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Calling for the protection of religious sites and artifacts from and in Turkish-occupied areas of northern Cyprus as well as for general respect for religious freedom.

 

H.Res. 1631

Sponsor

Rep. Bilirakis, Gus M. (Foreign Affairs Committee)

 

Date

September 28, 2010
111th Congress, 2nd Session

 

 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

H.Res. 1631 would resolve that the House of Representatives:

  • “Expresses appreciation for the efforts of those countries that have restored religious property wrongly confiscated during the Turkish occupation of northern Cyprus;
  • “Welcomes the efforts of many countries to address the complex and difficult question of the status of illegally confiscated religious art and artifacts, and urges those countries to continue to ensure that these items are restored to the Republic of Cyprus in a timely, just manner;
  • “Welcomes the initiatives and commitment of the Republic of Cyprus to work to restore and maintain religious heritage sites;
  • “Urges the Government of Turkey to—
  • “Immediately implement the United Nations Security Council Resolutions relevant to Cyprus as well as the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights;
  • “Work to retrieve and restore all lost artifacts and immediately halt destruction on religious sites, illegal archaeological excavations, and traffic in icons and antiquities; and
  • “Allow for the proper preservation and reconstruction of destroyed or altered religious sites and immediately cease all restrictions on freedom of religion for the enclaved Cypriots;
  • “Calls on the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom to investigate and make recommendations on violations of religious freedom in the areas of northern Cyprus under control of the Turkish military;
  • “Calls on the President and the Secretary of State to include information in the annual International Religious Freedom and Human Rights reports on Cyprus that detail the violations of religious freedom and humanitarian law including the continuous destruction of property, lack of justice in restitution, and restrictions on access to holy sites and the ability of the enclaved to freely practice their faith;
  • “Calls on the State Department Office of International Religious Freedom to address the concerns and actions called for in this resolution with the Government of Turkey, OSCE, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, and other international bodies or foreign governments;
  • “Urges OSCE to ensure that member states do not receive stolen Cypriot art and antiquities; and
  • “Urges OSCE to press the Government of Turkey to abide by its international commitments by calling on it to work to retrieve and restore all lost artifacts, to immediately halt destruction on religious sites, illegal archaeological excavations, and traffic in icons and antiquities, to allow for the proper preservation and reconstruction of destroyed or altered religious sites, and to immediately cease all restrictions on freedom of religion for the enclaved Cypriots.”
  •  

    House Passes Resolution Protecting Religious Sites and Artifacts in Cyprus

     

    Around 500 churches, monasteries, cemeteries and other religious sites in the Republic of Cyprus have been desecrated, pillaged, looted and destroyed since Turkey invaded the northern region on July 20th 1974.


    That prompted Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.), co-chair of the Congressional Hellenic Caucus, to introduce a bipartisan resolution calling for the protection of religious sites and artifacts from and in Turkish-occupied areas of northern Cyprus as well as for general respect for religious freedom. The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday passed the resolution, H. Res. 1631.

    “Congress has shown it is making international religious freedom a priority,” said Bilirakis, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the International Religious Freedom Caucus.

    Turkish soldiers have been witnessed throwing icons from looted churches onto burning pyres and leaving churches open to both looters and vandals.

    “This measure highlights the continued violations that are taking place in Cyprus even as it celebrates the 50th anniversary of its independence, which is certainly a milestone, but is also a reminder that roughly one-third of Cyprus has been under Turkish military occupation for more than 35 years,” Bilirakis said.

    The resolution also urges the Turkish government to protect the cultural and religious heritage of the Greek Cypriots living in the northern-occupied areas of the country, who have been prohibited from worshiping freely due to the restricted access to religious sites and continued destruction of the property of the Church of Cyprus.

    “We’re calling on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom to investigate and make recommendations on violations of these religious freedoms,” Bilirakis said. “Additionally, I continue to call on Turkey to remove its troops from Cyprus, remove its settlers, and come to the negotiating table in good faith to find a solution that is just for the Cypriot people.”

    This resolution also demands that Turkey be held responsible for the continued violations of humanitarian law with respect to the destruction of religious and cultural property in Cyprus. Turkey’s actions in the occupied areas of Cyprus violate its obligations under several conventions to which it is a signatory.

    “Equal support from my Republican and Democratic colleagues illustrates that Congress can work together in a bipartisan manner when it comes to condemning violations of religious freedom throughout the world,” Bilirakis said.

    Watch Rep. Bilirakis deliver remarks on the House Floor here.
    Read H. Res. 1631 here.

     

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