Letter to The New York Times, April 4, 1998

April 4, 1998

The New York Times
229 West 43rd Street
New York, NY 10036-3959

To the Editor of The New York Times:

Articles such as Stephen Kinzer’s April 1st report, "Greek Orthodox Church Icons Ravaged", are welcome interruptions to what can best be described as a conspiracy of silence regarding the near-complete destruction of Greek cultural property in Cyprus by that country’s occupying Turkish presence.

Yet Turkish claims that Greek Cypriots are "working to deprive them of the resources needed to protect their mutual cultural heritage", seem absurd when considering the hundreds of millions of dollars Ankara continues to spend on militarizing Cyprus -- this despite the overwhelming military superiority Turkey has maintained on the island since its 1974 invasion. Were but a tiny fraction of these vast sums earmarked for the protection of Cypriot historical artifacts, the landscape of cultural property in the north would look more like an outdoor Louvre than a bleak and bombed-out Berlin. With billions of dollars spent annually on its gargantuan military machine, Turkey can well afford to cut back on some of the weapons it has poised to destroy modern Greeks in order to preserve the precious legacy left by the ancient ones.

It is no secret to those familiar with the "Cyprocaust" that the destruction of cultural property there stems far more from a lack of will than a lack of resources on the part of the island’s occupation regime. Worse yet, the reality of a highly organized and systematic smuggling network operating with the active cooperation of the Turkish authorities was exposed by Scotland Yard and British customs officials as early as 1976.

While Mr. Kinzer’s report naively accepts Turkish claims to a heritage they have done their best to obliterate, the travesty of Turks claiming Greek cultural property is demonstrated by Turkey's campaign of de-hellenization in places like Asia Minor, the islands of Imbros and Tenedos, and Cyprus. Where the cultural patrimony of the Greek Cypriots does not yield profits, it is desecrated and destroyed. Conscious of its status as recent conqueror, Turkey has been systematically pursuing the turkification of Cyprus; a cultural pogrom which entails the erasing of Cyprus’, primarily Hellenic, memory. As reported by Britain’s Sunday Times as early as May 5th, 1976, "[n]ow that Northern Cyprus has declared itself a separate state. . . the process of obliterating everything Greek has been carried out methodically."

The most disturbing aspect of Mr. Kinzer’s report is his attempt, through misleading statements such as "‘ethnic cleansing’ began on both sides of the border", to lend credence to the position that Greek Cypriots, the primary victims of these crimes, are equally to blame. As any defense attorney worth his pin stripes can tell you, facts can easily be distorted to accomplish such a simple feat of moral acrobatics. The point here is that it is irresponsible of Mr. Kinzer, a reputable journalist employed by a national newspaper, to have done so. A genuine concern for the protection of the Greek Cypriots’ cultural heritage -- as expressed by repeated protests of the European Commission for Human Rights, Asme-Humanitas, UNESCO, Europa Nostra, the International Council of Museums and countless other organizations -- would lead to the acknowledgment that it is the Turks’ nightmarish invasion, their unconscionable occupation, and their monstrous ethnic cleansing of Cyprus that remain the principal causes of this last great European cultural holocaust.

Very truly yours,

P. D. Spyropoulos, Esq.

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