In July 20, 1974 Turkey undertakes a military invasion of Cyprus which has as a consequence extensive destruction. On August 14 the Turkish plan was completed with the second assault that culminated with the occupation of 37% of Cyprus. The Turkish troops destroyed every hope that the end of the Second World War would mean the phasing out of the horror of war from Europe. Even worse, the extent of the destruction, the barbarity and plundering which has been continuing for many years now, are reminiscent of the dark days of the Middle Ages. The misdeeds of the Turkish Attila are very similar to the works of peril and destruction of the notorious king of the Huns.

Prestigious foreign publications, individuals, associations and international organisations have castigated the actions committed by Turkey and her forces in Cyprus. 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.


With the flight of the Greek population, Turkey succeedeed in her first target: the region ceased to live and breathe to the tune to which it had done for almost three millenia of its history.

Under numerous rulers, the population of Cyprus retained a continuity in its cultural identity, assimilating foreign influences and making them part of the Greek culture of the island. 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 Times

"It is important to distinguish between random damage that might have been caused by drunks after a night out, and the demolition of crosses, tombstones and heavy marble slabs which weigh several hundredwieht and would need men with sledgehammers to destroy them. We found nothing to fit the first category. In fact, at Dhavlos, on the north coast, now occupied by mainland Turks, even the graveyard wall was partly demolished. Not a single tombstone remained standing...

..the process of obliterating everything Greek has been carried out methodically. The churches and graveyards have suffered severely."

"The Times", 5.27.1976

"The little treasure house of Antiphonitis Monastery, in the mountains north of Lefkoniko, had sustained the most comprehensive looting and damage....the 11th, 12th, and 15th century icons..all had vanished or had been destroyed. The nineteenth and twentieth century icons were smashed, the furniture broken. In the corner were bags of cement and the remains of a fire. Furniture had been lugged outside onto the grass, and the whole place was a strewn with bottles and filth. Somebody was clearly proud of this work, for the wrecked iconostasis the date was chalked March 6, 1975."

"The Times", 5.27.1976

The report (August 9)from the Cyprus Director of Antiquities on the recent looting or desecration of the mosaics in the church of Panayia Kanakaria in the Turkish occupied north of Cyprus has reopened the debate on the fate of churches, monasteries and mosques on that unhappy island.

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. One example is on the fringes of Nicosia, another outside Famagusta. Others have been desecrated.

Less than a year ago, travelling in the company of Mr. Mustapha Adiloglou, press official in London of the Turkish Federated State of Cyprus we came across a desecrated church in the centre of a busy village between Famagusta and Nicosia. Fresh excrement and urine lay on the smashed altar and the floor. The church Bible had been used as toilet paper and the wall paintings gashed and disfigured. The icons had vanished. From the state of the place it was clear that this was not a single act of violation. The place obviously had been a public convenience for months.

In fairness one should add that some churches (particularly tourist conscious Kyrenia) have been restored by the rurkish authorities and are either open for prayer or tourism or securely locked.

"The Times", 19.8.80


"The Turkish Cypriot Arts Society leader, Ali Atakan, in a statement issued on May 20 revealed yet more antique smuggling. According to this revelation, a valuable Byzantine mosaic has been stolen from a Byzantine Church in the village of Lythrangomi. There are two inter-connected churches in the village and the mosaic was stolen from the apse of the older church which dates back to the 8th century..."

Turkish Cypriot "Yenidyzen", 6.1.1982

"You will see chambers cut out of the rocks, lighthouses, the remains of baths, layouts and the military camps set up on the ruins both before and after 1974... Today Lambousa is a military zone closed to tourists. Here are many important churches and the mythological Akhiropietos Monastery. Now you cannot see it because it is being used as a military warehouse. The icons stolen from Lambousa were retrieved while being smuggled out of Ankara airport."

Le Monde

"The antiques are illegaly exported from the northern part of the island, especially rich in archaeological sites'

"Le Monde", 12.27.1978


"The Cyprus Arts Society in the occupied areas issued a press release saying that the antique smuggling in the occupied areas has reached enourmous dimensions and that measures should be taken to protect the destruction of the antiques."

Turkish Cypriot "Bozkurt", 7.4.1982

The Guardian

"We visited 26 former Greek villages. We found not a single undesecrated cemetery..."

"...The vandalism and desecration are so methodical and so widespread that they amount to institutionalised obliteration of everything sacred to a Greek ... In some instances, an entire graveyard of 50 or more tombs had been reduced to pieces or rubble no larger than a matchbox...we found the chapel of Ayios Demetrios at Ardhana empty but for the remains of the altar plinth, and that was fouled with human excrement... At Syngrasis ... the broken crucifix was drenched in urine.. At Lefkoniko ...the interior of Gaidhouras church... was overlooked by an armless Christ on a smashed crucifix... Tombs gaped open wherever we went...crosses bearing the pictures of those burried beneath ... had been flattened and destroyed.

