|The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) hosted the first of three Virtual Speakers Forum events in the month of July addressing the issue of the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus. The forum, “The Missing Persons in Cyprus from 1974: Turkey’s Legacy Continues,” was held on July 8, 2020.
The panelists included: Photis Photiou, Presidential Commissioner for Humanitarian Affairs and Overseas Cypriots and Xenophon Kallis, Director of Service for Missing Persons. AHI President Nick Larigakis moderated the discussion and a brief Q&A.
Both panelists stressed that the issue of the missing persons in Cyprus is a humanitarian issue which should not be tied to the political issues present on the island. The panelists also agreed the biggest impediment to the work of the Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus (CMP) is Turkey’s lack of cooperation and withholding of critical information related to the issue.
In his presentation, Presidential Commissioner Photiou described the issue of the missing persons as one of the most traumatic results of the invasion. He added that in recent years, even prior to the coronavirus pandemic, there has been a dramatic decrease in the number of individuals exhumed by the CMP. While he attributed much of the challenges faced by the CMP to Turkey’s failure to release information from the army’s archives regarding mass burials and reburials from the invasion, he vowed to keep working and keeping pushing to bring a resolution to the issue. Photiou also called for further cooperation and support from the United States, European Union, and United Nations.
Director Kallis emotionally described the work of the CMP as providing truth, information, and closure to the families of the missing. However, he also expressed his sadness that after forty years in operation, the CMP has yet to fulfill its mandate and bring closure to all families affected by the tragedy. Kallis commented how Turkey works behind the scenes to hinder CMP’s operations and to deny truth and justice from being given to the families affected. He believes the missing persons to be a political act by Turkey to serve its political objective of ethnic cleansing in Cyprus. Finally, Kallis explained how every bone exhumed, no matter how small, is significant because it identifies another individual and grants closure to another suffering family.
President Larigakis concluded the event by reiterating AHI’s commitment to the issue of the missing persons in Cyprus and pledged to continue advocating in the United States on its behalf.