Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Fate averted: Gori 2008, Famagusta 1974

For those who despair over the inactivity of the international community there is a slight slimmer of hope from the whole mess in Georgia. Yesterday I was sure Gori would suffer the fate of Ammochostos (Famagusta) in 1974. The times reported today (12/08/08) the situation of panic caused by the defeat of Georgian army and sustained bombing of civilian areas:

"The retreat from Gori, ... was as humiliating as it was sudden and dramatic. The Times witnessed scores of tanks and armoured personnel carriers, laden with soldiers, speeding through the town away from what Georgian officials claimed was an imminent Russian invasion.

Residents watched in horror as their army abandoned its positions after a day of increasingly aggressive exchanges of fire along the border with South Ossetia ... Jeeps and pick-up trucks filled with Georgian soldiers raced through the streets, their occupants frantically signaling to civilians that they too should flee. The road out of Gori towards Tbilisi was a scene of chaos and fear as cars jockeyed with tanks for a speedy escape.

Soldiers left by any means available. Dozens of troops clung to cars on the back of a transporter lorry, while five other soldiers fled on one quad bike.

A tank had exploded on the mountain road leaving Gori, although it was unclear what had caused the blast. … Columns of Georgian tanks and heavy weaponry filled the road during the 50-mile journey back to Tbilisi as thousands of soldiers, many looking totally demoralised, headed for the capital. "

In the 14th of August 1974 a broken and underpowered national guard retreated across the plain of Mesaoria. The city of Famagusta was under heavy bombardment: the tall buildings were taking a substantial amount of hits and the civilian population was terrified. As the broken units and refugees fled back into the city, with stories of brutality and overwhelming force, panic spread throughout the city army units and civilians. As the times correspondent in 14 August commented:

"Turkish Tanks and infantry pushed towards the resort town of
Famagusta today behind ceaseless air attack and artillery bombardment on three fronts... heavy air and artillery strikes against Greek position along the Famagusta road. By midday the defenders ha began to fall back on to the capital"

"20000 refugees flee Famagusta: The road into Famagusta was crowded early today with Greek Cypriot Families fleeing from the resort. Fear has swept throughout the community... [people telling the reporter] "The Turks are coming... turn Back don’t go any further".

As in Gori so in Famagusta the air bombardment struck fear in the population:

War came early to Famagusta. Turkish Jet Fighters Bombarded and strafed the near deserted town. … Throughout the morning … fighter bombers made bombing and strafing runs blocking the town and setting buildings on fire. Big plumes of black smoke rose over a wide area in the Greek-Cypriot part of town [for] a second time in a month."

“On the approach roads to the town the last of the refugees poured out in cars packed with women and children… a jeep with two wounded national guardsmen raced through the town. The guards said they had been expecting reinforcement, They had no idea were the Turks were in their drive eastwards."

Unlike Gori Famagusta has remained under occupation; its affluent Varoshia suburb remains useless and in ruins. It's citizens are still refugees over 34 years after the events described above. It is fortunate that at least a combination of factors stopped the same fate happening to Gori. Just two days prior to the aniversary of the fall of Famagusta it is hopeful to know that the citizens of Gori were spared from the same fate. My thoughts are to suffering populations of both Gori and Famagusta.


wes said...
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Alexander Apostolides said...

I have no problem to say that therewere attoricites commited in both sides. The fact is that the fate of famagusta and its residents is a terrible one - even if the invasion was a product of bad leadership the people were not to blame. They lost their home and their city - and that is not propaganda - its is a fact. I feel terrible for the people of Gori and wish they do not suffer the same fate - and i am sure that all people, Cypriot Greek, Turkish, Russian or Georgian feel the same.