The Turkish troops invaded the northern coasts of Cyprus using the coup d’état that had taken place against the elected President of the Republic of Cyprus five days earlier, on July 15th 1974, as pretense. Those who had orchestrated the coup d’état were overthrown and democracy was restored within a week. However, the Turkish army, in violation of the peace agreement of July 22nd, advanced, invaded the city of Kyrenia and forced all its Greek native citizens to abandon it. Next, until the middle of August, the Turkish invaders advanced even further and occupied 37,6% of the Republic of Cyprus following the same tactics.
The Turks forced most native Greek residents out, looted their homes and stole all their belongings, thus forcing all those who had the courage to stay behind, despite the fear of being slaughtered and oppressed, to seek shelter in the free areas of Cyprus within the next 18 months. Only a very small number of native Greek Cypriots has managed to remain in the occupied areas until today. These people continue to live in the Karpasia peninsula despite the inhuman living conditions and the persecutions. The occupied part of the island is proportionately the area with the highest number of troops on earth, with 35 thousand Turkish soldiers, fully equipped with the latest war means supplied by the USA. The capital of Cyprus, Nicosia, is today the only divided city in Europe.
Turkey, although they proclaim that the Turkish Cypriots are the victims of isolation, effectively persecutes, banishes or even kills in the occupied part of the island every Turkish Cypriot who disagrees with their policies and illegally transfers settlers from Turkey to live in the occupied areas. These illegal settlers are allocated the properties stolen from the Greek Cypriots, while Turkish entrepreneurs are allowed to build and sell holiday houses, which are erected on land which belongs to Greek Cypriots, to European and non-European citizens despite the Human Rights Court’s and the Council of Europe’s decisions against these actions.
The native Greek Cypriot lawful citizens of the occupied city of Kyrenia shall never consent to the illegal military occupation of their city by Turkey. Being refugees in their own country since 1974, they fight for their human rights:
- To return back to their homes and properties and be able to live freely, safely and with dignity.
- As European citizens they ask that their human rights be restored and that the European law and the European Acquis (Acquis communautaire), as well as every human principle, be part of any kind of solution of the Cyprus problem.
After all, this is what the 40 centuries of history and culture developed by the Greek Cypriot Kyrenians dictate.
Kyrenia of Cyprus is the capital of the Kyrenia District, it is located in the northern part of the island and it stretches from Cape Kormakitis covering the biggest part of the Kyrenia mountain ranges (with the well-known peaks of Kornos, Kyparissovouno, Agios Ilarionas, Voufavento and Pentadaktylos) until approximately the middle of the northern coast of the island, which is also known by the naming “Achaion Akti”. The above naming is more than justified since many people came to Cyprus from Achaea of Peloponnisos and founded cities right after the Trojan war.
Population per District as this was recorded during the following censuses: 1881, 1891, 1901, 1911, 1921, 1931, 1946, 1960, 1973.
Population per religion and district as this was recorded during the following censuses: 1881, 1891, 1901, 1911, 1921, 1931, 1946, 1960.
Population and inhabited residences per district as these were recorded during the following censuses: 1881, 1891, 1901, 1911.
Population and inhabited residences per district as these were recorded during the following censuses: 1921, 1931, 1946, 1960.
Population per district and gender as this was recorded during the following censuses: 1881, 1891, 1901, 1911, 1921, 1931, 1946, 1960.
Discovered in the area around the city of Kyrenia were traces which verify that the city had been inhabited since the Neolithic Times (5800-3000 B.C.). Tombs dated back to the Mycenaean, Geometrical and Archaic times (1300-500 B.C.) have been excavated, while the area was considered to be ideal due to its fine climate and fertile land abundant in fresh water.
Lycophronas indirectly mentions Cepheus, an army officer who had come to Kyrenia from various cities of Achaea with his people, as the owner of Kyrenia. One of those cities was Kyrenia, which is located near the present city of Aigio. The people he brought with him settled in the area peacefully and since then the native residents of Kyrenia belong to the Greek race as far as language, culture and religion are concerned.
The most ancient reference to Kyrenia, along with seven other cities / kingdoms of Cyprus, can be found on an Egyptian inscription dated back to the reign of Pharaoh Ramsey III (1125-1100 B.C.).
Being at a short distance from Asia Minor coasts helped Cyprus develop its commerce. Ships departing from the Aegean islands would sail along the coasts, cover the short distance and reach the northern coasts of Cyprus and mainly two of its Cities / Kingdoms, Lapithos and Kyrenia.
