Cyprus Emergency
Part of the Cyprus problem
and Decolonisation

A street riot in Nicosia during the Battle at Nicosia Hospital in 1956
Date1 April 1955 – 19 March 1959

London-Zurich Agreement


 United Kingdom

Turkish Resistance Organisation
Material and political support by:
Turkey Turkey
Political support by:
Greece Greece
Commanders and leaders
John Harding
Hugh Foot
Turkey Rauf Denktaş
Georgios Grivas
Grigoris Afxentiou 
Tassos Papadopoulos
Markos Drakos 
Renos Kyriakides
British Empire c.25,000[6]–40,000[7] 300 fighters[7]
1,000 active underground[8]
Casualties and losses
371 dead (according to Roll of Honour's database) and 21 British Policemen
601 injured[9]
102–112 killed (including 9 executed)
Unknown injured[10]

The Cyprus Emergency[note 1] was a conflict fought in British Cyprus between November 1955 and March 1959.[11]

The National Organisation of Cypriot Fighters (EOKA), a Greek Cypriot right-wing nationalist guerrilla organisation, began an armed campaign in support of the end of British colonial rule and the unification of Cyprus and Greece (Enosis) in 1955. Opposition to Enosis from Turkish Cypriots led to the formation of the Turkish Resistance Organisation (TMT) in support of the partition of Cyprus. The Cyprus Emergency ended in 1959 with the signature of the London-Zürich Agreements, establishing the Republic of Cyprus as an independent state.[12]


The island of Cyprus can trace its Hellenic roots all the way to the 12th century B.C. with the immigration of Mycenaean Greeks to the island.[13][14][15] Many civilisations passed through the island leaving remnants behind, including that of the Franks, Venetians, Assyrians etc.[16][17]

Cyprus was a territory of the Ottoman Empire from the late 16th century until it became a protectorate of the United Kingdom under nominal Ottoman suzerainty at the Cyprus Convention of 4 June 1878 after the Russo-Turkish War. In 1915, Cyprus was formally annexed into the British Empire after the Ottomans had entered World War I on the side of the Central Powers against the British, and it was initially governed by a military administration until 1925, when it was proclaimed the Crown Colony of Cyprus. From the 1910s to the 1950s, Greek Cypriots became increasingly dissatisfied with British rule and supportive of Enosis, the concept of political unification between Cyprus and Greece. Several unsuccessful offers made to Greece by the British to cede Cyprus in exchange for military concessions, as well as the noticeable lack of British investment on the island, caused a growing Cypriot nationalist movement.

In October 1931, Greek Cypriots rebelled against British rule and destroyed government property, however the demonstrations were suppressed and Britain took dictatorial measures against the Cypriot people, becoming as the "Palmerocracy", owing to the name of the Governor of Cyprus, Richmond Palmer.[18][19] These measures were in place until the start of World War II.[20]

In 1950, a referendum was held by the Church of Cyprus on the subject of union with Greece, with a 89% turnout rate and 95.7% of those in favor of union with Greece, the British government however, refusing to negotiate.[21][22][23]

In 1954, Britain announced its intention to transfer its Suez military headquarters (the office of the Commander-in-Chief, Middle East) to Cyprus.[24]


On 1 April 1955, the EOKA started its insurgency with the 1 April Attacks. After a series of other incidents, the Governor General Sir John Harding declared a state of emergency on 26 November 1955.[25] The British encountered great difficulty obtaining effective intelligence on EOKA, as it was supported by the majority of the Greek Cypriot population. They were also hampered by a drain on manpower, which was caused by the Suez Crisis and the Malayan Emergency.

Torture and extrajudicial killings

At least 14 Cypriots (including a minor) arrested on suspicion of being EOKA members, were tortured then killed by U.K. forces during detention. Witnesses – both surviving detainees and U.K. veterans – recall various kinds of torture and inhumane treatment of detainees.[26]

In January 2019 the British government agreed to pay £1 million to a total of 33 Cypriots, who had been allegedly tortured by British forces during the uprising. They included a woman, aged 16 at the time, who said that she had been detained and repeatedly raped by soldiers, and a man who had lost a kidney as a result of his interrogation. The payout followed the declassification of government documents in 2012, but Foreign Minister Alan Duncan stated that "the settlement does not constitute any admission of liability" although "the government has settled the case in order to draw a line under this litigation and to avoid the further escalation of costs".[27]

Subsequent events

Following the London and Zürich Agreements, Cyprus became an independent republic in 1960 with Britain retaining control of two Sovereign Base Areas at Akrotiri and Dhekelia.

