Not to be confused with EOKA B.
Participant in Cypriot struggle for Independence and Cypriot intercommunal violence
Active 1955–1959
Ideology Anti-imperialism
Greek nationalism
Leaders Georgios Grivas
Headquarters Cyprus
Strength 1,250[1]
Allies Greece
Opponents British Empire
Turkish Resistance Organisation

EOKA (/ˈkə/) was a Greek Cypriot nationalist guerrilla[2][3] organisation that fought a campaign for the end of British rule in Cyprus, for the island's self-determination[4] and for eventual union with Greece.


EOKA is the acronym of the organisation's full name in Greek, Εθνική Οργάνωσις Κυπρίων Αγωνιστών, Ethniki Organosis Kyprion Agoniston ("National Organisation of Cypriot Fighters"), sometimes expanded as Εθνική Οργάνωσις Κυπριακού Αγώνος, Ethnikí Orgánosis Kipriakoú Agónos ("National Organisation of Cypriot Struggle").[5]


The United Kingdom had promised Greece unification with Cyprus if Greece would enter World War I on the side of the Allies; but the Greeks declined this invitation because King Constantine I of Greece had been educated in Germany, was married to Sophia of Prussia, sister of Kaiser Wilhelm, and was convinced of the Central Powers' victory. Prime minister Eleftherios Venizelos on the other hand was an ardent anglophile, and believed in an Allied victory. After Venizelos' efforts to sway Constantine's opinion proved unsuccessful, the promise was never realised.

In the 1950s, EOKA was established having the specific aim to mount a military campaign to end the status of Cyprus as a British crown colony and achieve the island's unification with Greece. The leadership of AKEL at the time, the island's large communist party, opposed EOKA's military action, advocating a "Gandhiesque approach" of civil disobedience, such as workers' strikes and demonstrations.[6] AKEL was previously involved in organising the plebiscite of 1950, where the vast majority of Greek Cypriots voted for union with Greece (98%).


Oath of The Youth Organisation of EOKA

I swear in the name of the Holy Trinity that:

  • I shall work with all my power for the liberation of Cyprus from the British yoke, sacrificing for this even my life.
  • I shall perform without question all the instructions of the organisation which may be entrusted to me and I shall not bring any objection, however difficult and dangerous these may be.
  • I shall not abandon the struggle unless I receive instructions from the leader of the organisation and after our aim has been accomplished.
  • I shall never reveal to anyone any secret of our organisation neither the names of my chiefs nor those of the other members of the organization even if I am caught and tortured.
  • I shall not reveal any of the instructions which may be given me even to my fellow combatants.

If I disobey my oath I shall be worthy of every punishment as a traitor and may eternal contempt cover me.



in Bitter Lemons, by Lawrence Durrell[7]

EOKA was a nationalist organisation with the ultimate goal of "The liberation of Cyprus from the British yoke," claiming to be "anti-colonialist". Although not stated in its initial declaration of existence, which was printed and distributed on 1 April 1955, EOKA also had a target of achieving enosis (union of Cyprus with Greece, a union never made since Makarios in 1957 rejected it so that Cyprus could be a SOVEREIGN COUNTRY). Despite this ideology being reflected throughout the armed campaign in many of its members, and chiefly its military leader George Grivas, it was not of universal acceptance. The head of the political arm of EOKA, Makarios, took a more compromising approach, especially during the later stages of the struggle.

Ultimately, the intents of the struggle were according to the organisation political and not military. EOKA, in Grivas' words, wanted to attract the attention of the world through high-profile operations that would make headlines.[8] In his memoirs Grivas admits to "by deeds of heroism and self sacrifice to draw the attention of international public opinion, especially among the allies of Greece".[9]

Armed campaign

The first declaration made by EOKA, distributed in April 1955 outlining their raison d’être. See below for English translation.

