“With all that has been going on in the Middle East, the world seems to have failed to notice that the fox has been given the keys to the chicken coop,” said Theo Theodorou, spokesman for Lobby for Cyprus.
He was referring to the fact that Turkey was named chair of the world heritage committee of UNESCO at its 8 July 2015 meeting in Bonn, Germany.
“This is the same country that has been charged with the desecration and destruction of more than 500 Christian and Jewish sites in the illegally occupied north of Cyprus,” he said, adding “it was recently reported that Armenian gravestones were being used as sewer covers in the Turkish town of Malkara.”
As if to show Turkey’s unfitness for any role involving preservation of the culture of nations and peoples, the recent decision of a court, ironically also in Germany, showed how Cypriot treasures in the illegally occupied north have been looted and offered for sale to antique collectors.
Thirty-four treasures were recently returned to the Republic of Cyprus. Among the artifacts 24 are Byzantine relics as well as some prehistoric antiquities mainly from from Ayios Epiktitos Church.
The Byzantine relics include:
- three pairs of bema doors from the Monastery of Antiphonitis Christ, Virgin Mary Monastery in Kantara
- wall paintings from the Monastery of Antiphonitis Christ, the church of Agia Solomoni in Coma tou Yialou and the Monastery of Panagia Apsinthiotissa in Sychari
- a 17th century handwritten manuscript from the Monastery of the Panagia Trooditissa and the handwritten gospel of the Armenian community of Cyprus stolen during the Turkish Cypriot mutiny in 1963
These were part of 85 treasures stolen by a Turkish art smuggler after the Turkish invasion of the island in 1974, including fragments of church wall paintings, icons and 40 prehistoric antiquities, found in 1997 in the possession of Turkish dealer in illicit antiquities Aydin Dikmen in apartments he maintained in Munich.
No decision has been reached on the remaining treasures.
“Lobby for Cyprus joins with the Republic of Cyprus in alerting art dealers and museums of the many still-to-be-recovered treasures known to have been looted from the occupied north,” Theodorou said.