Nationalist Youth Violence

In addition to its slipping power in labour affairs, AKEL’s predominance in the cultural Cold War in Cyprus took another hit in early January 1952, when the Ethnarchy Council formed the Pancyprian National Youth Organization (PEON). Makarios III decreed: ‘We invite the Cyprus youth—the shield of Cyprus’s hopes—to take their places on the national bastions. Let the Cyprus youth be the first to take their places in the field of the noble struggle.’47 Major cities witnessed a number of rallies organized by secondary schoolchildren. Wright blamed Nicosia’s demonstration on AON but conceded that ‘elsewhere indications are that the demonstrations were a spontaneous reaction on the part of the boys in the senior classes to the Archbishop’s call to Youth’.48 This was a significant turning point in what Panayiotou has called the ‘anti-colonial mutation of the Right’.49

In the 1953 municipal elections, the Greek-Cypriot nationalists gained very little ground against AKEL, despite improved political machinery and purpose. There was no change in the status of the urban municipalities, but the nationalists did manage to unseat AKEL in Morphou, the latter’s only rural municipality. According to Wright, the nationalists were set to unseat AKEL in Limassol and Larnaca as well but were weakened by the Bishop of Kitium’s refusal to allow moderates to join right-wing tickets.50

Perhaps frustrated by the inertia of formal politics, the Greek-Cypriot nationalists took to violence in mid-1953 via PEON, specifically to disrupt local celebrations of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. According to Wright, what began as a contest ‘in expressions of disloyalty and sedition’ on 31 May and 1 June, PEON-led secondary school students marched, broke windows, sabotaged celebration proceedings, short-circuited a power line near Dhekelia, and clashed with police and British soldiers in Paphos. Wright made an explicit point in one of his reports to the Colonial Office that AKEL and its youth organization could not be blamed for the violence.51

The government proscribed PEON and the courts sent 12 Greek- Cypriot youth to prison for six weeks and one young person to prison for two years. John Fletcher-Cooke, the new colonial secretary, lamented that the government was unable to procure convictions for ‘the more notorious’ Greek-Cypriots, namely Christodoulos Galatopoulos (a former nationalist mayor) and Yiannis Sophokli, the district secretary of AKEL. The latter, whom Fletcher-Cooke called ‘the main instigator’, is surprising, as Sophokli was not mentioned anywhere in the previous reports as being involved in the riot. Furthermore, Fletcher-Cooke admitted that recent events demonstrated that ‘for the time being the [AKEL] Party seems to have abandoned its former truculent militancy’.52

 
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