The first declaration made by EOKA, distributed in April 1955. (Words in capitals kept as such)



With God’s help, with faith in the righteousness of our struggle, with the aid of all Hellenism


With the sacred motto left upon us by our ancestors "EITHER WITH IT, OR ON IT"

CYPRIOT BROTHERS, From the depths of the centuries we are watched by all those who shone upon Greek history to maintain our freedom, those who fought in Marathon, in Salamis, the 300 of Leonidas and those who more recently fought in the Albanian epoch. We are watched by the fighters of ‘21, who taught us that liberation from an occupier always comes through BLOOD. We are also watched by the rest of Hellenism with anticipation, but also with national pride.

Let us respond with deeds, that we “will better” them.

The time has come to show the world that if international diplomacy is UNFAIR and PUSILLANIMOUS, the Cypriot psyche is brave and if the powers that be do not want to grant us our freedom, we will claim it with our own HANDS AND BLOOD.

Let us show the world once more that a Greek’s neck will not tolerate the yoke. The struggle will be hard; the occupier has the means and the numbers.

However, we have the SOUL, and JUSTICE on our side. And that is why we shall be VICTORIOUS.


Take a look at your own actions. It is a disgrace in the 20th century for a nation to have to shed blood to gain its freedom, the holy gift for which we fought on your side and for which you yourselves claim to have fought against Nazism and Fascism.


Wherever you are, hear our voice:





direct translation from the original document released by EOKA

The military campaign officially began on April 1, 1955. On that date, EOKA launched simultaneous attacks on the British controlled Cyprus Broadcasting Station in Nicosia, undertaken by a team led by Markos Drakos, on the British Army's Wolseley barracks, and on targets in Famagusta, by a team led by Grigoris Afxentiou.

Thereafter and unlike other anti colonial movements, EOKA confined its acts to sabotaging military installations, ambushing military convoys and patrols, and assassinating British soldiers and local informers. It did not attempt to control any territory, a tactic that according to Grivas would not have suited the terrain and size of Cyprus nor the imbalance of EOKA's conventional military capabilities with respect to the British Army.[10]

Formation and structure

The organisation was headed by Georgios Grivas. A graduate of the Hellenic Military Academy, Grivas had served as an officer in the Greek Army. He had fought in both World Wars. During the German occupation of Greece in World War II, he led a small, extreme right-wing resistance group, named Organization X. After the war and during the Hellenic Civil War, he led Organisation X in opposing the leftist resistance guerillas of ELAS.[11]

Grivas assumed the nom de guerre Digenis in direct reference to the Byzantine Digenis Akritas who repelled invaders from the Byzantine Empire.[12][13]

Second in command in EOKA was Grigoris Afxentiou, also a former officer of the Greek army. Afxentiou had graduated from the reserves Officers Academy in 1950 with no prior experience in military operations.

Recruitment of members was targeted at the younger population. The conditions for a mass uprising as witnessed in other colonial conflicts were assessed not to exist in Cyprus. There were no fundamental economic problems nor was there widespread poverty or food shortage.[14] The working class was largely allied to the AKEL left-wingers and did not openly support an armed paramilitary campaign. Cyprus' privileged geographical position allowed the middle class to prosper through international trade, activities that were openly encouraged by the British administration. As a result, EOKA's leadership directed recruitment to the "idealist" and "passionate youth".[9]

At the peak of the conflict, EOKA' paramilitary numbered 1,250 members (250 regulars plus 1,000 active underground). They faced British security forces totalling 40,000 (32,000 regulars plus 8,000 auxiliaries).[1] EOKA was allegedly clandestinely supported by the Greek Government in the form of arms, money and propaganda on radio stations broadcast from Athens. The total cost of running the campaign was reported to be GBP £50,000 (US $140,000) for the whole 4 years.[1]



EOKA's main target, as stated both in its initiation oath and its initial declaration of existence, was the British military. In total, during the campaign, EOKA engaged in 1,144 armed clashes with the British Army. About 53% of clashes took place in urban areas, whilst the rest took place in rural areas.[8]

During the course of the insurrection, 105 [15] British servicemen were killed as well as 51 members of the police.[16]

Aside from British military personnel, EOKA targeted civilians connected to the British armed forces, such as their families.[17] Colonial and civilian police officers were targeted along with British expatriates who were targeted due to their nationality.[18]

