Systematic destruction of Christian monuments in the occupied part of Cyprus

Systematic destruction of Christian monuments in the occupied part of Cyprus

According to an article published in the Turkish Cypriot newspaper ‘Kıbrıs Gazetesi’ on 29 September 2020, the Church of Agia Marina, which was built in the occupied village of Diorios in 1850, is in a state of collapse. Cracks have formed on the church’s exterior, while trees have started to grow on the walls. Moreover, the interior is covered in dirt and only the bell tower is still standing. Local residents expect those ‘responsible’ to build a children’s playground in the area.

This is yet another example of the general state in which hundreds of churches in occupied Northern Cyprus have been left as a result of Turkey’s systematic policy of destroying Christian monuments and places of worship.

On 30 September 2020, Cypriot Member of the European Parliament Costas Mavrides of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats filed a written parliamentary question to the European Commission. MEP Mavrides asked the Commission “is it aware that this church is collapsing and is in desperate need of preservation?” and “what action has the Commission’s office in the occupied part of the Republic of Cyprus taken with regard to supervising and preserving religious monuments in the occupied territories?”

Lastly, MEP Mavrides enquired “what steps will the Commission take to ensure that religious monuments are protected and preserved, as required by the European funds management framework?”

On 17 November, Cohesion and Reforms Commissioner Elisa Ferreira, responded on behalf of the European Commission answering that the Commission “monitors closely the situation concerning religious and cultural monuments in the areas not under the effective control of the Republic of Cyprus and attributes great importance to the preservation of cultural heritage”.

The Commissioner highlighted that “under the Aid Programme for the Turkish Cypriot community under Council Regulation 389/2006, the Commission supports the bi-communal Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage, operating under the auspices of the United Nations”. She further explained that “more than one hundred cultural heritage preservation activities have been, or are being, carried out by the Technical Committee, including the conservation of several churches in the areas not under the effective control of the Republic of Cyprus” and that “the Technical Committee follows an agreed procedure to establish the priorities of the preservation works”.

Commissioner Ferreira underlined that “the Commission follows closely the situation of the Church of Agia Marina in Diorios and according to the information at our disposal, the Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage will include the church in the list of future sites to be conserved” and that “the Commission will monitor these developments”.

Finally, the Commissioner declared that “since 2012, the Commission has provided approximately EUR 20 million to support the work of the Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage” and that “this amounts to close to three-quarters of the overall funding of the Committee and makes the EU its largest contributor”.

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