Since the military invasion of Cyprus by the Turkish army during the summer of 1974, countless reports have been published about the atrocities the Turkish invaders committed on the beautiful Mediterranean island.
But less known is the continuous effort by the Turkish occupiers to drastically alter the cultural identity of the northern half of Cyprus, an area with thousands of years of rich history.
Since 1974’s violent displacement of hundreds of thousands of Greek-Cypriots, the northern part of Cyprus has occupied not just by Turkish-Cypriots, from whom the vast majority were already living in the island.
Tens of thousands of Turkish settlers have been brought to the island from the Turkish mainland in consecutive ”waves” of re-settlements conducted by the Turkish state. These operations by Turkey took place in an effort to completely reshape the ethnic and cultural makeup of the so-called ”Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus”.
The interior of the church of Saint Irene (Agia Eirini) in Morphou. Photo by the Cypriot Ministry of Foreign Affairs
An area rich in ancient Greek, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and Venetian artifacts, monuments and buildings is undergoing a constant cultural attack, on a both systematic and unsystematic basis.
This has resulted in a de facto ethnic and religious cleansing, in which the Christian and Greek character of northern Cyprus has been almost completely wiped off the face of the map.
The church of Saint Anthony (Agios Antonios) in Leonarisso has been turned into a farm building. Photo by the Cypriot Ministry of Foreign Affairs
As Michael Jansen wrote in his Cyprus: The Loss of a Cultural Heritage report of 1986, ”the political-demographic de facto partition imposed on Cyprus since 1974 threatens not only the unity and integrity of a modern nation-state.
He continued that the partition also threatens “the millennial cultural integrity and continuity of the island which has been the crossroads of the civilization of the Eastern Mediterranean.”
Universities, along with the government of the Republic of Cyprus and various non-governmental organizations, have tried throughout the years to shed light onto the constant cultural erosion taking place in occupied Cyprus.