An attack on Greek Cypriot tomb stones in the Kyrenia Christian Graveyard last week brought to the surface another embarrassing issue.
The hate crime which saw the destruction of several crosses by unknown assailants highlighted the fact that the graveyard in question has suffered from neglect and dilapidation.
Upon inspecting the site along with a repair crew that was called in to mend the damage, Nidai Gungordu, the head of Kyrenia council, said that there were also quite a few tombs displaying severe damage that was not due to the recent attack.
Writing on the matter, Turkish Cypriot newspaper Yeniduzen noted that both the attack and the fact that the graveyard has been left without the proper care and respect due to a religious site were “shameful” incidents. As Gungordu himself said, the graveyard was in ruins and full of rubbish.
After inspecting the vandalism at the cemetery, Gungordu told reporters that when he first saw the state of the site, he thought that the vandals had caused damage to the entire burial ground.
“However, after thorough inspection, the crew found proof that the vast majority of damage is old and was caused by dilapidation.”
Explaining that the graveyard is divided into three parts, used respectively by the English, Russian and Greek Cypriot inhabitants of the town, Gungordu said he had given instructions to Kyrenia council cleaning crews to start sprucing up the graveyard.
The cemetery was indeed cleared of rubbish on Tuesday.
Responding to Turkish Cypriot reporters’ questions as to why the graveyard had not been maintained properly, the head of the council said that a committee had been assigned the task of doing so, but had not forwarded any request to the council regarding the matter – an issue that would be looked into, said Gungordu.
He also called on the authorities in the north to take the necessary measures to protect religious and historical monuments from desecration and dilapidation, adding that such incidents could not be tolerated.
The council head also said that as there are Greek Cypriot burial grounds in the north, there are also Turkish Cypriot graveyards in the south, pointing out that everyone should exhibit more tolerance when it comes to people’s religious beliefs.
“Especially during periods where we are trying to find a solution to the Cyprus problem,” added Gungordu.
“We need to show respect to the religious monuments of the Greek Cypriots, whether they are churches or cemeteries. The same goes for the Greek Cypriots and our mosques and burial grounds in the south,” said the ‘head’ of the Kyrenia council.