Speech by the General Secretary of the Central Committee of AKEL S.Stefanou at the Remembrance and Honor event for the missing person Minas Konstantinou
9 July 2023, Deneia village
July 1974. July 2023. Almost half a century has passed.
The slogan “I do not forget” is for some now an empty slogan, perhaps even a springboard for pursuing a political career.
But for others it is an open wound festering in the memory, in the heart. It is a whole life scarred by the red-hot iron of the treasonous coup d’état and the brutal Turkish army invasion. It is a whole life clad in black mourning over graves. A whole life for women and children waiting with a black and white photograph in their hands. Whole lives that have actually been left cut in half and empty since July 1974.
Almost half a century after the Cyprus tragedy, there are hundreds of missing persons whose fate remains unclear. Among them, the fate of Minas Konstantinou, Constantine and Eva.
Born in Deneia, a village in the Nicosia District, in 1943, he went out from an early age to earn a living to help his large family. At the age of twenty-one he joined the National Guard for his military service, which had just been established as a result of the intercommunal clashes of 1963-64. He served as a conscript in the mountainous region of Tilliria and fought in the battles of Mansoura. Before he was even discharged he was engaged to his beloved Maroula and married her in June 1965. Together they had two children, Panikos and Chryso. Minas worked hard as a builder. He built his house, took care of his family, struggled daily to raise his children. But he wasn’t fortunate enough to see them grow up. He didn’t get to see them at their greatest moments. He wasn’t there to hold their hands as every parent dreams of.
Minas’ dreams, and those of all the young people of his generation, were cut in half in July 1974. It was then that NATO’s plans, as decided in 1971 at the NATO Foreign Ministers’ Meeting of the criminal alliance in Lisbon with the participation of military junta of Greece and Turkey, began to be implemented.
With the outbreak of the fascist coup d’état on 15 July 1974, Minas Konstantinos’ democratic conscience would not allow him to remain idle. He ran to defend democracy against fascism, to defend the lawful government of President Makarios against the coupists of the Greek Junta and THE Greek Cypriot armed ultra-right underground organisation of EOKA B. The day after the coupists arrested, imprisoned and tortured him in the Kokkinotrimithia prison.
This is what the thugs of EOKA B did during the coup. Some of them continued to do so even after the outbreak of the Turkish invasion. Most of them, of course, when the Turkish army set foot undisturbed on the shores of Kyrenia, did not rush to fight at the war front, but to the Troodos mountain range or stayed in the rear with the elderly, women and children.
The democratic anti-fascist resistance fighters ran directly from the prison and detention cells in which the coupists had thrown them to the front line of battle to resist the Turkish invading army and save our country,. They rushed to the front line together with thousands of other young people who from one moment to the next found themselves from the tranquility of their lives to the turmoil of war. Most of them with rudimentary weapons, without any guidance, information and organisation. And with the Greek junta-dominated state-owned broadcasting corporation RIK transmitting that the enemy had supposedly been “thrown into the sea” and that “motherland Greece” was expected to come to the rescue of Cyprus at any moment.
Neither the enemy was thrown into the sea, nor did Greece ever come to save Cyprus. The NATO conspiracy was executed as planned, with the participation of the Greek junta and the Greek Cypriot far-right EOKA B. Cyprus was sacrificed, but only one person was sentenced in Cyprus probably to save the rest. Impunity bred audacity and as a result EOKA B returned a few years later, this time in suits and not in paramilitary uniforms, adding insult to injury by falsifying the historical truth.
Those who paid the price of the treason committed are our dead who bravely defied and confronted the invading Turkish army. They are the wounded of war. They are all those who carry the psychological scars and have been unable to sleep soundly at night ever since. They are the refugees, the enclaved people in the occupied areas and the war-stricken victims. But above all, the relatives of the missing have paid the heavy price, still waiting to know what happened to their beloved ones.
Among those who ran from detention centres to fight for our Cyprus was Minas Konstantinou. He joined the 306 Infantry Battalion in Kythrea. His unit was transferred to Agios Georgios of Kyrenia where a fierce battle was fought. In the turmoil of the battles the traces of Minas Konstantinos were lost. Since then he has been included in the list of missing persons and despite information still given his fate remains unknown.
