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Occupied Cyprus -- Forty Years of Illegal Occupation, Ethnic Cleansing, and Destruction of Religious Sites

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to mark 40 years since the illegal occupation of the Republic of Cyprus by the government of Turkey. These forty years have been marked by tragedy for the Greek Cypriots, and by criminal guilt for the Turkish government. In July 1974 the Turkish army began its sneak invasion of the island--it was the beginning of a tragedy and outrage that continues today. At least one hundred eighty thousand Greek Cypriots were forced to flee the north. They lost all their property--shockingly, even today none of them have been allowed to return to their property. The Turkish government effectively ``ethnically cleansed'' the north of the island, where only a few hundred Greek Cypriots live in small enclaves, and even they are not allowed to worship freely.

During these forty years over five hundred Christian religious sites have been demolished, destroyed, or desecrated, for example turned into casinos or warehouses. Eighty stolen churches have been converted into mosques. Artifacts from churches and cemeteries continually show up on the international black market.

Mr. Speaker, in the current discussions about reunifying the island, the United States must stand firm on the complete withdrawal of Turkish military forces, respect for universally-recognized human rights for all Cypriots everywhere on the island, and an independent, unified government.

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