Thursday, July 23, 2009

What happens with Cyprus Cultural Heritage

Under numerous rulers, the population of Cyprus retained a continuity in its cultural identity, assimilating foreign influences and making them part of the ancient Greek culture of the island (the first written documents shows the Assyrians ruled the island around – 1.000 BC).

During the thousands of years of its history there has never been a radical discontinuity in the cultural identity of its population, and its heritage has been enriched around a common cultural theme. The July 20, 1974 invasion by Turkey of Northern part of Cyprus has a consequence extensive destruction: works of art, symbols of worship, deeds and gestures that have repeated themselves for thousands of years, everything that constitutes the culture and heritage of Cyprus have become and still are objects for demolition - they are being destroyed, pillages, wiped out. The philosophers of ancient Greece have abandoned the school books, ancient Greek scripts etc. every witness to one of the oldest civilization of Cyprus is fading away in the Northern part. No wonder that one Turkish friend once told me that Greece never existed before the independence war of 1822: Byzantium’s were not Greeks according him. A correction: The language of the Byzantium’s was ancient Greek and their religion Orthodox Greek. And before that they were called Hellenic.
Several years after the legal invasion of North Cyprus (which became in legal terms: an occupation) a journalist wrote an article in The Times of 19.08.80: ‘’As a journalist I have travelled widely and freely on both sides of the partition line. In Turkish Cyprus there was large scale damage to churches in the immediate aftermath of the 1974 intervention. That was perhaps understandahle. More recently, historic churches, have been seized, stripped and whitewashed and converted into mosques’’ and ‘’United Nations military documents from 1978 of, circulated to officers in the United Nations peace - keeping force in Cyprus, discloses: looting is being systematically carried out on a massive scale by the Turkish and Turkish Cypriot authorities in the north of the island; numerous graveyards of 50 or more tombs had been reduced to pieces or rubble; antique smuggling in the Northern area has reached enourmous dimensions and that measures should be taken to protect the destruction of the antiques but none of that all happened.
In May of this year, the President of the Republic of Cyprus (South) Demetris Christofias said that Turkey is responsible to a great extent for the destruction of the cultural heritage in the Turkish northern part of Cyprus. He said Turkey is greatly responsible for the destruction of the island’s heritage, stressing that the cultural heritage belongs not only to the Greek Cypriots but also to the Turkish Cypriots and the whole of humanity. A large part of Cyprus’ cultural heritage, some of which has been listed by UNESCO, continues to be under Turkish rule but many archaeological sites in Northern Cyprus have been abandoned, neglected or destroyed.
I’ve been several time to this unhappy island and drove by car through the North and crossed over to the South. While driving through the Northern part you see everywhere the mass scale destruction: ancient old monasteries are vandalized and used as playground; Greek Orthodox churches are places to dry your laundry,…churches turned into mosques etc.. The Turkish Cypriots we met are so different than the Turkish settlers which were moved there by Denktash and his gang after 1974. While the Cypriots of the North are warm and welcoming those in the South have a different approach. And regarding the Turkish settlers; they might be the core of the problem.
What takes place constitutes a challenge for the European and universal principles and there is urgent need for reaction to the gradual but systematic wiping out of the cultural heritage of Cyprus, which has a universal character.

Tuesday the US Helsinki Commission held a briefing about CYPRUS’ RELIGIOUS CULTURAL HERITAGE IN PERIL. You can see more details here and here.
Note: several years ago the Turkish Cypriot Minister of Defence and Foreign Affairs wrote the following letter (which facts seems later to be half true)
Note: I was looking for a picture for this entry but google images directed me to sites which are all banned by the Turkish government...
Note: had problems with lay out, --- means break...

Day Opening - July 23

Just a girl, travelling in Europe.