Cypriots honor martyrs, continue unification fight

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On April 8, Cypriots marked the anniversary of the assassination of two Cypriot patriots - one of Turkish background and the other of Greek background - with a march to the gravesite of Dervis Ali Kavazoglou in Dali, a town in Cyprus's Nicosia district.

Kavazoglou, a Turkish Cypriot, and Costas Mishaoulis, a Greek Cypriot, both leaders of AKEL (Progressive Party of the Working People), were assassinated by a Turkish-oriented terrorist organization, TMT, on April 11, 1965.

During the late colonial period, and during the early years of Cyprus's independence from the United Kingdom, TMT sought the partition of Cyprus between Greece and Turkey. They conducted a terror campaign against progressive Cypriots of Turkish background who were struggling for a Cyprus that was free from both imperialist domination and ethnic division. In this period many progressive Cypriots were murdered or injured by these fascists; others were forced to flee the country for their lives. Kavazoglou refused to knuckle under and continued to fight for a united and independent Cyprus, which is why he was targeted since 1958.

In remarks at the gravesite, AKEL General Secretary Andros Kyprianou spoke to the motivations of all the fascist organizations at that time, explaining that while extreme nationalists of Turkish origin rallied to TMT, those of Greek origin organized their own paramilitary group, EOKA B, which sought unification of Cyprus with Greece and elimination of all Cypriots of Turkish background.

Both TMT and EOKA B had a goal in common with imperialism - to divide Cypriots along ethnic and political lines. Imperialism wanted Cypriots to fight each other rather then to unite to fight a common enemy. Besides fostering disunity and inter-communal hatred these right wing organizations also were willing to do imperialism's dirty work by trying to physically destroy the left.

Through all this, AKEL refused to be tricked into a civil war and held steadfast to its calls for unity of all Cypriots against colonial occupation and aggression. From the time of their deaths, Kavazoglou and Mishaoulis have been considered heroes and symbols of unity between Cypriots of Greek and Turkish backgrounds. It's that unity between the two communities that AKEL advocates for today.

Cyprus President Demetris Christofias is former general secretary of AKEL. His administration has been working to unify the island nation, which has been partitioned since an attempted right-wing coup and subsequent Turkish invasion in 1974.

In line with United Nations resolutions and agreements reached by former Cyprus presidents, Christofias is seeking to unify Cyprus as a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation with single sovereignty and citizenship. In this he has faced opposition, not only from Turkish nationalist forces, but also from some forces in the Greek Cypriot community, who are trying to undermine the peace process with demagogic appeals to Greek nationalism.

In his speech, Kyprianou succinctly outlined the president's efforts:

"President Christofias is working consistently and with sincerity to achieve a just, under the circumstances, functional and viable solution to the Cyprus problem ... a solution that will reunite the territory, people, institutions and the economy; a solution that will safeguard the human rights and fundamental freedoms of the Cypriot people as a whole, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots."

Kyprianou concluded his remarks by reiterating that AKEL's undying commitment for a unified, independent Cyprus would continue in the future, saying:

"This party has never yielded, nor will it do so today. This country can and must be saved. This people will manage to do so. In the name of the sacrifice of our heroes we will continue the struggle! We will continue the struggle until vindication!"

Photo via AKEL

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