Freedom of religion in Northern Cyprus
The constitution of Northern Cyprus protects the freedom of religion, and it states that Northern Cyprus is a secular state. The US Department of State report in 2002 stated that religious freedom was protected by law in Northern Cyprus and the government generally respected the freedom of religion. The freedom of religion report in 2007 by US Department of State also stated that "Turkish Cypriot authorities generally respected this right in practice" and the practice of religion was generally free. In 2009, Minority Rights Group International also reported that Turkish Cypriot authorities respected religious freedom in general.
There are two Anglican churches is Northern Cyprus. They are:
In 2010, the US Department of State reported that "Greek Cypriot Orthodox and Maronite Catholics were allowed to perform religious services on a regular basis, without prior permission."
In 1982, in the weekly magazine Olay, the Turkish Cypriot journalist, Mehmet Yasin, highlighted the problem of the trafficking of stolen Byzantine art from orthodox churches in Northern Cyprus. Christopher Hitchens, in his book Hostage to History: Cyprus from the Ottomans to Kissinger, quoted Yasin:
"Haven't you heard that the 2,000-year-old Christian church in Cyprus, St. Barnabus's Church, has been robbed? Haven't you heard that 35 icons were stolen, that 11 of them were found in Kythrea, that 11 were retrieved at Ankara airport while being smuggled out, and that the rest are lost"
In January 2002, BBC News noted that since the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974:
"... more than 500 churches have been under Turkish control. Some have been destroyed, many ransacked - icons and frescoes have disappeared. It is one of the most systematic examples of the looting of art since World War II."
"... over the last 28 years, the heritage of the church in northern Cyprus has fallen into the hands of smugglers and vandals."
In August 2004, Associated Press reported a bomb explosion at St. Mamas church, that was clearly intended to deter the planned first church service to be held there in decades:
"The attack followed media reports that Turkish Cypriot extremist groups had vowed to try to prevent services planned next week at the Saint Mamas church to celebrate its namesake's saint's day.
"The church, which has been used as a museum for Orthodox icons since the invasion, was empty at the time of the blast that damaged the main church door, its ceiling and shattered windows of both the church and nearby buildings."
In April 2008, The Christian Post reported on the church of St. Mamas:
"St. Mamas Church in the northwest town of Morphou is the only notable church that is known to be semi-active in Turkey-controlled Cyprus, according to the New York-based Hellenic Times and the Embassy of The Republic of Cyprus in the United States. Turkish officials who rule the area reportedly give permission twice a year for remaining residents – who were there before Turkish occupation – to worship in the church.
On 28 September 2010, Resolution 1631, was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives:
"... 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 Turkish Foreign Ministry responded with a press released statement saying that the resolution had "many factual errors which may harm the credibility of the House of Representatives".
On 27 January 2011, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, in written declaration no. 467, condemned the:
"Interruption of the Christmas mass in the northern occupied part of Cyprus by Turkish troops and restrictions to the right to freedom of religion and worship."
Where it was noted that Turkish troops forced the priest conducting the service to remove his vestments and ordered everybody to leave the church thus violating the European Convention on Human Rights.
On 14 March 2011, two Polish MEPs and two former Greek-Cypriot MEPs were detained by police in Northern Cyprus. One of the MEPs was the son of former Polish president Lech Walesa. They were visiting a church in a fenced off suburb of Famagusta in a larger group of people including Bulgarian MP Mariya Nedelcheva and two orthodox christian priests:
"... the team had gone north to witness firsthand the "destruction of Greek Orthodox churches in the north"."
"... the four men had entered the courtyard of a derelict Varosha Orthodox Christian church when they were confronted by soldiers who turned them over to arriving police officers."
On 18 March 2011, 204 Greek school books, including religious books, that were being taken to the schools at Rizokarpaso were confiscated by Turkish Cypriot customs officers at the Pergamos village barricade. The Turkish Cypriot daily newspaper Afrika, in a front page article, criticised those who claim that there is freedom of religion in Northern Cyprus when the religious books were confiscated.
- The Constitution of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Articles 23 and 30, Retrieved 2011-04-24.
- 2002 Report on Human Rights in Cyprus, US Department of State, retrieved on April 21, 2011.
- Cyprus International Religious Freedom Report 2007 - Cyprus, US Department of State, Retrieved 2011-04-24.
- Cyprus Overview (Minority Rights Group International) Retrieved April 21, 2011.
- International Religious Freedom Report 2010 - Cyprus, US Department of State, Retrieved 2011-04-27
- Cypriot Archaeological Officer Deplores Theft and Dispersion of Antiquities from Northern Cyprus by Janet McMahon Washington Report, pages 84/5, September 1999.
- Shame of Cyprus's looted churches, BBC News, 18 January 2002.
- Bomb damages church in northern Cyprus where reconciliation service had been planned, by Alex Efty, Associated Press, Worldwide Religious News, 27 August 2004."
- The Last Church Standing in North Cyprus, How the Christian History was Erased, by Michelle A. Vu The Christian Post, 28 April 2008."
- Turkey’s Foreign Ministry Decries ‘Biased Resolution’ on N. Cyprus by Nanore Barsoumian Armenian Weekly, 7 October 2010.
- Interruption of the Christmas mass in the northern occupied part of Cyprus by Turkish troops and restrictions to the right to freedom of religion and worship Written Declaration No. 467, Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Doc. 12505, 27 January 2011.
- MEPs arrested in northern Cyprus 'ghost town', by Martin Banks, TheParliament.com, 14 March 2011.
- Islam fanatizmi Isa'ya yasak, Turkish translation: "Islam fanaticism, ban Jesus", Afrika newspaper, 18 March 2011.