Greek Cypriots

Greek Cypriots suspected of being allied to the colonial forces and those believed to be informants were targeted. Although the extent of operations launched against Greek Cypriots was far smaller than those against the British military, they were much more efficient. In total, 230 assassination attempts were attributed to EOKA action. Of those, only 13 targets escaped unharmed, whilst 148 Greek Cypriots were killed and 69 were wounded.[8]

Among the 148 killings, 23 have since the end of the struggle been characterised as leftists. After the end of the struggle, there has been debate whether EOKA was also used to target individuals on the basis of their political affiliations, in particular if they did not correspond to Grivas' right-wing ideology and/or as a vehicle for settling personal differences. The communist party of AKEL and the EOKA veteran fighters have both been outspoken on this issue.[19][20]

Turkish Cypriots

One of the first actions of Field Marshal Sir John Harding, the newly appointed in 1955 governor of Cyprus, was to expand the numbers of auxiliary Cyprus Police. This was achieved by disproportionate recruitment from the Turkish-Cypriot community, an action that went against the advice of experienced colonial officials who knew that over-reliance upon a Turkish police force would alarm the Greek Cypriot population and likely lead to open conflict between the island’s ethnic communities [21] A new, separate "Special Mobile Reserve" unit was created, exclusively recruiting from the Turkish community.[21] Although EOKA's primary targets were British interests, Cypriots of Turkish descent, especially those serving the colonial security forces soon became targets.[21] Activity against Turkish Cypriots was initiated only after the anti-Greek Istanbul Pogrom of September 1955.[22]

Communal violence, rare in Cyprus before the insurgency, flared up in 1956 and increased throughout EOKA's campaign.[21] In 1957, a Turkish Resistance Organization (TMT in Turkish) came into existence, being a rival paramilitary organisations. Though infrequently, EOKA and TMT did target each other's members with ferocity. In the worst period of such violence, in 1958, EOKA killed 55 Turkish Cypriots whilst TMT killed 60 Greeks.[23]


On 16 June 1956, the bombing of a restaurant by EOKA led to the death of William P. Boteler, a CIA officer working under diplomatic cover. Colonel Grivas immediately issued a statement denying a deliberate attempt to target American citizens. He further warned American officials, for their own safety, to avoid the establishments patronised by "our British enemy."[24]

In October 1956, an EOKA leader was captured during the British forces' "Operation Sparrowhawk." The following year, Grigoris Afxentiou was cornered and forced into a firefight with a British detachment, where he eventually burned to death, in what became known as the Battle of Machairas.[10] A number of other Greek fighters were hanged by the British forces for acts of "terrorism" and "sabotage", including 19-year-old Evagoras Pallikarides.[25]

EOKA's activity continued until December 1959 when a cease-fire was declared which paved the way for the political rapprochement between Greece, Britain and Turkey that produced the Zürich agreement on the future of the country.

The EOKA campaign objectives were partially met when on 16 August 1960 Cyprus achieved independence from the United Kingdom, with the exception of two "Sovereign Base Areas" (SBAs) at Akrotiri and Dhekelia. The settlement explicitly denied Enosis, the union with Greece sought by EOKA. Although Cyprus gained its independence, this independence came with a complex constitution and the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee, a security arrangement comprising a three-way guarantee from Turkey, Greece and Britain that none of them would annex in the future the independent republic.

EOKA allegations of torture by British forces

In 2011, veteran EOKA paramilitary figures announced that lawsuits were being planned against British authorities. This was re-iterated in 2012.[26] The veterans association claimed that at least 14 Cypriots died and hundreds more could have been "tortured during interrogations" by the British during the 1955–1959 campaign. Two of those who allegedly died during interrogation were aged 17. The legal action comes on the back of the uncovering of secret documents released in 2011 which present similar practices during the Mau Mau Uprising in Kenya, during the same period.[27][28]

Dissolution and legacy

The EOKA campaign lasted officially until 31 March 1959. After independence, EOKA fighters formed regional associations, such as ΣΑΠΕΛ (acronym of "Σύνδεσμος Αγωνιστών Πόλεως και Επαρχίας Λεμεσού"; "SAPEL", "Union of Fighters of Limassol and district"), that have been participating in commemorations, museum collections etc. In the 1990s, a dedicated old people's home for ex-EOKA fighters was constructed in the village of Palodhia, near Limassol.