The ancient shipwreck discovered just outside the city’s port constitutes proof of the commercial activity in Kyrenia. The ship’s journey (end of 4th, beginning of 3rd century) included the islands of Samos, Kos, Rhodes, Asia Minor coasts and Kyrenia, which verifies the strong marine commercial relations of the city with other cities / kingdoms of Eastern Mediterranean.
During the conflict between the successors of Alexander the Great, the kingdom of Kyrenia was submissive to the king of Lapithos, which supported Antigonus.
After the Ptolemies prevailed on the island, the Cypriot cities / kingdoms were disestablished by Ptolemy I of Lagos (312 B.C.). Kyrenia, thanks to its marine commerce, continued to prosper. During the 2nd century B.C, Kyrenia is mentioned in the records of the Oracle of Delphi as one of the six cities of Cyprus which had the privilege of offering hospitality to the special envoys of the Oracle who used to collect oblations for Apollo, something which was also an indication of its wealth.
There are testimonies that sanctuaries dedicated to both Apollo and Aphrodite could be found in Kyrenia. The tombs which have been discovered in the present Kyrenia and which were dated back to the Hellenistic Times reinforce the claim that Kyrenia used to be a prosperous city since they themselves are rich in findings.
During the Roman Times the administrative centre of the district could be found in the neighbouring town of Lapithos. However, Kyrenia continued to be a large community, as many rich in offerings tombs dated back to the Roman times verify. In fact, Kyrenia continued to be a municipality. On an inscription found on marble stone which constituted the base of a statue there is reference to the Kyrenian Municipality (13-37 A.D.). The Romans, characterised by their construction activity, left their mark in Kyrenia. They built a fortress and a breakwater in front of it so that their ships would be able to dock with safety.
The preaching of Jesus does not take long before it begins to spread. The old quarries in the area of Chrysokava, east of the Kyrenia fortress, are turned into catacombs and serve as tombs for the first Christian martyrs. Later, some of these become churches with beautiful hagiographies, such as the church of Agia Mavri, which was carved in a rock and adorned with hagiographies. The Bishop of Kyrenia, Theodotos, who was one of its first Bishops, was arrested and tortured during the reign of Emperor Licinius (307-324 A.D.). The church celebrates his memory on March 2nd.
When the Roman Empire was divided into Eastern and Western in 395 A.D., Cyprus was considered to be part of the Byzantine state and the Orthodox Church.
The Byzantine emperors reinforced the Roman city fortress and built a church next to it which was dedicated to Saint George and was used as a military chapel. After the destruction of Lampousa during the Arab raids at the beginning of the 9th century, the importance of Kyrenia became even greater thanks to the safety provided by the fortress and the military detachment that protected it.
The last byzantine commander of the island, Isaac Comnenus, sent his family and treasures here in 1191, while he was being persecuted by Richard Lionheart of Britain, who quickly concurs the island.
Being in need of money, Richard first sold the island to the Templar Knights and when the latter regretted buying the island, this was bought by Guy de Lusignan in 1192 A.D. During the Frankish Occupation, the surrounding villages became fiefs and Kyrenia the administrative and commercial centre of the area.
The Byzantine fortress became bigger, walls with towers were built around the city and the port, while the bunkers stretched towards the already existing Byzantine castles of Agios Ilarionas, Voufavento and Kantara. The four castles constitute a united defensive wall which protects the city from both sea and land attacks. Kyrenia and its fortress play a vital role during several conflicts between the Frankish kings and the Genevans and while it was under siege several times, the city was never conquered.
When the ownership of Cyprus was transferred to the Venetians (1489 A.D.), the fortress of Kyrenia was modified to respond to the modern war requirements at the time as these were determined after the invention of gunpowder and the construction of larger cannons. As a result, the royal quarters of the fortress and three out of its four elegant towers built during the Lusignans were demolished and replaced by thick curvilinear towers which were resistant to cannon fire. However, the Turks didn’t have to bomb the fortress since this was surrendered to them in 1571.
The Ottomans, despite having occupied Kyrenia, the capital of one of the four and later on six districts of Cyprus, did not allow any Greek Christians to enter part of the city located within its walls and especially the fortress because that was where their artillery battalion was stationed along with their families. In fact, the latter spread fear and terror in the area with their looting and crime. The few local residents of Kyrenia who dared to stay were mostly seamen who lived in houses surrounded by ruined walls. Most Kyrenians moved to the area of Pano Kyrenia also known as “Riatiko” (an area which used to belong to a king), as well as in the surrounding villages of Thermia, Karakoumi, Kazafani, Bellapais and Karmi.
