Thursday, September 10, 2009

Mass grave with 800-1,000 Greeks reported near Lapithos, Cyprus

For Immediate Release: September 9, 2009

Hellenic Antidote blog by John Akritas
Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Mass grave with 800-1,000 Greeks reported near Lapithos

In a report (see here in Greek:
) in the Cyprus edition of Kathimerini, Andreas Paraschos writes of the
existence of a mass grave containing the remains of between 800-1,000 Greek
Cypriots located near the occupied village of Lapithos, in the Kyrenia district.
The alleged site of the mass grave has been designated by the Turkish army as a
military zone. It is fenced off with barbed wire and signs have been erected
warning about mines, although the Turkish Cypriot daily Afrika, yesterday
reported that 'everyone can walk around in that area as he wishes. No mines have
been found until now.'

Paraschos refers to the testimony of Savvas Mastrappas, enclaved in Lapithos
until 28 October 1975 and who, after coming to the free areas, gave details to
the Cypriot police of the mass grave; and to more recent witness accounts from
Turkish Cypriots, who confirmed the existence of the mass grave, declaring its
existence an 'open secret' among Turkish Cypriots in the region, some of whom,
indeed, would periodically dig up the site and remove skeletons for medical

The Mastrappas account

From March 1977, Savvas Mastrappas gave a series of depositions to the Cyprus
police in which he described what he knew of the places of burial of Greek
Cypriots killed by Turkish invasion forces. In one of these depositions,
Mastrappas says: 'In July 1974, when the invasion occurred, I remained with my
wife in our village [Lapithos]. I came to the free areas in October 1975. Apart
from us, in Lapithos there must have been 40-50 other Greek Cypriot enclaved.
Because I knew a little Turkish and other languages, the Turks put me in charge
of the enclaved and I moved around somewhat more freely than the others. Four or
five days after the fall of Lapithos, a Turkish Cypriot I knew called Ahmet from
the [Turkish Cypriot village of] Photta came to our village, along with a police
officer called Nizet. Ahmet came to my house and during conversation told me
that the Turkish police observed the collection of between 800-1,000 Greek
Cypriot bodies from the region of Lapithos and Vasilia, who were then buried in
a place known as "Agni", close to the little harbour, where the villagers from
Lapithos kept their fishing boats…'

In another part of his deposition, Mastrappas says: 'One day, it must have been
around October-November 1974, when I went with a Turkish policeman named Mehmet
– I think he was from the village of Kazaphani – and with a Briton from the
British embassy, to the place known as "Koufi Petra", so we could place a
British flag on a house there owned by a Briton, I noticed a fire in the place
known as "Agni", just east of the orchards of Savvas Frantzieskou. Mehmet told
me it was the Turkish army that had started the fire, in order to burn the
bodies of Greek Cypriots uncovered by the rain. And, indeed, two-three days
previously, it had rained heavily…'

Turkish Cypriot accounts

Paraschos then goes on to report that on a recent visit to Lapithos, he spoke to
Turkish Cypriots in the area, and one said to Paraschos: 'I'll take you to a
place near the sea where missing persons are buried.' I asked him: 'How do you
know there are missing buried there?' 'It's an open secret here in Kyrenia and
many Turkish Cypriots know that some people dug up skulls for medical purposes.'

According to this Turkish Cypriot, Paraschos writes, a teacher-friend of his
told him that he dug up a skull for his daughter, who was training in medicine.
Indeed, when this teacher-friend wanted to get hold of a skull for his daughter
and started asking around where he could get one, he was told at the local cafe
that many others had similar 'needs' and that the only way was to enter the
fenced-off area and dig up Greek Cypriot dead. 'Don't be scared,' he was told,
'you won't be the first. Others have done the same.' And this is what he did.
Despite his fear that since the area was fenced-off as a military zone, he went
there, waited for a while, to see if there was any soldiers patrolling the area
and when he saw there was not, he entered, dug, found what he was looking for,
took it and left…
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