The issue of the missing persons is a profoundly humanitarian issue which must always be examined outside and independently of any developments on the Cyprus problem. There are UN resolutions and ECHR decisions on the issue that provide for the determination of the fate of all the missing persons. Relatives have every right to know what happened to their loved ones. Much has been done in this direction through the Exhumation and Identification Programme, but there is still a long way to go and there are still many difficulties.
Support for the Exhumation and Identification Programme must continue and efforts to gather information about the fate of missing persons must continue. Pressure must continue to be brought to bear on Turkey to provide every information from the Turkish army’s records concerning bone movements and mass graves. Furthermore, Turkey must comply with the relevant ECHR rulings.
This is the primary duty and top priority of the State. As far as AKEL is concerned, we will continue to use every forum, every international podium to keep the issue of the missing persons high on the political agenda. We will continue to raise awareness and not let the issue to be forgotten. We will continue to demand the implementation of the ECHR decisions and Turkey’s compliance with the decisions of international organizations. Finally, we will continue to support the relatives of our missing persons who have been suffering an endless tragedy for almost fifty years.
The occupied Pentadactylos mountain range with the crescent moon of occupation bleeds hearts and consciences. At the same time, it reminds us of our duty to the heroes and victims of the Turkish invasion to continue our efforts for a solution to the Cyprus problem. A solution that liberates and reunites our homeland and people, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.
The solution is not just a debt we owe. It is an absolute necessity to secure our future and above all the future of future generations. The provisional nature we have been living since 1974 is a deteriorating situation that permits Turkey to implement, with the passage of time as an ally, its goal of the ‘Turkification’ of the occupied part of Cyprus and the control of the entire island. In contrast, the solution of the Cyprus problem will open up great prospects for our country and will free us from the multiple problems caused by the Turkish occupation.
The Turkish side’s attempt to bury the agreed basis for a solution, namely Bicommunal, Bizonal Federation with political equality proves what we have always maintained: that there is only one choice before us. It is either Bicommunal, Bizonal Federation (BBF) or partition. Within the framework of BBF we can build a peaceful, free and united country with a single sovereignty, a single citizenship and a single international personality. A country in which Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots can co-decide on their future.
In the current situation we find ourselves in, with the longest stalemate ever witnessed on the Cyprus problem, with the Greek Cypriot side considered by the UN to be equally responsible for the deadlock and Turkey being negative and provocative, is there any prospect of a solution?
The answer is simple: we must create the prospect. We cannot afford to wait since stagnation suits Turkey’s designs. The solution will not come out of nowhere and the international community will not move unless we convince it. It is the Greek Cypriot side that must convince the UN General Secretariat with its proposals to take the initiative to resume the negotiations from the point where they were interrupted at Crans Montana, preserving the convergences recorded so far and negotiating on the basis of the Guterres Framework. That must be the objective, and that is precisely where we must focus our efforts on.
The loss of loved ones is always a painful event. And it becomes even more painful when the purpose for which they sacrificed their lives remains suspended and unfulfilled. I am sure that the families of the fallen and the missing feel the pain of the occupation even more because it is precisely because their loved ones gave their lives to prevent it.
I am also sure that if our Cyprus is finally vindicated, the first to feel immense joy and satisfaction will be the relatives of the fallen and the missing, because in this way the struggle of their own loved ones who perished so that we can breathe the air of freedom will be vindicated.
We promise one thing. We will continue the effort and the struggle to bring justice to Cyprus and by doing so vindicate the sacrifice of our children.
Dear family of Minas Konstantinou,
My dear Maroula, Paniko and Chryso,
Be proud of Minas, because he stood forward with his head held high defending democracy against fascism.
Be proud of Minas, because he did not yield and was on the front line of the battle to counter the Turkish army invasion.
Minas deserves every honor. You who since 1974 have been carrying the heavy cross of martyrdom on the issue of the missing persons also deserve every honor.
The memory of our Heroes is eternal!