Back in 2006, officials from the United Nations Committee on Missing Persons located a mass grave of nineteen people in northern Turkey. According to this article, five of the bodies have been identified as Greek Cypriot soldiers. 35 years ago Turkey invaded Cyprus (which, for the uninitiated, is an island nation in the Mediterranean sea, which is bilaterally divided into the “Greek side” and the “Turkish side”) and about 1600 people disappeared without a trace, not just soldiers either: there were over a hundred kids under seventeen and over three hundred old people sixty and over. (These numbers come from the Missing Cypriots website.) Very few of them have ever been found. The last sign of those particular five disappeared people was when they were photographed upon surrendering to the Turks and becoming prisoners of war. The oldest man was thirty years old, the youngest only nineteen. I’m not 100% sure but it looks like the other fourteen people in the grave are still unidentified.
That Turkey has committed war crimes (the Armenian genocide of the nineteen-teens also comes to mind) is not shocking to me. Many countries have done so — not that that doesn’t make a terrible thing, but what I’m saying is that Turkey is hardly alone in having committed atrocities. But they should at least admit it. Turkey has maintained a stony silence as to the 1974 invasion and what happened to the missing Cypriots. And they won’t even acknowledge the existence of the Armenian genocide. I am not holding present-day Turks responsible for what their fathers and grandfathers did, but the government should do the right thing and fess up and try to make amends, rather like Germany has. Revealing the ultimate fate of all the missing Cypriots, uncovering more mass graves if necessary, would be a good start.
Having a relative who is missing for political reasons or war-related reasons has got to be at least as stressful as having a missing relative of the kind listed on the Charley Project. You don’t know where they are, if they’re hurt, if they have enough to eat, where they lay their heads at night, even if they’re alive at all. The people of Cyprus deserve this closure.