Turkey Wipes Out the Christian Culture of Occupied Cyprus
- “More than 550 Greek Orthodox churches, chapels and monasteries located in towns and villages of the occupied areas, have been pillaged, deliberately vandalized and, in some cases, demolished. Many Christian places of worship have been converted into mosques, depots of the Turkish army, stockyards and hay barns.” — Cyprus Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
- “UNESCO considers the intentional destruction of cultural heritage a war crime.” — Artnet News, 2017.
After Turkey invaded and occupied northern Cyprus, ancient mosaics were stolen from the Church of Panagia Kanakaria (pictured), which is located in the Turkish-occupied zone. The mosaics were later discovered in the United States and returned to Cyprus in 1989. (Image source: Julian Nitzsche/Wikimedia Commons)
A sixth-century mosaic of Saint Mark, stolen from a church after Turkey’s military invaded Cyprus in 1974, was recently recovered in a Monaco apartment and returned to Cypriot officials. The ancient masterpiece was described by Arthur Brand, the Dutch investigator who located it, as “one of the last and most beautiful examples of art from the early Byzantine era.”
Many other cultural Cypriot relics, from churches and other sites, were stolen from Cyprus by Turkish invaders and smuggled abroad. Some were recovered and returned in the past. In 1989, mosaics stolen from the Church of Panagia Kanakaria, discovered in the United States, were returned to Cyprus.
In the summer of 1974, Turkey mounted two major military campaigns against Cyprus and occupied the northern part of the island (which Turkey now calls the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus,” recognized only by Turkey). Since the Turkish invasion, much information has emerged not only about the atrocities committed against the Cypriots, but also of the destruction of historic, cultural and religious monuments.
According to a 2012 report, “The Loss of a Civilization: Destruction of cultural heritage in occupied Cyprus”:
“Turkey has been committing two major international crimes against Cyprus. It has invaded and divided a small, weak but modern and independent European state (since May 1, 2004 the Republic of Cyprus has been a member of the EU); Turkey has also changed the demographic character of the island and has devoted itself to the systematic destruction and obliteration of the cultural heritage of the areas under its military control…
“This is one of the most tragic aspects of the Cyprus problem and is also clear proof of the determination of Ankara to ‘Turkify’ the occupied area and to maintain a permanent presence in Cyprus.
“The occupying power and its puppet regime, from 1974 until today, have been working methodically to erase everything that is Greek and/or Christian from occupied Cyprus…”
A 2015 United States Library of Congress report confirmed the report:
“Foreign archaeological teams that were engaged in excavations in Cyprus were forced to discontinue their work after the 1974 events. Their valuable findings have been looted and the teams have not been able to return and resume their excavations.
“According to some estimates, through illegal excavations in the northern part of Cyprus, more than 60,000 Cypriot artifacts have been stolen and exported abroad to be sold in auction houses or by art dealers. The example of an ancient site dating from Neolithic times at the Cape of St. Andreas illustrates this point. The site, which had already been excavated under the aegis of the Department of Archaeology prior to 1974, was later damaged by the Turkish armed forces during the installation and hoisting of the flags of Turkey and the ‘TRNC [Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus].'”
In 2016, a report by the Cypriot Ministry of Foreign Affairs noted that:
“More than 550 Greek Orthodox churches, chapels and monasteries located in towns and villages of the occupied areas, have been pillaged, deliberately vandalized and, in some cases, demolished. Many Christian places of worship have been converted into mosques, depots of the Turkish army, stockyards and hay barns. This fact clearly proves that the religious heritage in the occupied areas has been the target of the occupation regime as part of its policy to eradicate the cultural character of the area. Moreover, important cultural monuments and places of worship continue to be completely inaccessible because they are located within the ‘military zones’ of the Turkish occupation army…
“The destruction is not limited to the monuments belonging to the Church of Cyprus, but also extends to religious monuments belonging to the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem and to the Armenian, Maronite and Catholic Churches of Cyprus, as for example the Armenian Monastery Sourp Magar in Halefka and the Maronite Monastery of Prophet Elias in Skylloura.”
A 2017 article for Artnet, detailing atrocities committed by the Islamic State (ISIS) against relics in museums, mosques, churches and archaeological sites in Syria and Iraq, says that “UNESCO considers the intentional destruction of cultural heritage a war crime.”
Meanwhile, Turkey — which has been committing the intentional destruction of occupied Cyprus’s cultural heritage for more than four decades — remains a member of NATO and a candidate for membership in the European Union. This is a situation that the West must force Turkey to address — and not only when an individual piece of looted art, such as the mosaic of Saint Mark, happens to be rescued.
Uzay Bulut, a Turkish journalist, is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Gatestone Institute. She is currently based in Washington D.C.
Turkey: Enabling Mass Illegal Migration into Greece
- Turkish authorities repeatedly have threatened Europe with an influx of migrants. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s threats should not be ignored.
- Ever since the migrant crisis started to escalate in 2011 — with the onset of civil war in Syria — those who were critical of mass, unchecked immigration have been called “racists,” “bigots” or “Islamophobes.”
