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Cyprus News Agency: News in English, 09-07-22

Cyprus News Agency: News in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Cyprus News Agency at <>




    A report, issued by the US Helsinki Commission, underlines that religious artifacts in the Turkish occupied north of Cyprus are in ``great peril``.

    It notes that thousands of Orthodox icons, manuscripts, frescoes and mosaics have been looted from churches, chapels and monasteries in northern Cyprus, ending up on international auction blocks. The report is the result of a lengthy investigation by the Helsinki Commission and titled ``Destruction of Cultural Property in the Northern Part of Cyprus and Violations of International Law.``

    An article in ``The Washington Times`` on Tuesday cited extracts from the report obtained ahead of a panel discussion on Capitol Hill. The US Helsinki Commission under the co-chairmanship of Senator Ben Cardin and Representative Alcee Hastings held a briefing entitled ``Cyprus` Religious Cultural Heritage in Peril.``

    Thirty-five years of occupation of Northern Cyprus by Turkish forces have ruined ``a plethora of archeological and religious sites,`` says the report, which adds that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has been documenting the destruction since 1984.

    The report, according to ``The Washington Times``, notes that 500 Orthodox churches or chapels have been pillaged, demolished or vandalised, 133 churches, chapels and monasteries have been desecrated, 15,000 paintings have disappeared, 77 churches have been turned into mosques, 28 are being used by the Turkish military as hospitals or camps, and 13 have been turned into barns.

    A staff member for the Helsinki Commission has said that a copy of the report had been sent to the Turkish Embassy in Washington, but an embassy spokesman said it had not been received.

    Dr. Klaus Gallas, Byzantine Expert and Art Historian, Dr. Charalampos G. Chotzakoglou, Professor of Archaeology at the Hellenic Open University, and Michael Jansen, correspondent and author of the book ``War and Cultural Heritage: Cyprus after the 1974 invasion`` testified before the Commission on the findings of their extensive research on the cultural and religious desecration of the Cypriot heritage in the northern Turkish-occupied part of Cyprus, in view of the release of the report by the Law Library of Congress.

    Jansen said that an estimated 16,000 icons, wall paintings and mosaics and 60,000 archaeological items have been looted and exported from northern Cyprus. While the Turkish authorities have done little or nothing to halt cultural cleansing and have even contributed to it, individual Turkish Cypriots, who regard the heritage of the island as their own, have castigated the authorities and publicized the pillage.

    Dr. Gallas, who has traveled and researched extensively on the conditions of cultural and religious sites in the Turkish-occupied Cyprus pre and post 1974, said that art theft in the Turkish occupied part of the Republic of Cyprus was usually only possible when it was tolerated or happened under the watchful eye of the Turkish military... The loss to Cyprus and to UNESCO`s World Cultural Heritage is unimaginable. It can be assumed that the amount of booty we are aware of is only a fraction of the material that has actually been stolen from the Orthodox churches of Cyprus.

    Dr. Chotzakoglou stated that ``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. Katherine 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 have been willfully desecrated, pillaged, looted and destroyed``. He added that Christian churches have been converted, inter-alia, into military camps, stables, hotels, theaters, nightclubs and sports clubs, while ``the church of the Savior in the Chrysiliou-village is used today as a mortuary``.

    The Law Library of Congress report, underlines Turkey`s legal responsibility ``to refrain from acts of hostility and damage against cultural property located in the northern part of Cyprus; to prohibit and prevent theft, pillage, or misappropriation of cultural property; and to establish criminal jurisdiction to prosecute individuals who engage in acts of destruction, desecration, and pillage [...]``.

    The report said that the government of the Republic of Cyprus has spent about 600,000 dollars since 2000 to renovate 17 historic mosques.

    According to the report, the 77 churches converted into mosques have texts from the Koran inscribed where icons and paintings used to be; the St. Anastasia monastery is now a hotel with a swimming pool and casino; and the Byzantine-era monastery of Antiphonetes has had its icons and murals removed and sold to art dealers.

    The report says there are 660,000 Greek Cypriots living on the island`s southern part, 89,000 Turkish speakers in the north and 43,000 Turkish soldiers serving as an occupying force.

    Moreover, in the report`s concluding remarks it is stated that ``under conventional and customary international law, Turkey, as an occupying power, bears responsibility for acts against cultural property. Responsibility also arises based on legal instruments addressing the illicit export and transfer of ownership of stolen cultural objects from the occupied northern part of Cyprus``.

    ``The important report by the Law Library of Congress and the initiative of the Helsinki Commission shed light on the long-endured destruction and desecration of Cyprus` cultural heritage in the Turkish-occupied area,`` said Ambassador of the Republic of Cyprus, Andreas S. Kakouris.

    Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occuipied the islands northern third.

