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Panelists Confirm Turkey’s Destruction of Cyprus’ Cultural, Religious Heritage
February 2, 2010—No. 6 (202) 785-8430

Panelists Confirm Turkey’s Destruction of Cyprus’ Cultural, Religious Heritage

AHIF Seminar Examines the Facts, Law of the Cyprus Case

WASHINGTON, DC —The American Hellenic Institute Foundation (AHIF) examined the facts and the law surrounding the destruction of Cyprus’ religious and cultural heritage by hosting a seminar that featured a panel of experts on Jan. 20, 2010 at the National Press Club, Washington, DC.

“Unfortunately, the destruction of Cyprus’ cultural and religious heritage is one of the many tragic results of Turkey’s illegal invasion and occupation of Cyprus that has largely escaped the public’s eye,” said Executive Director Nick Larigakis.  “We assembled a panel of experts to take a more in-depth look at this serious issue.  Collectively, their work is to be applauded.”

Ron McNamaraNicholas G. KarambelasElizabeth H. Prodromou

The panelists for “The Destruction of the Cultural and Religious Heritage of Cyprus: The Facts and the Law” included:

  1. Ron McNamara, policy advisor, Helsinki Commission;
  2. Nicholas G. Karambelas, Esq., partner, Sfikas & Karambelas LLP
  3. Dr. Elizabeth H. Prodromou, vice chair, U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and assistant professor, Department of International Relations, Boston University.Theresa Papademetriou

Theresa Papademetriou (at right), senior law specialist, Law Library of Congress, moderated the panel.

Each of the three panelists brought their unique, personal perspective to the issue.

McNamara offered a slide presentation of a recent visitation to Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus that provided somber visual evidence of the destruction of religious and cultural ruins in the occupied area.  He stated Cyprus’ cultural heritage “lays in ruins” and described the desecration of a cemetery as “disturbing.”  McNamara also elaborated on the difficulty Greek Cypriots have had in attending and holding church services in Turkish-occupied Cyprus.

Karambelas provided a legal perspective on what has transpired on Cyprus with respect to the destruction of artifacts and the taking and looting of artifacts.  He described Cyprus’ case as a “unique” one because the destruction has come as a result of an invading army occupying the sovereign territory of another state.  Karambelas provided an overview of three treaties under which possible legal action could take place; however, he cited there being no enforcement mechanism as a problem with those treaties.  He offered a possible solution may exist by amending existing laws to add a provision on cultural and religious property.

Dr. Prodromou, making her presentation as an academic, examined why religious freedom is often overlooked by the international community.  She also explored how religious freedom is relevant to finding a solution to the Cyprus problem.  Dr. Prodromou cited that Turkey is a signatory to a whole host of treaties intended to safeguard religious freedom, and that Turkey is a “systematic” and “egregious” violator those treaties.  She also noted that the U.S. Commission on International Freedom recently added Turkey to its “watch list.”

In introductory remarks, Papademetriou, speaking on her own, stated the facts are “tragic” and “clear” about Turkey’s wanton destruction in Cyprus and its violation of international norms.  In 2009, Papademetriou published the Law Library of Congress report, “Destruction of Cultural Property in Northern Part of Cyprus and Violations of International Law”

A video of the seminar in its entirety is available for view at

The American Hellenic Institute Foundation (AHIF) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit tax-exempt educational and research organization.  The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) is a non-profit Greek American think-tank and public policy center that works to strengthen relations between the United States and Greece and Cyprus, and within the Greek American community.



For additional information, please contact C. Franciscos Economides at (202) 785-8430 or at For general information about the activities of AHI, please see our Web site at