Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the Government of Cyprus

  Cyprus has a long and rich history going back over 10,000 years, which has resulted in a rich cultural landscape involving hundreds of sites scattered throughout the island representing various historical periods, as well as the modern period. The following information relates to the destruction and ruination of the cultural heritage in the occupied part of Cyprus, as a consequence of the 1974 Turkish military occupation.


  In accordance with the Antiquities Law of Cyprus, ancient monuments are divided into two categories. Monuments assigned to the first category, Schedule A, are the property of the Government and are managed by the Department of Antiquities. Monuments in Schedule B are private property. Monuments in the occupied area including those of extraordinary importance such as Enkomi, Salamis, Soloi, Lampousa, Bellapais and the Monasteries of Apostolos Varnavas and Apostolos Andreas were not accessible to the Department of Antiquities. Out of a total of 197 Schedule A monuments, 76 are in the occupied area, whereas for monuments of Schedule B, out of a total of 974, 130 are in the occupied area. There are therefore, 206 ancient monuments situated in the occupied area. There are reliable reports of abandoned archaeological sites, indifference, large scale theft and looting, and damage. Notable examples are the pulling down of the city walls at Vouni, looting at ancient Enkomi and Salamis, and theft of statues. In some cases these have come to light because of attempts to sell items, for example the purchase in 1974 by the Government of Cyprus of a four wheeled bronze Mycenean stand placed on sale in Frankfurt by Turkish antique smugglers.


  Three of the island's museums, the Famagusta District Museum, the Kyrenia Shipwreck Museum and the Kyrenia Folk Art Museum are in the occupied area. From the first gold jewellery and pottery are missing, from the second antiquities were stolen, and from the third all the silver objects were stolen.


  The stores of two French missions, and Italian, USA, French Canadian and British missions were located in the occupied area, and all have been looted.


  There were 150 private archaeological collections in the occupied area that were declared to the Department of Antiquities, consisting of thousands of objects. The fate of these is unknown.


  In 1974 there were more than 520 Greek Orthodox and Armenian churches in the occupied area. There is information on the fate of 244 of these. From this information 100 were looted or vandalized, 68 were converted to mosques, 14 are used by the Turkish military, 11 are used as sheep pens/stables and one as a barn. The loss in terms of structures (including a number of churches pulled down), fittings and movable items, in particular valuable icons, is enormous in terms of both cultural and monetary value. As is the loss due to vandalism and the defacing of frescoes, buildings and monuments, etc. The change in the use of buildings of Christian worship is especially aggravating (ie mosques, Ayia Anastasia church, the Armenian monastery of St Magar). As recently as 14 January 1992 "police" from the subordinate local authority removed two gold icons and other valuable items from Apostolos Andreas Monastery.


  Most of the movable items in churches have been stolen, removed or destroyed. Valuable icons, wall paintings or fixtures of churches, all stolen, are found in art galleries or other locations throughout the world. The 1997 arrest of one Turkish smuggler in Germany of cultural property brought to light hundreds of icons stolen from 46 churches in the occupied area. Overall, however, it is estimated that over 15,000 icons are missing. Some of these have been put up for sale by art dealers in Western Europe and abroad, and innocent European buyers have fallen victim to the smugglers.


  Most of the Greek Orthodox and Armenian Cemeteries in the occupied area have been destroyed. Evidence is available for 26 cemeteries that have been comprehensively destroyed.


  In 1974 there were 107 public libraries in Cyprus, of which 36 were in the occupied area. There were also 194 school libraries in that area. In addition the mobile library of the Ministry of Education was also located there. Most of these libraries have been destroyed, as were many collections of rare books. From time to time stolen or looted rare books appear for sale at auctions in Western Europe.


  There were a number of art galleries, collections and studios in the occupied area, of which three art galleries, 10 art collections, four art studios co-operated with the Ministry of Education. Numerous modern monuments were located in the occupied area. While seven folk and other cultural societies were forcibly displaced from their roots. Rare and valuable books, paintings and other items have from time to time been put up for sale by Western European art dealers.


  The Cyprus Police Force in co-operation with the Department of Antiquities, the Church of Cyprus and collectors of art treasures, have since 1974 constantly endeavoured to inform Interpol, police forces of other countries, and the international art market about items stolen or looted from the northern part of Cyprus. There have been notable successes which resulted in the recovery of icons and ancient earthenware from the UK in 1974, ancient figurines (3000 BC) from auctioneers in London in 1976, icons in the Netherlands in 1981, and a large number of icons, mosaics and frescoes from Germany in 1997. One of the most notable cases has been the recovery of mosaics (which one newspaper report referred to as worth up to $20 million) taken from the Church of Kanakaria in 1989, when an Indianapolis Court reaffirmed their ownership by the Church of Cyprus and ordered a US art dealer to return them to Cyprus. The authorities of Cyprus are constantly trying to obtain possession of art works stolen from the occupied area and currently in Europe, North America and Japan.


  The Government of Turkey has been found by the European Court of Human Rights as being responsible for violations of human rights and other undesirable activities in the occupied part of Cyprus. The systematic nature of the looting and stealing that has taken place, and much of the vandalism, suggests that Turkish official policy has directly or indirectly encouraged much of the destruction, damage and stealing that has occurred. Further damage has been caused by erosion and neglect. International pressure has brought about some improvement in recent years, however, the overall situation is far from satisfactory especially with respect to theft, conversion to inappropriate use, development, neglect, maintenance and repair.

  Attached to this memorandum are the following documents (not printed):

  Government of Cyprus: "Kanakaria Mosaics—The Trial" (1998).

  Stella Mary Joannides, Senior Counsel of the Republic of Cyrpus: The Cultural Heritage in the occupied part of Cyprus.

  Costas Apostolides: Destruction of the Cultural Heritage of Cyprus (16/9/98).

  Costas Apostolides: Bellapais: The Abbey, the Church of Panayia Asproforousa and the Village (14/9/98).

  Costas Apostolides: Sourp Magar: The Armenian Monastery of Sourp Magar and its significance for the Armenian Community in Cyprus (16/9/98).

  Costas P Kyrris: The Church of Ayia Anastasia in the town of Lapethos, Cyprus (1998).

  United States District Court—Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division: Autocephalous Greek-Orthodox Church of Cyprus and The Republic of Cyprus Vs Goldberg & Feldman Fine Arts Inc and Peg Goldberg—Memorandum of Decision and Order.

  Decision of the Supreme Court of the United States: Autocephanlous Greek-Orthodox Church of Cyprus and The Republic of Cyprus Vs Goldberg & Feldman Fine Arts Inc and Peg Goldberg (24/10/90).

May 2000

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