A memorial museum dedicated to the EOKA campaign was created in 1960. It is located in the centre of Nicosia.[29]

According to Cypriot polician Vassos Lyssarides, the paramilitary methods of EOKA, and the nature of its campaign, has served as a widely studied example for "anticolonial, national-liberation struggles in the period of decolonisation."[30]

Political perception

 Cyprus: In its official website, the Cyprus government mentions EOKA as an organisation that waged an "armed struggle" against the British.[31]

 Greece: Greek press refers to EOKA as an organisation that mounted a "liberation struggle" against British Colonial rule.[32]

 Turkey: The Republic of Turkey regards EOKA as a terrorist organisation. [33]

 United Kingdom: Media in the United Kingdom referred to EOKA as a "terrorist organisation" during the conflict [34] but currently the BBC describes it a "paramilitary organisation."[35] However, the British press didn't always refer to EOKA as "terrorist" organisation or called its members "terrorists". For example, in its editorial of 9 May 1956 "Making martyrs", the Manchester Guardian didn't refer to EOKA as a terrorist organisation but as a "movement." The significance of the specific editorial is that it was commenting on the executions of EOKA members that were going to take place the day after (10 May 1956).

 United States: The press in the United States of America was referring to EOKA as a terrorist organisation during the conflict, [36] however current press such as the New York Times refers to the organisation as a 'guerilla movement'.[37]


There are various monuments dedicated to the members of EOKA who died during the years of combat. Those people are largely regarded as war-time heroes by Greek-Cypriots.

In Larnaka, there are monuments dedicated to Michalakis Paridis, Grigoris Afxentiou, and on King Paul Square to Petrakis Kiprianou, a 17-year-old member of EOKA who was killed in the village of Ora on 21 March 1957.[38]