- Today, however, the continued chaos in many European countries caused by immigration, and accompanying increase in crime — including murder and rape committed by Islamist extremists — appear to have proven the critics right.
|A recent surge of illegal migrant arrivals has put the Greek city of Thessaloniki in crisis. “Dozens of migrants have turned Aristotelous square in the center of Thessaloniki to a makeshift camp,” with many “sleeping in the open.” Pictured: The Idomeni migrant relocation camp, near Thessaloniki. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)|
Greece is currently facing a serious surge in undocumented migrant arrivals in the Evros region, an entry point for migrants illegally trying to enter the country from Turkey. Arrivals have roughly doubled since 2017, and Athens is holding Ankara responsible.
The influx from places such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Iraq, Bangladesh and African countries into Turkey reportedly has been on the rise in recent months, with 1.5 million people from Muslim countries waiting on the Iranian border to enter Turkey. This has sparked fears in Athens that they could be heading for Greece.
According to a fact sheet released last month by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), “Sea arrivals [in Greece] peaked this month with 4,000 people. Land arrivals through Evros also increased to 1,400.”
As a result, the Greek city of Thessaloniki is in crisis. According to a recent articlein The Greek Reporter, “Dozens of migrants have turned Aristotelous square in the center of Thessaloniki to a makeshift camp,” with many “sleeping in the open.”
This situation is likely to deteriorate even further, not only in Greece, but in the rest of Europe, with the massive number of new arrivals, particularly from Afghanistan, via Iran, into Turkey.
An investigative report in the Turkish daily Hurriyet, published in April, describes the way this is accomplished:
“Smugglers leave the Afghans and people from other countries, including children, on mountains. The illegals walk for kilometers through the border area… They all aim to go to Istanbul. But they first go to Erzurum, a city determined as the transit place…. Some then escape to Europe through Greece and Bulgaria, while others get involved in crimes, such as theft and prostitution, in Istanbul and are made to work as undocumented workers…
“According to the data of Turkey’s Immigration Authority, from the beginning of this year until March 29, 17,847 illegal Afghans have been caught. 9,426 Syrians, 5,311 Pakistanis, and 4,270 Iraqis have also been caught. The total number of illegals caught by police including those from other countries is 47,198.”
In an interview in April with the Turkish daily Milliyet, Erdal Güzel, head of the Erzurum Development Foundation, said:
“It has reached the point at which the people entering Turkey illegally from and returning to Afghanistan has become as easy as [a Turkish citizen’s] going from one Turkish city to another. They have learned the paths.
“…According to their own testimonies, they take buses to Iran at night… They are kept waiting there… until the time is right. Some families are kept waiting with no food or water for 15 or 20 days.
“They say they walk through the mountains. They all have the same story. Some say they walk through mountains for 4 or 5 days. They are told that ‘even if one of you falls off a cliff, you will not make a sound.’ … Among them are pregnant women and blind people. In recent years, the migration traffic has escalated incredibly… Thousands of people are coming here… Human smugglers stuff these people in three-story trucks in which sheep are carried… What is strange is they come here at the cost of their lives. They enter Turkey and then want to go to Germany through Greece, Serbia and Hungary. They hit the road so zealously as if to say, ‘Those who will die will die, and those who will stay alive will be here with us.'”
“People who are smuggled can be extremely vulnerable to human trafficking, abuse, and other crimes, as they are illegally present in the country of destination and often owe large debts to their smugglers.”
Nevertheless, it appears that a highly organized international network of various actors — including smuggling and trafficking groups, international organizations and even governments, such as that of Turkey — are involved or complicit in the mass illegal movement and abuse of a large number of people.
Turkish authorities repeatedly have threatened Europe with an influx of migrants. In November 2016, for instance, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan openly stated:
“When 50,000 refugees headed to Kapıkule [at the Turkey-Bulgaria border], you shrieked: ‘What will we do if Turkey opens it border gates?’ Look at me! If you go too far, we will open those border gates. Just know this.”
Erdogan’s threats should not be ignored. Among the smuggled migrants and refugees are ISIS supporters and other Islamist radicals. Also, many of the jihadi terrorists who participated in the deadly attacks in Manchester, Paris, Brussels, Berlin, Stockholm and St. Petersburg in recent years had connections to Turkey. Some were apprehended in Turkey; others either traveled there to cross into Syria to join ISIS or had lived there for a while. Turkey has been used routinely by Islamists as a route into areas of Syria and Iraq to join ISIS.
Ever since the migrant crisis started to escalate in 2011 — with the onset of civil war in Syria — those who were critical of mass, unchecked immigration have been called “racists,” “bigots” or “Islamophobes.”
Today, however, the continued chaos in many European countries caused by mass immigration, and accompanying increase in crime — including murder and rapecommitted by Islamist extremists — appear to have proven the critics right. It is urgent for European governments to find effective solutions to unfettered immigration. It is equally imperative for those governments to hold Turkey accountable for its part in the crisis.
Uzay Bulut, a Turkish journalist born and raised in Turkey, is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Gatestone Institute. She is currently based in Washington D.C.
All of this fits prophecy about lawlessness and movement of people, and we can see the same actions happening in the Middle East and Europe will apply from South America into the United States and Canada. SN
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