Thursday, May 13, 2010

NIKOS SAMPSON - A GREEK FIGHTER





Sampson was born in the Cypriot port city of Famagusta to Sampson Georgiadis and Theano Liasidou. During his teenage years, he was a promising right back in the second team of Anorthosis Famagusta football club. The man who once boasted "Nobody says "no" to Nicos!" began his working life at a Nicosia newspaper, The Times of Cyprus, which was owned by Charles Foley. His original name was Nikos Georgiadis, but he adopted his father's forename as his (public) surname, a common custom in Cyprus in those days. Less well known as a Greek surname, it has been surmised that Sampson referred to the biblical figure, or even borrowed a chip off the English block. It helped to distinguish him from others who bore his surname and it was his nom de guerre during the EOKA resistance campaign against British rule in Cyprus, waged from 1955 to 1959, although he also became known as Atrotos (Greek: Áτρωτος), or Invulnerable.
In Greece, Turkey and Cyprus, the 1950s were marked by a rise in nationalistic fervour. Since its inception in 1955, the EOKA organisation actively recruited young patriots during the period of its struggle. Joining EOKA, the young Sampson became known to the British Army and police as one of EOKA's most feared resistance fighters. He participated in a number of killings carried out along Ledra Street, including three police sergeants, for one of which Sampson was tried in May 1957. He confessed but was acquitted on the grounds that his confession may have been coerced by torture. By March 1959, when the shooting ended, 509 people had died, of whom 156 were British soldiers and police.
The British, fearing a pan-Cypriot anti-colonial revolt, increasingly employed Turkish Cypriots in government offices, especially, in the police force. This put Greeks and Turks into direct confrontation with one another. Some of the casualties during EOKA's struggle against British rule would be these Turkish Cypriots. Turkish reprisals, organised by the TMT, were carried out in the form of riots and attacks on Greek homes and businesses. Mistrust and resentment was on the ascendancy. Around this time, Turkey shifted its strategic goal for Cyprus from annexation (union with Turkey) to the pursuit of partition.
At the time, Sampson was working as a journalist and he used to photograph dead bodies to be published in the newspaper he was working for. The police became suspicious about how Sampson was always the first reporter to arrive at the murder scene and he was arrested. Only a month after his acquittal, he was convicted of weapons possession which, under the emergency regulations of the moment, carried a death sentence. The death sentence was subsequently commuted to life imprisonment and Sampson was flown to the United Kingdom to serve it. A year and a half later, under a general amnesty as part of the 1959 Zürich and London Agreement, he was released but he remained in exile in Greece until Cyprus gained formal independence in August 1960. He returned to Nicosia shortly after Independence Day, receiving a hero's welcome .

Sampson returned to newspaper publishing. In 1960 he set up the newspaper Makhi, meaning battle, or struggle, which was one of the first Greek newspapers in circulation in the nation of Cyprus. In 1961, in a series of newspaper articles, he admitted his responsibility for the death of the police officers in 1956 during the resistance campaign against British rule. According to the Telegraph, as a journalist, he flew to Algeria to interview Ben Bella and to Washington to talk to J F Kennedy
Following an explosion to the statue of EOKA hero Markos Drakos in Nicosia, Sampson actively participated in clashes between the Greek and Turkish communities in December 1963. On the morning of 24 December, the clashes in Nicosia spread and fighting continued into the subsequent year. The fiercest fighting took place in Constantia, Neapolis, Ledra Palace and, especially, the suburb of Omorphita (Kucuk Kaymakli) where Sampson was particularly active. In Omorfita, which had a majority Turkish Cypriot population, Sampson led armed groups in fierce battles between Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot irregulars after the Greek Cypriot families living in the suburb came under heavy fire from Turkish Cypriot militias who were aiming at bringing the whole suburb under Turkish Cypriot control . Apart from conventional weapons his groups used excavator trucks as makeshift tanks. According to American sources there were 17 dead, most of them Turkish Cypriots, and 70 wounded. In total, it is estimated that the whole intercommunal war cost the lives of about 350 Turkish Cypriot and 200 Greek Cypriot. The result of these clashes was the departure of the Turkish Cypriots from government and the segregation of the Turkish Cypriot community into enclaves. The United Nations responded by dispatching a peacekeeping force to Cyprus. The precise nature of the role of these troops, mostly British troops, has been the subject of some controversy.
In 1967, a military Junta came to power in Greece. That same year, a further outbreak of intercommunal violence in Cyprus nearly precipitated war between Greece and Turkey but the situation was stabilized by a mutual reduction of their armed contingents on the island
Ιmprisonment and later years
While the invasion lost Sampson much of his popular appeal. Sampson claimed not to have anticipated the impending coup that had installed him, adding that, after military officers had insisted, he "saw the possibility of civil war and accepted" [ in order to prevent the clashes. Nonetheless, Sampson was prosecuted and sentenced to 20 years in prison for treason in 1976.
In 1979, only three years into his prison sentence, he was allowed to go to France on medical grounds According to the Greek daily newspaper Eleftherotipia, which interviewed him on February 26, 1981, he said, “Had Turkey not intervened, I would not only have proclaimed Enosis, I would have annihilated the Turks in Cyprus as well.” In a post-invasion interview in 1974, Makarios claimed that, in 1964, Brigadier Ioannidis (later the dictator of Greece) and Sampson went to Makarios seeking his approval of such a plan. These claims have often been cited by Makarios sympathisers. Sampson himself vehemently denied to his death these claims. Effectively, again, in exile, he spent much of his time between Paris, Marseilles and Munich before returning to Cyprus in June 1990 to complete his sentence.
Following his release from Nicosia Central Prison in 1992, he went back to the newspaper publishing business. He remarked in an interview that others who had been involved in the struggles later went on to take up respectable positions in government while he had been singled out for blame but had remained silent for the sake of the people. Having evaded a number of attempts on his life, both in Cyprus and in France, he finally succumbed to cancer following a protracted bout. On May 10, 2001, he died in Nicosia.
He is survived by his wife and two children, one of whom is a politician and the other a journalist.