Cyprus faced a "Turkish mutiny" (Tourkantarsia). As such, Greek Cypriots are presented as the victims of Turkish Cypriot aggression, whereas the majority of the victims were Turkish Cypriot. This was used by the Republic of Cyprus to legitimise human rights violations against Turkish Cypriots, the suspension of their political rights, and, until 2003, the exclusion of Turkish Cypriots from the framing of the missing people by the Republic of Cyprus. In 2004, Greek Cypriot leader Tassos Papadopoulos said in an interview that no Turkish Cypriots were killed between 1963 and 1974. Reaction to this claim appeared in the Greek and Turkish Cypriot media, with Greek Cypriot media calling Papadopoulos's claim a blatant lie.
The use of the term "mutiny" to describe the events of 1963–64 has contributed to a Greek Cypriot master narrative that the Cyprus problem started in 1974. Under this, Greek Cypriot and Armenian Cypriot people displaced in 1963-64 are not classified as "refugees" but as "those struck by the Turks" (Tourkoplihtoi).
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- Eric Solsten, Country Studies, US Library of Congress, retrieved on 25 May 2012.
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- Charalambous, Loucas (12 September 2004). "Does the President have memory problems?".
- STAVRINIDES, ZENON (Spring 2009). "The Use of Coping Strategies for Community Traumas". pp. 181.
- Papadakis, Yiannis (2005). Echoes from the Dead Zone: Across the Cyprus Divide. I.B.Tauris. p. 149. ISBN 185043428X. https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=e_UZ-5pSVXUC&pg=PA149.
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