Executed for peace

IssueFebruary - March 2022
News by Bruce Kent

On 10 December, the Nikos Nikiforidis (Non Nuclear) Peace Award for 2020 was given to Turkish peace activist Bülent Tanık, formerly mayor of the Çankaya district of Ankara and president of the Association for Peace and Communication in Aegean (APCA). The ceremony at Athens City Hall had been delayed because of the pandemic. The award, given by PADOP (the Greek Observatory of International Organisations and Globalisation), was made to honour Bülent Tanık’s ‘special efforts in the defence of peace and human rights and his continuous contributions in the field of Turkish-Greek friendship’.

Bruce Kent writes:

I was shocked when I first heard about that brave young Greek, Nikos Nikiforidis, who was shot, aged 22, on 5 March 1951 by the then-military government of Greece.

His crime? He had promoted the Stockholm Peace Appeal and urged others to support it.

What was the Stockholm Appeal that provoked such hostility? Issued in March 1950, it called for the outlawing of atomic weapons since they were ‘a crime against humanity’. It had originated with the World Peace Council (WPC), a very Soviet-directed body.

The WPC chair was the Nobel Prize-winner for chemistry, Frédéric Joliot-Curie, a scientist and a communist. The United States greeted the appeal as ‘the spurious peace offensive’ of the Soviet Union – and Greece was very much under US influence at the time.

We tend today to forget what the Cold War meant.

The atomic destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was greeted by many in the West as the only way to bring the Second World War to an end. That was not true. Negotiations with parts of the Japanese government, aimed at ending that war, were already taking place. What those two US atomic bombs achieved was to bring about the immediate end to that war and keep the Soviet Union out of the Pacific area. So the Cold War started and, with it, intense determination by the Soviet Union to gain its own nuclear weaponry.

Greece saw itself as being on the front line in the Cold War between Soviet and US influence and strongly opposed the promotion of the Stockholm Appeal.

That was the crime of the 22-year-old Nikos which led to his execution. It is reported that, as he faced those about to shoot him, he said: ‘My execution has only one meaning – to suppress the peace movement.’

It did not. His courage continues to inspire us many many years later.