The remains of 33 Turkish Cypriot villagers who were shot and killed after being taken off two buses during Turkey’s 1974 invasion of ethnically divided Cyprus were laid to rest on Monday, two years after being discovered down a mineshaft.
Gulden Plumer Kucuk, the Turkish Cypriot member of the Committee on Missing Persons, told The Associated Press the mass burial in Tashkent village in the island’s breakaway Turkish Cypriot north came exactly 42 years after they were killed by Greek Cypriots.
The remains of 45 other people who had also been aboard the buses were buried in the village in 2014. There are numerous accounts of mass killings of civilians in Cyprus by both Greek Cypriots and Turks, especially during the invasion that split the island.
Some 1,500 Greek Cypriots and 500 Turkish Cypriots disappeared during the invasion, as well as in armed clashes between the two communities during the mid-1960s.
According to official figures, the remains of 1,000 missing persons have been unearthed. Some 680 people have so far been identified, but 200 Turkish Cypriots and around 800 Greek Cypriots remain missing.
Kucuk said a spokesman told those gathered at the burial on Monday that relatives are glad the dead now rest in peace and that they can hear their families’ prayers nearby instead of the heavy trucks driving over their earlier mass grave. Kucuk said the bodies had been moved after a lone survivor told United Nations officials of the killings. The remains were found decades later.
Progress has been made in the search for those who are still missing inside areas controlled by the over 35,000 troops Turkey still maintains in the breakaway north, Kucuk said. But she said some of the missing may never been found.
“We have to be honest that some burial places have been lost because of construction that has taken place over the decades,” Kucuk said.
Officials from both sides have appealed to those with knowledge of possible burial sites to provide information anonymously as many relatives are dying without ever being told the exact circumstances of the disappearance of their loved ones.