See also


  1. ^ Also known as the Cyprus Liberation Struggle 1955–59 (Greek: Απελευθερωτικός Αγώνας της Κύπρου 1955–59), the Greek Cypriot War of Independence (Greek: Ελληνοκυπριακός Πόλεμος της Ανεξαρτησίας) or the Cypriot War of Independence (Greek: Κυπριακός Πόλεμος της Ανεξαρτησίας) among Greeks and Greek Cypriots, and the 1955-1959 Cyprus events (Turkish: 1955-1959 Kıbrıs olayları) among Turkish and Turkish Cypriots.


  1. ^ "'Kıbrıs'ta cami bile yaktık'".
  2. ^ ""Özel Harp Dairesi'nin Kıbrıs'taki etkisi… Abdullah Çatlı ve Kutlu Adalı'nın öldürülmesi…" - Sevgül Uludağ". 30 July 2019.
  3. ^
  4. ^ French 2015, p. 302.
  5. ^ Schofield, Clive H. (31 January 2002). Global Boundaries: World Boundaries Volume 1. Routledge. ISBN 9781134880355.
  6. ^ "Cyprus Emergency Deaths 1955-1960 |".
  7. ^ a b "Cyprus".
  8. ^ Kraemer 1971, p. 146.
  9. ^ French 2015, p. 307.
  10. ^ French 2015, pp. 66, 307.
  11. ^ Lim, Preston Jordan (2018). The Evolution of British Counter-Insurgency during the Cyprus Revolt, 1955–1959. Springer. p. 12. ISBN 978-3-319-91620-0. The term "Cyprus Emergency" more precisely refers to events occurring between November 26, 1955, when Governor John Harding declared an official state of emergency, and Grivas' departure in March 1959.
  12. ^ "Historical development". Retrieved 2024-01-21.
  13. ^ "Historical background - MFA". Retrieved 2024-02-07.
  14. ^ Keiko, Arai (1973). "Cyprus and Mycenaean civilization". Bulletin of the Society for Near Eastern Studies in Japan. 16 (2): 189–190.
  15. ^ Robert, Jennings (6 May 2010). "The Hellenization of Cyprus in the Late Cypriot III and Beyond: Detecting Migrations in the Archaeological Record". Scholars Archive, University at Albany. University at Albany, State University of New York.
  16. ^ Coureas, Nicholas (2015). How Frankish was the Frankish ruling class in Cyprus?. Nicosia: Cyprus Research Centre. pp. 61–78.
  17. ^ "Cyprus: 1100 years of history and civilisation" (PDF). Many other cultures followed since then, including Phoenicians, Assyrians, Franks, Venetians... all leaving behind visible traces of their passage.
  18. ^ Αθανασίου, Βαλάντη. "Η Παλμεροκρατία".
  19. ^ Loizides, Georgios P., "Intellectuals and Nationalism in Cyprus: A Study of the Role of Intellectuals in the 1931 Uprising" (1999). Master's Theses. 3885.
  20. ^ Xypolia, Ilia (2017). British Imperialism and Turkish Nationalism in Cyprus, 1923-1939 Divide, Define and Rule. London: Routledge. ISBN 9781138221291.
  21. ^ "Κύπρος: Δημοψήφισμα υπέρ της Ένωσης - ΔΕΚΑΕΤΙΑ 1950 - 100 Χρόνια Κ". Retrieved 2024-02-07.
  22. ^ Kambas, Michele; Gumrukcu, Tuvan (22 February 2017). "Cyprus reunification stalled in row over 1950 vote".
  23. ^ Georgis, Giorgios; Kyriakides, Christos; Charalambous, Charalampos (2022). "The Cypriot Referendums for Union with Greece-[Τα Ενωτικά Δημοψηφίσματα στην Κύπρο]". Cyprus Review. 34 (2): 186. ISBN 978-9925-581-66-5. The referendum of 1950, which followed the failure of the Consultative Assembly (Διασκεπτική, Diaskeptiki), marked the beginning of a new dynamic stage of the efforts of the Greeks of Cyprus to unite with Greece, which culminated with the EOKA struggle.
  24. ^ Richard J. Aldrich, Ming-Yeh Rawnsley, The Clandestine Cold War in Asia, 1945–65: Western Intelligence, Propaganda and Special Operations, Routledge, 2013, 106.
  25. ^ "State Of Emergency Declared In Cyprus". The Central Queensland Herald (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1930–1956). Rockhampton, Qld.: National Library of Australia. 1 December 1955. p. 13. Retrieved 17 November 2013.
  26. ^ Townsend, Mark (2022-05-07). "Tortured to death: the 14 Cypriot men killed by British in 50s uprising". The Observer. ISSN 0029-7712. Retrieved 2023-02-22.
  27. ^ "UK government pays damages to 33 Cypriot pensioners". BBC News. 23 January 2019.


Further reading