In culture

See also

Notes and references

  1. 1 2 3 Kraemer, Joseph S. (Winter 1971). "Revolutionary Guerrilla Warfare & the Decolonization Movement". Polity. 4 (2): 137–158. doi:10.2307/3234160. JSTOR 3234160.
  2. "EOKA (Ethniki Organosis Kyprion Agoniston)". Retrieved 2008-12-12.
  3. "War and Politics – Cyprus". Retrieved 2008-12-12.
  4. http://www.lse.ac.uk/europeanInstitute/research/hellenicObservatory/pdf/4th_%20Symposium/PAPERS_PPS/HISTORY%20II/KARYOS.pdf
  5. "EOKA". Britannica. Retrieved 2008-08-11.
  6. Mallinson, William (2005). Cyprus: a modern history. I.B.Tauris. p. 19. ISBN 978-1-85043-580-8.
  7. Durrell, Lawrence (1957). Bitter lemons. London: Faber and Faber. ISBN 0-571-06186-9.
  8. 1 2 3 Markides, Kyriacos (May 1974). "Social Change and the Rise and Decline of Social Movements: The Case of Cyprus". American Ethnologist. 1 (2): 309–330. doi:10.1525/ae.1974.1.2.02a00070. JSTOR 643552.
  9. 1 2 Grivas, George (1964). Guerrilla warfare and EOKA's struggle: a politico-military study. Translated by A. A. Pallis. London, G.B.: Longmans.
  10. 1 2 Grivas, George; Charles Foley (1964). The Memoirs of General Grivas. London: Longmans.
  11. Ganser, Daniele (July 12, 2005). Nato's Secret Armies: Operation Gladio and Terrorism in Western Europe. Routledge. p. 213. ISBN 978-0-7146-5607-6.
  12. The Cyprus Conspiracy: America, Espionage and the Turkish Invasion page 152
  13. Attila '74, The Rape of Cyprus
  14. A good example was the case of Algeria where the uprising was fueled in part by a poor wheat harvest, shortages of manufactured goods, and severe unemployment. See article: "Nationalism and resistance in Algeria"
  15. Official statistics, unofficial estimates at around 371 (see Simpson, Alfred William Brian)
  16. Simpson, Alfred William Brian (2001). Human Rights and the End of Empire: Britain and the Genesis of the European Convention. Oxford University Press. p. 893. ISBN 978-0-19-926789-7.
  17. Cvilian deaths
  18. The struggle for Cyprus. Charles Foley, W. I. Scobie, Hoover Institution Press, 1975
  19. Hazou, Elias (April 12, 2005). "Christofias comments spark EOKA storm". Cyprus Mail. Retrieved 2008-08-15.
  20. Hadjistylianou, Michalis; Giorgos Ploutarhos (2005-04-07). "Οι δύο όψεις της ιστορίας για τους εκτελεσθέντες (The two views on the assassinations)". Simerini (in Greek). Retrieved 2008-08-15.
  21. 1 2 3 4 S. Corum, James (March 1, 2006). "Training Indigenous Forces in Counterinsurgency: A Tale of Two Insurgencies." (pdf). Strategic Studies Institute. U.S. Army War College. Retrieved 2009-05-03.
  22. Λιμπιτσιούνη, Ανθή Γ. "Το πλέγμα των ελληνοτουρκικών σχέσεων και η ελληνική μειονότητα στην Τουρκία, οι Έλληνες της Κωνσταντινούπολης της Ίμβρου και της Τενέδου" (PDF). University of Thessaloniki. p. 56. Retrieved 3 October 2011.
  23. Drousiotis, Makarios (2005-04-25). "Our Haunted Country". Politis Newspaper. Retrieved 2009-05-03.
  24. Gup, Ted. Book of Honor: Covert Lives and Classified Deaths at the CIA page 90, New York, Doubleday, 2000. ISBN 0-385-49293-6
  25. Simpson, Alfred William Brian (2001). Human Rights and the End of Empire: Britain and the Genesis of the European Convention. Oxford University Press. p. 876. ISBN 978-0-19-926789-7.
  26. "Cypriots to sue U.K. for alleged torture in ’50s", Herald News, 1 November 2012
  27. Theodoulou, Michael (13 April 2011). "Greek Cypriots intend to sue Britain over torture in 1950s uprising". The Times. Retrieved 2011-05-09.
  28. Dewhurst, Patrick (14 April 2011). "EOKA fighters to sue Brits over torture". Cyprus Mail. Retrieved 2011-05-09.
  29. Leonidou, Leo (June 22, 2006). "The flag that marked the end of colonial rule". Cyprus Mail. Archived from the original on 2007-05-26. Retrieved 2007-04-17.
  30. Dr. Vassos Lyssarides, ANT1 TV "Ο Αγώνας της ΕΟΚΑ 40 χρόνια μετά", 1995 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hUfee3rLziM
  31. About Cyprus – History – Modern Times – The British Period
  32. "Newsletter Vol 33". Institute for Neohellenic Research. 2008. Retrieved 2011-05-09.
  33. Memorial honors British soldiers killed on Cyprus
  34. "1956: Britain deports Cyprus Archbishop". BBC News. 1956-03-09. Retrieved 2010-05-02.
  35. "Grave robbers steal former Cyprus president's remains". BBC. 11 December 2009. Retrieved 2009-12-11.
  36. "CYPRUS: Blimp Rides Again". Time. 1956-09-03. Retrieved 2010-05-02.
  37. Lewis, Paul (May 11, 2001). "Nikos Sampson, 66, Cyprus President After Coup, Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-01-22.
  38. The inscription reads, "ΠΕΤΡΑΚΗΣ ΚΥΠΡΙΑΝΟΥ ΑΓΩΝΙΣΤΗΣ Ε. 1956–1959 – ΠΕΣΩΝ ΣΤΗΝ ΟΡΑ ΛΑΡΝΑΚΑΣ 21.3.1957", "Petrakis Kyprianou, Cyptiot fighter, 1956-1959, fallen in Ora Larnaka 21/3/1957"
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