THE TRAGEDY OF C Y P R U S
~by A. Djev. Basharan (1974) -author & formerly of FBIS A memory of day of a military coup
I had gone through this before. But it was not accompanied by bombs, shells, and bombardment, and war was not waged right on top of us or around us.
The coup which ousted President Makarios took place on a Monday morning. Shells dropped on CYTA which is only 100 yards from my house in Nicosia, fell in dozens into our street. I knew then that island was in for endless trouble. I could not bear to hear Greek Cypriots call their president a traitor, a tyrant. This was unbelievable.
In afternoon of same day when a curfew was imposed throughout island, Chief editor Henne and another American picked me up from Nicosia and took me to FBIS where I stayed on duty until hours of evacuation.
It was obvious to me that what Greek officers from Greece tried to do was to bring about an unproclaimed Enosis. In fact, all courting trouble, and trouble it was.
Ankara had pretended to be seeking powers from Grand National Assembly to send troops to foreign countries, though Government had already been vested with such powers earlier. This move fooled many people.
On Friday evening, asked whether he expected any sad development, Prime Minister Ecevit cheerfully answered in negative. And yet early next morning Turkish planes started coming in rapid succession. Most of us had spent night at station as a precautionary measure. It was 05.15 in morning on Saturday 20 July when we all rushed into corridor in utter amazement. Some of us looked more horrified than others.
On Sunday night shells from warships and bombs and strafing from planes came down thick and fast. Some exploded within precincts of FBIS, damaging doors and shattering windows. Some explosions were simply as much deafening as they were horrifying. At times, death was not around door. It was inches away.
Our bureau Chief Mr. Tom Weiss, exhausted as he was, kept praying not only for himself but for all of us. I will never forget that tried but determined figure continuing to operate in various capacities under most trying circumstances. His wife, a formidable lady I thought, was always by his side.
On last day, our Bureau Chief looked like a ghost of himself, and yet he was bombarded with all sorts of questions to which he tried to provide answers. I do not recollect having seen him in a bad mood. I don’t recollect having heard him give vexed answers to any of many relevant as well as irrelevant questions.