The Green Line in Cyprus

Bloody Christmas 1963

Repeated attempts to solve the constitutional disputes failed and the 'eyes and ears' of those in the intelligence community believed that it was "only a matter of time before the balloon went up". The British HQ Cyprus District was briefed accordingly and plans for the defence of the two Sovereign Base Areas and other retained sites were reviewed.

The spark that ignited the explosion of violence happened at 02:30hrs on the 21st December when Greek Cypriot police shot dead two Turkish Cypriots who refused to show their identity cards. The incident happened near the Turkish Market in Nicosia and was the outcome of a brawl over prostitutes.

The funeral of the two Turkish Cypriots took place at 15:00hrs on Sunday 22nd December, an event where calm prevailed, but later that night shooting began in many parts of Nicosia and in other towns and villages across the island (incidents were reported in over 100 villages).

The fighting continued throughout Monday, 23rd and Tuesday 24th December and was especially fierce along the line of the Pedieos River in Nicosia very close to the British High Commission and in the suburb of Omorfita.



Greek Cypriot forces taking up positions near the Turkish Cypriot sector of Nicosia
Image courtesy of the Pachyammos Village Museum




Barricades appear within the walled city.......Greek & Turkish Cypriot



A burnt out property with the Turkish version of the street name painted over
Image courtesy of Christopher Meynell


The suburb of Omorfita, or Küçük Kaymaklı was, in Kitchener's early maps, a separate village to the north-east of the walled city.



Omorphita (Omorfita) was once a separate village as shown on Kitchener's 1885 survey

There are different versions of the December 1963 fighting. One version of the action is that it was to prevent the creation of a large and powerful Turkish enclave that would control access to the Kyrenia District. The other is that it was a pre-planned act of extreme violence perpetrated on unarmed Turkish families by Greek Cypriot Paramilitary forces.
Whatever viewpoint is accepted, the result of the fighting was that all the Turkish Cypriots from this village/suburb fled their homes.



Nikos Sampson (an EOKA fighter sentenced to death by the British....but later commuted) displays a captured Turkish flag following the fighting in the village of Omorfita..........behind him are a large group of Turkish Cypriot hostages (mostly women & children)



Burnt out property in Omorfita.......a result of the fierce fighting 

Christmas Day saw little let up in the fighting with the first incidents reported at 00:01hrs. After a short respite in Nicosia, the fighting began again at 10:00hrs.
Greek Cypriot forces occupied and fortified the Cornaro Hotel making the nearby High Commission barely tenable.
At midday, two Turkish Airforce F-104 Starfighters overflew Nicosia at very low level. Ninety minutes later this action was repeated by three F-100 Super Sabres.



A bulldozer converted to a tank by Greek Cypriot forces and used in "mopping up" operations in Omorfita

The crisis deepened when there were reports that the previously quiet Turkish Cypriot sector of Limassol was surrounded and under attack from Greek Cypriot forces.

Turkish warships were reported off Kyrenia and it seemed that Turkey was intent on exercising her treaty rights to intervene militarily.

By evening of the 25th December, the C-in-C British Forces (Air Chief Marshal Sir Denis Barnett) and the GOC (Major General Peter Young) decided to travel to Nicosia on the 26th December for discussions with the British High Commissioner.