By Necmettin Karaca
Van, Turkey (AA) - Despite 45 years on it, the memory of Turkey’s Peace Operation on the island of Cyprus remain fresh to one former soldier, a tank driver in the legendary operation.
Abdulkadir Kurt, 66, joined the 1974 military operation in Cyprus while he was serving his military time for the Turkish army as a tank driver in Ankara.
He was tasked with driving the tank which would become legendary with its ability to climb steep rocks with 3,000 feet height to diffuse the entrenchments of the enemies.
“We went to the Besparmak Mountains to support the commandos. There was a great struggle. While we were on our way, our tank hit a mine, blasted into the air about one and a half meter and got damaged.
“As we were climbing the mountain, they [enemies] were shooting at us incessantly,” Kurt said.
However, they caused heavy damage and losses to the enemies, as well, when they hit back at them, he added.
“We said: ‘We will either die or not give them any opportunity [to move forward].’ We fought for six hours in the tank.
“They were shouting around us, but we were not afraid. They were forced to retreat early in the morning. May God rest the martyrs’ souls,” Kurt said.
It is impossible for the veteran soldier to forget their peace struggle, he said, and added that he is always ready to fight for the unity and solidarity of the country.
Those were the days which were not difficult to bear only for the soldiers, but for the beloved ones left behind.
Kurt’s wife Muyesser had to endure to a time apart from her husband when the couple were newly wed at the time.
“I was very upset when he joined the army for military service. Later, we learned that he joined the operation. We could not receive any news from him for a few months,” she said.
Desperate were she assuming that her husband was martyred, Muyesser burst with happiness when she rejoined with Abdulkadir.
July 20 Peace and Freedom Day in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus commemorates Turkey’s Cyprus Peace Operation -- a huge military intervention to protect Turkish Cypriots from violence which struck the island in 1974.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when a Greek Cypriot coup was followed by violence against the island's Turks and Ankara's intervention as a guarantor power.
The latest attempt to reunify the long-divided Mediterranean island ended in failure in 2017 after two years of negotiations.
*Writing by Gozde Bayar