In the early hours of Saturday morning, on 20 July 1974, I awoke to the distant drone of aircraft. Stunned, I sat up in bed and listened. Planes. Getting louder. The realization sent shivers down my spine. I placed my hands over my heart. “Oh, my God!” I gasped. “It’s the Turks!” I looked at the clock—5:20. The crack of dawn. I jumped from bed and screamed, “The Turks are attacking.”
Moments later, a series of explosions awakened the entire sleepy, seaside village of Kyrenia, Cyprus.
It happened 40 years ago today but I still remember the details vividly; the sights, the smells, the sounds, the taste of dirt and rubble collapsing around me as I ran under the stairs for shelter.
My peaceful life in Cyprus was blown apart first by the Greek Officer’s coup on 15 July 1974, followed five days later by the Turkish invasion on 20 July 1974. Thousands of lives were shattered forever by the atrocities, including foreigners who like me who lived there. To this day I marvel, bewildered at how at how a tranquil place, seemingly paradise, could be rendered a living hell in the space of a few days. The fighting between Greeks and Turks almost started a world war because two NATO allies fought against each other. The island of Cyprus remains divided by a line cutting across the capital of Nicosia–the world’s last divided capital.
And there are conflicts and atrocities happening all over the globe; In Syria, Tunisia, the Gaza strip, Ukraine, the Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, Egypt, Mali, Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan, and South Sudan.
The vast majority of casualties in any war are civilians, who neither want war nor gain anything from it. Quite the opposite. War defeats the human spirit. What will it take to bend history, and honor the will of the people over that of their “leaders?”