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AHI Condemns Demolition of 200-Year-Old Orthodox Church in Occupied Cyprus
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Demetra Atsaloglou
May 13, 2011—No. 35 (202) 785-8430

AHI Condemns Demolition of 200-Year-Old Orthodox Church in Occupied Cyprus

WASHINGTON, DC —The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) has issued the following statement on the violation of religious freedom committed in Turkish occupied Cyprus on May 2, 2011:

“The American Hellenic Institute strongly condemns the demolition of the Chapel of Saint Thekla, a 200-year-old Orthodox Christian church located in the village of Vokolida in Turkish-occupied Cyprus.

“For nearly 37 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 under the illegal Turkish Cypriot regime supported by illegal Turkish troops reaffirms Turkey’s disregard of those treaties. Furthermore, this deplorable act is one of many reasons why Turkey continues to be placed, and will remain, on the U.S. Commission on International Freedom’s ‘Watch List.’ Sadly, the disrespect for religious freedom, and continued violations, further affirm 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 and implement the relevant provisions of the International Religious Freedom Act as they pertain to Turkey.”

In addition, AHI commends a May 12, 2011 statement issued by the U.S. International Commission on Religious Freedom (USICRF) that expresses concern over the demolition of the Chapel of Saint Thekla and calls for Turkish Cypriot authorities to commit to rebuild the church. Furthermore, USICRF Chairman Leonard Leo calls for Turkish Cypriot authorities to take proactive measures to protect the hundreds of churches in “northern Cyprus.”

AHI will issue a formal condemnation of this act to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

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.

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For additional information, please contact Demetra Atsaloglou at (202) 785-8430 or at [email protected]. For general information about the activities of AHI, please see our website at http://www.ahiworld.org.