The city was first revived by the sailors who used gifts to get along with the Turks so that they could continue trading with the coasts of Asia Minor and the Aegean islands.
In 1783, the church of Chrysopolitissa in Kyrenia was renovated and then, after a positive decree was issued by Sultan Hatt-i-Humayun in 1856, which gave the Christian citizens of the Ottoman empire political rights, its people rebuilt the church of Archangel Michael on a rock opposite the sea. Several people from the surrounding villages find the courage to come to Kyrenia. Commerce with the neighbouring coasts thrives and the income deriving from the narrow plain allow the residents to live comfortably, to educate their children and be educated themselves.
In 1878, after secret agreements between the British and the Ottoman government, the island was leased to Great Britain to be used as a military base in Eastern Mediterranean. At the beginning, the British did not make any administrative changes and Kyrenia continued to constitute the administrative centre of the entire district, which led to the city’s development.
The British construct a road linking Kyrenia to Nicosia and upgrade its port. The Municipality is restructured and takes measures to modernize the city. In 1893, a hospital is built using private donations. During the first decade of the 20th century Kyrenia was a thriving small city with a new school building, its own newspaper and charity, artistic and athletic clubs. Moreover, it slowly begins to constitute a place of recreation and a holiday destination for the residents of Nicosia. At first, there are guesthouses, but later, in 1906, the first beach hotel named “Aktaion” is built.
However, these first decades under the British administration increase the hardships of the population. High taxation, frequent droughts and global financial depression leads to a mass immigration of the youth of the city and the district first to Egypt and then to the USA.
In 1922, after centuries, the bishopric returns to the City with the construction of the Metropolitan Palace. In the same year the war between the Greeks and the Turks resulting in the Asia Minor destruction effectively ruins its commerce and the city is in danger of losing all economic activity.
Then, some Kyrenian who had immigrated to the USA returns and establishes the first modern beach hotels in the city, the Sea View in 1922 and the Dome in 1932. His main objective is to attract foreign visitors. The beautiful port, the activities, the majestic scenery combining the beauty of the sea, the mountain, the rich vegetation and the modern accommodation facilities quickly attract several foreigners and Kyrenia is revived through tourism. After WWII more hotels are built. The city continues to be the favourite holiday destination for the residents of Nicosia, while apart from the Greek and Turkish residents now several British ones choose Kyrenia as their place of permanent stay.
THE REPUBLIC OF CYPRUS
After the independence of Cyprus in 1960, progress in Kyrenia was somewhat halted by the bi-communal unrest of 1963-64. Despite the fact that there were hardly any conflicts in Kyrenia, the armed Turkish militia groups blocked the road leading from Nicosia to Kyrenia and occupied the fortress of Agios Ilarionas. However, a new road is constructed towards the east and the city continues to host tourists, while more hotels are built in the area.
During the 60s a new City Hall is built and a folkloric museum is established. A significant ancient shipwreck discovered in the Kyrenian sea is maintained and displayed at the fortress of Kyrenia with all its amphorae and cargo. Cultural activity in the city thrives. Apart from the traditional Holy Spirit and Theophany celebrations, every spring there is a Pancyprian Flower Exhibition, while theatrical performances and concerts are frequently given at the fortress. In addition, sailing competitions are held in the sea of Kyrenia and all these undoubtedly establish Kyrenia, the smallest city of Cyprus, as the most beautiful “pearl” of the island.
However, the city does not merely consist of its two traditional neighbourhoods anymore, Kato Kyrenia and Pano Kyrenia (Riatiko), but it now stretches towards the mountains, thus forming a new neighbourhood known as California. In addition, the city almost connects to the villages of Thermia, Karakoumi, and Agios Georgios. All its citizens, the Greeks, the Turks, the Maronite, the Armenians, the Latins and the British live together and cooperate in peace.
Even when the Turkish mutiny (orchestrated by Turkey) of 1963-64 against the state breaks out, no conflicts take place in Kyrenia and no people are killed. The only incident recorded involved the illegal Turkish organization TMT, which forced the Turkish Cypriot residents of the village of Lapithos to leave their houses and settle either in Kyrenia or the village of Templos.
In 1974 there were 47 villages in the Kyrenia district. The Greek Cypriots and the Maronite constituted 83,12 % of the population, while the Turkish Cypriots accounted for 13,45%, with the rest being foreigners, mainly British pensioners.
