The appalling destruction of churches, monasteries and Christian cemeteries by the Turks is well known, by Greek Cypriots at least. Less well known however, but equally outrageous, is the deliberate destruction of Cyprus’s archaeological heritage by the invaders and occupiers.
Caption: The Church of Panayia (Virgin Mary) Chryseleousa in occupied Kyrenia district – now used as a barn
The Turkish Cypriot journalist Simon Bahceli in his article ‘Military bulldoze 8,000-year-old Karpass site’ published in the Cyprus Mail of Thursday 15 September 2005, reported on the bulldozing by the Turkish Cypriot armed forces of an 8,000 year old Neolithic site known as Kastros. Bahceli wrote that ‘both official and unofficial sources’ confirmed that the purpose of this act of desecration was to create a road leading up to a site where the flags of Turkey and the occupation regime were to be flown. And bearing in mind that such an important site as Kastros had been undergoing excavation under the direction
of French archaeologist Alain Le Brun prior to the invasion in 1974, this was no accident. Therefore the Turkish Cypriot ‘authorities’ cannot simply claim that they did not know about the site – making its subsequent bulldozing to create a road and space to display nothing more than the blatantly provocative symbols of the occupying, imperialist Turkish armed forces – namely Turkish and its puppet regime’s flags – an international outrage.
Such cultural vandalism as depicted at Kastros is not, unfortunately, unique. There is abundant evidence of widespread systematic destruction and deliberate neglect of archaeological sites in the occupied area. For example, a memorandum submitted by the government of Cyprus in 2000 to a UK Parliamentary Select Committee set up to look at looting and desecration of cultural heritage around the world stated that:
“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.’
It is therefore very difficult not to see a deliberate and concerted effort by the occupying Turkish forces to obliterate, whether through indifference or the bulldozer, the true cultural heritage of Cyprus. What is going on at present is nothing short of a concerted policy to try and ‘ethnically cleanse’ the true historical record of Cyprus and to supplant it whenever deemed necessary by the roads, buildings and imperialist symbols of the occupying power, namely Turkey. And it is a sad but realistic assessment that such ‘Turkification’ will continue so long as Turkey is allowed by the international community to behave in this manner. That is why a just and permanent solution to the Cyprus issue is urgently required so that Cypriot heritage in the occupied area is once again put into the hands of its rightful owners – namely the legitimate citizens of the Republic of Cyprus. Such behaviour further destroys Turkey’s credentials to join the family of nations within the European Union.