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AHI Condemns Cancellation of Christmas Day Church Services by Turkish Occupation Regime in Cyprus

Press Releases

December 29, 2010—No. 90 (202) 785-8430

AHI Condemns Cancellation of Christmas Day Church Services by Turkish Occupation Regime in Cyprus

WASHINGTON, DC —The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) has issued the following statement on the egregious violation of religious freedom committed in Turkish occupied Cyprus on Christmas Day:

“The American Hellenic Institute strongly condemns the interruption and cancellation of Christmas Day services at Agios Synesios Church at Rizokarpaso by ‘police officers’ of the illegal Turkish Cypriot regime.

“For 36 years, the people of Cyprus have endured an illegal occupation and massive violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms by Turkey, an ally of the United States.  Turkey is a signatory to a host of international treaties intended to safeguard religious freedom. This blatant violation of religious freedom on Christmas Day by the illegal Turkish Cypriot regime reaffirms Turkey’s disregard of those treaties.  Furthermore, this deplorable act is one of many reasons why for the past two years Turkey has been placed, and will remain, on the U.S. Commission on International Freedom’s ‘Watch List,’ and greatly contradicts the U.S. Department of State Report on International Religious Freedom issued November 17, 2010.  Sadly, the suppression of religious freedom further affirms what we already know has occurred in occupied Cyprus, which is the wanton destruction of Cyprus’ cultural and religious heritage as documented by the Law Library of Congress and the U.S. Helsinki Commission.

“Finally, this act is a violation of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 under which the president of the United States is obligated to consider imposing sanctions on any country whose government ‘engages in or tolerates violations of religious freedom.  President Barack Obama must condemn the obvious violation of basic human rights that occurred Christmas Day and implement the relevant provisions of the International Religious Freedom Act as they pertain to Turkey.”

According to one news report, the authorities in Turkish occupied Cyprus “…rushed to the church, interrupted the service, urged the priest to remove his vestments, and ordered everyone leave the church. When everyone had left, the doors were sealed.”  In addition to the cancellation of services at Agios Synesios it was reported that a similar occurrence transpired at the Church of the Holy Trinity.

The American Hellenic Institute is an independent non-profit Greek American 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 Nick Larigakis at (202) 785-8430 or at For general information about the activities of AHI, please see our website at