Ersin Tatar, the president of the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), paid tribute to 563 students for their role in helping to secure the TRNC’s independence during the Erenköy Resistance of 1964.
“Turkish Cypriots will never give up their freedom, sovereignty and independence,” Tatar said on Sunday, speaking at a ceremony marking the 57th anniversary of Erenköy, a battle between Turkish Cypriot armed groups and the Greek Cypriot National Guards.
Students studying in countries including Turkey and the United Kingdom arrived in the northwest Erenköy (Tylliria) region of Cyprus by boat to support the Turkish Cypriots in their battle with Greek Cypriot forces that ended in August 1964 when the Turkish air force intervened by bombing the area.
“Students fought for the Turkish Cypriot people at risk of death,” Tatar said. Erenköy was a message to the whole world that Turkish Cypriots were ready to die for their country, he said.
Cyprus was ethnically divided in 1974 when Turkey invaded the north in response to a Greek Cypriot coup aimed at uniting the island with Greece. The internationally recognised Republic of Cyprus has controlled the southern two-thirds of the island, and the TRNC, founded in 1983 and only recognised by Turkey, the northern third.
Turkish Cypriots withdrew from the government of Cyprus in 1963 after inter-communal violence erupted on the island.
Since then, a series of diplomatic efforts by the United Nations to achieve a comprehensive settlement have failed.