    The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, is an independent U.S. government agency created by Congress in 1976 to monitor and encourage compliance with the Helsinki Final Act and other OSCE commitments in the 56 OSCE participating states. The Commission consists of nine members from the U.S. Senate, nine from the House of Representatives, and one member each from the Departments of State, Defense and Commerce.


    Greeces new Ambassador to the US, Vassilis Kaskarelis, has welcomed U.S. strong support of efforts aiming at a fair, viable and working solution in Cyprus, in line with UN resolutions and European Union rules.

    Kaskarelis was speaking during the presentation of his credentials to President of the United States Barack Obama earlier this week at the White House.

    In his remarks, Ambassador Kaskarelis stressed that the Greece and the US have often found themselves fighting shoulder-to-shoulder and waging concerted efforts for the common cause.

    He expressed his conviction that there exists ample room for further cementing our friendship and our strategic partnership, outlining areas of common effort like global terrorism, cooperation between US and the European Union, a rational transformation of NATO, the Western Balkans, the Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean, problems of illegal immigration and energy security, going to the root of the issues and not scraping the surface.


    President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat will hold their 38th meeting on Thursday, in the context of the ongoing UN-led direct negotiations to solve the Cyprus problem.

    The leaders will discuss issues on aliens, immigration, asylum and citizenship, as part of the chapter on governance and power sharing.

    During their last meeting on July 17, President Christofias said they talked about security, each side presented its initial positions on the issue and there was a discussion.


    Cyprus has left its own mark on the construction of the new Acropolis Museum. The extensive use of glass, which characterises this outstanding building, is the work of a Cypriot company, part of a consortium with an Austrian company which won the tender for the construction of the project.

    In an interview with CNA, Marios Drousiotis, one of the Cypriots glass engineers who has worked for the project, talks about his unique experience during the construction of the Museum, stressing the importance of the contribution of a local company to such a remarkable building.

    As he says, his company had to compete with other European consortiums, which usually carry out projects of that kind and size. In late 2005, the Cyprus-Austrian consortium finally signed the contract, with the main contractor AKTOR A.T.E., for the design, supply and installation of all glass and metal coatings of the Museum.

    Drousiotis notes that the Cypriot company had an advantage, because of its experience with projects of similar architectural philosophy in Cyprus. He mentions some of the newest buildings in Nicosia, as the new Supreme Court and the Olympic Committee building. He believes that Cypriot construction companies are successful and internationally recognised in this field.

    Drousiotis recalls that a Museum official commented on the Cypriot involvement, saying in a light-hearted remark that Iktinos and Kallikrates built the Acropolis and now the Cypriots have built the Museum of Acropolis.

    It was a fascinating, exciting and very emotional experience. The feeling was totally different to any other project we have ever undertaken, says Drousiotis speaking about his feelings during the construction of the Museum. As he explains, it was not a building designed for staff or services, but a building designed to house history, culture and the roots of democracy, adding that any contribution to this effort is a unique experience.

    Drousiotis recalls that on 19 November 2005 he and his colleague Chrysandreas were standing for the first time on the roof slab of the Museum.

    We were in front of the Acropolis and the Parthenon was a breath away, as if we could touch it with our hands. We felt a different emotion, we were filled with awe and we then realized that we were building a house for Greek history, culture and democracy, he says.

    Drousiotis believes that the new Museum of Acropolis has achieved its goals. As he explains, the simplicity of the overall design highlights the artwork and the sculptures and not the building itself, whereas the majority of the biggest museums in the world have failed to achieve this goal. He also stresses that the visitor is able to retain direct view and visual contact with the rock of Acropolis.

    Extensive use of glass in the buildings design allows the integration of natural light into the galleries. The reason was well explained to Drousiotis by Bernard Tschumi, the Swiss architect of the Museum: The Museum is not located in Manchester or Berlin but in Athens, with this amazing light. The best way to show, to exhibit the statues is natural light.

    Drousiotis explains how the use of glass is part of the bioclimatic planning of the building, which gives ideal lighting and heating conditions in the building. The new Museum was characterised as green building, according to EU specifications. It was also designed to absorb noises and to survive earthquakes, measuring up to 9.2 on the Richter scale. According to Drousiotis the Museum itself is proof that the bioclimatic planning, combined with an extended use and application of glass, can bring amazing results even in Mediterranean climates.

    He points out that the complimentary reviews on an international level is the best answer to voices in Greece, casting doubt on whether the use of glass was appropriate for the natural landscape.

    Drousiotis continues to work for the Acropolis Museum and he is currently designing the glass external displays of the open exhibition area of the Museums excavation.

    Designed by Bernard Tschumi and Mihalis Fotiades, the new Acropolis Museum has a total area of 25,000 square meters, with exhibition space of over 14,000 square meters. It is made of stainless steel, glass, marble and concrete and has a direct view of the Acropolis.

    The official opening ceremony of the museum on 21st June was attended by many officials, such as President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso, director-general of UNESCO, the UN agency for cultural heritage Koichiro Matsuura, as well as the President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias.

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