The pillage, destruction and desecration of Cyprus' religious and cultural heritage in the occupied parts of Cyprus by Turkey has been brought about by the continuing occupation of more than a third of the island's territory and has led to incalculable loss.
Unfortunately, every effort undertaken by The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) authorities to protect the cultural heritage of Cyprus has been unsuccessful. This has been due to the unwillingness of the Turkish occupation army to comply with international conventions.
A detailed report on the condition of the monuments in the occupied part of Cyprus, prepared in 1975 by the Canadian representative of UNESCO in Cyprus, J. Dalibard, was not published, as a result of Turkish intervention.
Various documents confirm that during the Turkish military invasion and during the following thirty-six years of occupation, a plethora of archaeological and religious sites have been damaged. The destruction of historic monuments and the desecration of religious sites are important issues for the people of Cyprus. These monuments and religious places represent a significant part of Cyprus’ vast cultural and religious heritage. For years, the Government of the Republic of Cyprus and the Church of Cyprus have tried, before various forums, to disseminate information on the destruction of their cultural property and to repatriate the stolen artifacts which were taken from religious sites in the northern part of Cyprus.
The practices of the Turkish occupation army, which inter Alia include the following, should be condemned by the international community:
- The willful desecration, pillage, looting and destruction of around 500 churches and religious sites belonging to the Greek-Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Cyprus, the Greek-Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, the Holy Monastery of St. Catherine in Sinai, the Roman Catholic Church, the Catholic-Armenian Church, the Catholic-Maronite Church, the Jewish community, as well as the Protestant Church, along with their cemeteries;
- The conversion of a considerable number of Christian churches into military camps, mosques, stables, hen coops, oxen and sheep-stalls;
- The usage, today, of some of Christian Churches as wheat-chambers, store rooms and granaries;
- The renting or sale of some of Christian Churches to private individuals, who use them as art studios, carpentry workshops, parking stations, coffee shops, residences, cultural centers, gymnasia's, ceramics workshops, hotels, pubs, theaters, nightclubs, museums, ottoman baths (hamam), sports clubs and dancing schools; and,
- The fundamental and massive violations of human rights and religious freedoms in Cyprus, as a direct result from the continuing Turkish military occupation.
This website contains an on line petition requesting that the religious rights and freedoms of the people of Cyprus be respected by the Government of Turkey; that the cultural artifacts be repatriated; and, that the cultural monuments in the occupied territory of Northern Cyprus be preserved.