The Turkish invasion of July 20th 1974 destroys everything. The Greek residents of Kyrenia, terrified by the gunfire of the Turkish air force, scatter and seek shelter in basements. Three days after the invasion a cease fire agreement is achieved, but the Turkish troops violate it, invade and loot the city while many citizens are slaughtered. Most of the Kyrenians who choose to stay find themselves trapped and are transferred to the Dome hotel from where the Turks force them to gradually abandon the city along with the rest of the Greeks in the district.
After the Turks forced most native Greek Cypriots to abandon the city, only a few hundred Maronite were allowed to remain in the villages. However, they also had to abandon their homes later due to the constant violations of their human rights by the Turkish army. Currently, very few of these people still live in their homes. Of the British permanent residents who lived in the city and its outskirts back in 1976, now only 180 still live there. The houses, the churches and the public buildings and schools are systematically looted and destroyed.
Meanwhile, Turkey, although they proclaim that the Turkish Cypriots are the victims of isolation and hardships, effectively persecutes, banishes or even kills every Turkish Cypriot in the occupied part of the island who disagrees with their policies and illegally transfers settlers from Turkey to live in the occupied areas. These illegal settlers are allocated the properties stolen from the Greek Cypriots, while Turkish entrepreneurs are allowed to build and sell holiday houses erected on land which belongs to Greek Cypriots, to European and non-European citizens despite the Human Rights Court’s and the Council of Europe’s decisions against these actions.
It is not difficult for one to imagine the hardships the Kyrenian people have suffered after being persecuted by the Turkish troops and deprived of everything they possessed. They fought starting from zero and they continue to fight. Worthy and dignified they survive having one sole objective in mind; to return to the land where they were born.
THE KYRENIAN PEOPLE AFTER 1974
Despite having scattered all around the free part of the island (and abroad), the Kyrenians continue to be a unified community. The native Greek voters of Kyrenia, as well as the members of the Maronite community, exercise their civil rights using separate records which allow them to elect their representatives in the Parliament.
The Bishopric of Kyrenia is still active although it had to relocate in the free areas of Cyprus and even has its own Bishop. The elected Mayor and the City Councilors have established events in cooperation with the various clubs and associations of the city which bring the Kyrenian people closer and keep the local traditions and folkways alive. However, what they most importantly try to do is fight for the human rights of the native citizens of their small city using any means they have at their disposal.
The European Court of Human Rights has recognized that Kyrenian Titina Loizidou has the right to her property with a decision announced in December 1996 (Case of Loizidou V. Turkey, 40/1993/435/514). Turkey has complied and has paid Mrs Loizidou the amount the court has ordered for depriving of her incomes deriving from her property, which she still rightfully owns.
The Municipality of Kyrenia, using coordinated efforts, has encouraged more citizens of Kyrenia to resort to the Court of Human Rights to claim their houses and properties.
The Municipality of Kyrenia is an active member of:
- Cyprus Municipalities Union
- The Network of Ancient Mediterranean and Euxine Sea Ports (Ancient Greek Mediterranean Trading Ports Association),
- The Network of Twinned Mediterranean Cities and Regions and
It has twinned with:
- Pythagoreio of Samos
- Nea Erythrea
- Panorama of Thessaloniki
- Kyrenia of Achaea – Municipality of Diakopto
The Municipality is temporarily housed in a residence provided by the Government and which is adjacent to the buffer zone of the divided city of Nicosia, at 8 Markos Drakos Street (near the Ledra Palace road block).
The Municipality of Kyrenia always supports and houses the Folkloric Club of Kyrenia which was established in 1966 and which focuses, after the invasion, on studies and publications regarding the culture, folkways and history of Kyrenia.
Since 2006, the club has established a children’s dancing group and a children’s choir.
Every year the club holds:
- Pancyprian Primary School Pupils’ Essay competition.
- Pancyprian Gymnasium Students’ Art Competition and
- Pancyprian Lyceum Students’ Essay competition.
The club’s main activities after becoming refugees include:
- Events to protest against the occupation of Kyrenia by the Turkish invaders on July 22nd
- An event celebrating the Day of Greek Letters on the name day of the Three Hierarchs
- An Exhibition by Kyrenian Artists
- A pensioners’ excursion
- A feast on every Monday of Easter
- A children’s camping
- An enlightening cruise
- The Vespers of Archangel Michael, Protector Saint of Kyrenia
- The Vespers of Panagia Glykiotissa
(by the Ledra Palace road block)
E-mail: [email protected]