"The Guardian", 'The Rape of northern Cyprus', 5.6.1976


"The trial of the director sic of Kyrenia Museum, Mehmet Rasih, has ended with the case being referred to the "criminal court". The trial is connected with the 3 chests of antiques discovered in Turkey on their way to Germany, on 16.3.1981... The number of the missing icons or substituted icons were 225 ...later it was found that large icons had been sawn down to smaller sizes and thus entered in the books."

Turkish Cypriot "Ortam", 5.6.1982


"Two icons estimated to cost arounf TL 1 million were stolen from Kyrenia "Court". The icons stolen from the village church of Karmi 5 months ago were found in the Famagusta district and 4 persons were arrested in connection with the incident. The icons were locked away in Kyrenia "Court-House" to be stolen again."

Turkish Cypriot "Bozkurt", 3.9.1979

The Times

"Confidential United Nations military documents, circulated to officers in the United Nations peace - keeping force in Cyprus, disclose that looting is being systematically carried out on a massive scale by the Turkish and Turkish Cypriot authorities in the north of the island"

"The Times", 12.13.1976

"...historic churches have been seized, stripped and whitewashed and converted into mosques ... Others have been desecrated. ... we came across a desecrated church in the center of a busy village between Famagusta and Nicosia. Fresh excrement and urine lay on the smashed altar and the floor. The church Bible had been used as toilet paper and the wall paintings gashed and disfigured. The icons had vanished. From the state of the place it was clear that this was not a single act of violation. The place obviously had been a public convenience for months. ... On the Greek side all the mosques I have seen are securely locked and protected."

"The Times", 8.19.80

The Sunday Times

"Scotland Yard and Customs Officials are uncovering a highly organized smuggling network behind the trail of antiques looted in Cyprus"

"The Sunday Times", 4.25.1976


The Times

The above testimony, by a British journalist, member of the crew of a British TV network which visited the occupied part of Cyprus, proved that the places of rest of the dead became targets of the most intense destruction mania. According to this and other testimonies, the crosses on graves were cut away and broken to pieces. Tombstones were also overturned and crushed to bits, while the invaders violated the graves.

"We managed to check 26 villages in all. Some other villages, such as Marathovouno and Pyrga, were sealed by the Army and access to the church itself was not possible. Since graveyards are usually some way out of the village, these were checkable and, in every instance, we found deliberate and usually comprehensive damage. In no village we visited was the graveyard intact"

"The Times", 5.27.1976

The Guardian

"We visited 26 former Greek villages. We found not a single undesecrated cemetery..."

"The Guardian", 5.6.1976

"The next village had been -until the events of 1974- Greek. Now it is deserted but for Turkish refugee squatters. There are two churches in the village. One has been stripped and converted into a mosque. A few Turkish Cypriots kneel, praying, inside it. The other church has been vandalised. The exterior walls are covered with illegible graffiti. Inside, the destruction is complete. The body of the church is bare of pews or chairs. The alter screen, composed of six-inch timbers, has been wrenched out, the icons have been looted. Among the filth on the floor lies the torn remains of an antique bible. ...The altar ... has been smashed. On the remains of the altar are broken bottles, excrement, and what smells like urine. When asked about the desecrated Greek church and the massacre villages, Rauf Denktash, "president of Turkish Cypriots" that it all shows that Greeks and Turks can no longer live side by side on the island".

"The Guardian", 11.30.1979


"Illegal digs are being made in all districts. For example, in Kyrenia, in Ayios Epiktitos, in Nicosia, and in the hills beyond Krini. But, Famagusta is the most suitable for illegal digs. Illegal digs virtually cover the whole district. In this district the first settlements were established and since ancient times they had maintained their historical importance.

Illegal digs in the Karpass start from the cliff in the east, from the small islets in the sea, and from the caves of Galinoporni, and extend to the north-west of the Karpass, to Eptakomi, Ovogoros, Galatia and Ardhana".

Turkish Cypriot, "Olay", 1 7.5. 1982.

The Observer

"Vandals have desecrated scores of British graves in Turkish occupied northern Cyprus, some of them dedicated to First World War soldiers ... The wrecking of British gravestones pales beside the destruction in Christian Greek Orthodox cemeteries ... Every cross has been destroyed and the tombs gape open to the elements, the lizards and the robbers, spurred on by the superstition that the Greeks have valuables buried with them"

"The Observer", 3.29.87

OLAY, April 1982.

"Haven't you heard that the 2000 year old Christian church in Cyprus, St Barnabas' Church, has been robbed? Haven't you heard that 35 icons were stolen, that 11 of them were found in Kythrea, that 11 were retrieved at Ankara airport while being smuggled out, and that the rest are lost? Haven't you heard what's happening in Varosha (Famagusta)? Haven't you heard that figurines belonging to the Catholic period and kept in the Archaelogical Museum have been stolen and smuggled to London? What about the icons in the other churches; the mosaics, the private collections, the illegal digs? Why have they stopped the digs started before 1974 at the city of Gastria, which belongs to the geometric age? Do you know what happened since then? The government has issued permits to certain businessmen from Turkey to set up a gypsum factory there. The tombs were destroyed and plundered."

Mehmet Yasin, "Perishing Cyprus" in the Turkish Cypriot Review "Olay", April 1982.

Destruction of Cultural Heritage

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