Turkey’s Human Rights Hypocrisy
The Turks are the very same people who continue the massive crime against humanity in the form of the Famagusta ghost town.Â Born in ethnic cleansing, it is the enduring testimony to the illegal land grab on Cyprus by Turkey, the mass expulsion of the ethnic Greek Cypriots from the northern 40% of the island, the theft of their property, and an unknown number of murders.
The ghost town lies near the very center of the city, just outside the Venetian walls.Â But it is home only to snakes, scorpions, and rats of a hundred varieties.Â Signs on the fences around the ghost town show armed Turkish soldiers threatening those who dare to take photographs with arrest or worse.Â The crumbling buildings inside the perimeter are frozen in 1974, as if they were in an episode of the Twilight Zone.Â Nothing has changed since central Famagusta was converted into the ghost town by the military invaders.
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It is said that the car distributorships in the ghost town even today are stocked with vintage 1974 models.Â For years after the rape of Famagusta, people told of seeing light bulbs still burning in the windows of the abandoned buildings.Â The few who have been allowed to enter the ghost town (called Varosha) tell of homes with uneaten breakfasts still on the tables and unmade beds.Â Books are opened to the exact pages where they were being read when the barbarous invasion commenced.Â Hollywood studios could clothe whole movie sets with the 1974 fashions still in the closets of the homes.Â Three years after the invasion, the scene was described by Swedish journalist Jan-Olof Bengtsson. In the newspaperÂ Kvallsposten, about his visit to the Swedish UN battalion in the port of Famagusta in 1977, he wrote: “The asphalt on the roads has cracked in the warm sun and along the sidewalks bushes are growing. Today â€“ September 1977 â€“ the breakfast tables are still set, the laundry still hanging and the lamps still burning. Varosha is a ghost town.”
The Turks, although they currently place themselves at the forefront of the assault against Israel for its “illegal occupation” of its own Jewish homelands, and for supposedly mistreating Palestinians, are the very same people who continue the massive crime against humanity in the form of the Famagusta ghost town.Â Born in ethnic cleansing, it is the enduring testimony to the illegal land grab on Cyprus by Turkey, the mass expulsion of the ethnic Greek Cypriots from the northern 40% of the island, the theft of their property, and an unknown number of murders.Â The illegal “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” is recognized by absolutely no one, not a single country besides Turkey itself.Â Since its brutal invasion, Turkey has moved countless thousands of its own citizens and regular troops onto northern Cyprus.Â This is the very same Turkey that venomously denounces Israel when it builds “settlements” in the suburbs of Jerusalem for Jewish civilians on lands they have purchased legally.
Famagusta was first erected in the 13th century BC.Â During the Iron Age, it was known as Salamis, and its kings traced their ancestry to the Teucer, brother of Ajax, a hero of the Trojan War.Â Phoenicians came and went, as did the Assyrians and Persians.Â Greek settlers came to dominate its population.Â The Romans turned Famagusta-Salamis into a port of significance and major administration center.Â Some Jews migrated in from their homeland, producing the wine used in the Jerusalem Temple described in the Talmud, and later, manufacturing silk.
The Byzantines strengthened the town’s defenses after it became a target for raids from Arab Moslems.Â In one of these, the mother of the Prophet Mohammed accompanied the troops and died during the raid.Â She is buried near the Cyprus airport, and the site has become a shrine of pilgrimage for Moslem believers.Â Crusaders from northern Europe took the island in the Middle Ages, but positioned their capital to the west of Famagusta.Â The town remained the main port for the entire island.
Crusader knights took refuge in Famagusta after being expelled from the Holy Land by the Saracens.Â In time, the island was taken over by Venice, in part to prevent her Italian rivals in Genoa from grabbing control of the strategic island.Â The Venetians gave the center of Famagusta its defining character, with its massive defensive bulwarks, gates, and towers.Â The winged lion of St. Mark, the patron of Venice, still looks down from the walls.Â Shakespeare’s mythical Othello served as ruler of Famagusta, and the largest Venetian fortress in the wall is obligingly called Othello’s Tower even today.
In 1571, the Ottoman Turks lost patience with their Venetian allies and seized the island, taking Famagusta only after a nine month siege.Â It was the last Christian stronghold to fall.Â The majority ethnic Greeks of the island maintained their cultural identity, speaking their own language, and stubbornly preserving their Christian Orthodox faith in spite of attempts by the Latins and Ottomans to expunge it from their midst.Â Â The impressive main cathedral of Famagusta was converted into a mosque, and remains so to this day.
The Turkish colonialists turned the island over to the British colonialists in 1878 as part of a deal to get Great Britain to back the Ottomans in their fight against subjugation by the Russian Czar.Â Britain wanted Cyprus to serve as a naval base to guard access to the Suez Canal, and they governed the island with a policy of benign neglect.Â In the 1940s, the British grabbed ships filled with Jewish refugees fleeing Hitler and seeking refuge in the Land of Israel.Â They imprisoned the Jewish refugees on the island in camps around Famagusta.
After an armed campaign by Cypriots to drive the Britain from the island, the Brits left in 1958 and Cyprus became a republic.Â Things were not well, however, in the inter-communal relations between Cypriot Greeks and Cypriot Turks, with growing incidents of atrocities and violence taking place.Â Crimes were committed by both sides.Â After a particularly horrific set of attacks, and partly in response to attempts by some radical Greek nationalists on the island to seek amalgamation with Greece, the Turks invaded the island militarily in the summer of 1974.