FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
From: "Leadership Council for Human Rights"
Date: July 16, 2008 4:22:46 PM ADT
LCHR condemns Turkey for destruction of cultural treasures in occupied Cyprus
The Leadership Council for Human Rights decries the continued devastation of Cyprus’s cultural heritage, as precipitated by Turkey’s extreme disregard for the country’s historic wealth since its 1974 invasion.
Turkish policies in the occupied northern region of the Mediterranean island have contributed to a massive exploitation of the country’s priceless treasures of antiquity. Cyprus is world-renowned for its rich cultural history and precious Byzantine works of art. Tragically, many of these pieces have been demolished or stolen as the Turkish government continues to be complicit in the pillaging and destruction of the hundreds of places of worship that house the items. Tens of thousands of ancient artifacts now reside outside the country, the result of illegal smuggling. To make matters worse, in many instances Greek Orthodox churches, chapels and monasteries have been converted into military facilities as Ankara continues its repressive occupation.
The U.S. and the EU have put forth some measures to ameliorate the situation, with Washington enacting import restrictions, and the European Parliament calling for the protection of religious sites. Still, more must be done. Turkey’s actions are in stark violation of its obligations under several U.N. conventions to which it is a signatory; this must be properly addressed. The Leadership Council calls on the international community to recognize the true scale of the destruction already witnessed and urge Turkey to take remedial action to restore and preserve a cultural heritage that resonates so deeply across political borders.