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Mosque attacks on rise in Greek Cypriot Administration: TRNC official

Authorities should immediately start taking precautions, says general manager of Cyprus Foundations Administration

Mehmet Kemal Firik  | 31.08.2023 - Update : 31.08.2023
Mosque attacks on rise in Greek Cypriot Administration: TRNC official

LEFKOSA, Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus

The number of attacks on mosques in the Greek Cypriot Administration has radically increased, according to an official of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TNRC).

Speaking to Anadolu, Ibrahim Benter, general manager of the Cyprus Foundations Administration (EVKAF), evaluated recent attacks against mosques in the region.

"Attacks have increased in recent years and pose a danger,” Benter said, describing an incident last Saturday as “very serious” because the attacker attempted to burn down the mosque using a flammable substance.

Noting that a great tragedy was avoided because the mosque was empty at the time, he called on the authorities to take measures against attacks on mosques and Turkish-Islamic artifacts in cities in the Greek Cypriot Administration.

Benter noted there are many churches in the TRNC and that in the 452 years since the Ottoman conquest of Cyprus, there have been no attacks on them throughout the island, including by Turks.

Toleration by Greek Cypriot Administration

Referring to the numerous attacks against mosques and historical monuments in the Greek Cypriot Administration in recent years, Benter said "we have not been informed of the arrest or punishment of the attackers to date.”

“The administration in the south tolerates the attacks. This tolerance by the administration increases the courage of the attackers and causes a feeling that there is no risk in attacking the holy shrines.

“If the attackers know they will be severely punished, it would be prohibitive if they (the authorities) imposed severe penalties for such attacks,” he added.

Benter emphasized that attacks on places of worship and historical monuments are crimes, and these attacks, often carried out with incendiary substances, pose a great danger to the people who are in those places.

Pointing out that the Ottoman Empire did not interfere with the religions of Greeks, Armenians, Maronites and other minorities after taking Cyprus in 1571, he noted that the Ottoman administration showed tolerance to non-Muslims and recognized their right to private property.

In addition, he pointed out that attacks on holy places damage intercommunal peace.

Over 20 mosque attacks in last 10 years

According to EVKAF and the Foreign Ministry of TRNC’s records, more than 20 mosque attacks were carried out in the last 10 years in cities controlled by the Greek Cypriot Administration.

From 2012 to 2023, there were five attacks, including arson, on the Koprulu Haci Ibrahim Aga Mosque in the city of Limassol, where Molotov cocktails were thrown last Saturday. Three of the attacks were carried out in the last three years.

There have been two attacks and arson attempts on a mosque located in the village of Denya in the Greek Cypriot Administration in the last 10 years. The Denya Mosque was attacked in 2013 while it was being restored with UN Development Program funding. The same mosque was targeted in 2016 when three Molotov cocktails were thrown at it.

Tombstones were also destroyed in the Ottoman/Turkish cemetery in the city of Larnaca and garbage was thrown there.

Attackers hurled Molotov cocktails into the courtyard of the Tuzla Mosque in Larnaca in 2020, hung a Byzantine flag on the mosque wall and wrote anti-Islamic slogans.

In 2021, an attempt was made to burn down the Great Mosque of Larnaca. Anti-Islamic slogans were written on the walls of the mosque, which is located in the village of Yalova, and the Greek flag was painted.

Earlier this year, Greek Cypriot authorities granted a license for building a tavern in the garden of the Hala Sultan Tekke mosque. Due to the TRNC Presidency stepping in and the reactions of the people, the Greeks gave up on this initiative and turned the tavern license into a cafe license.

*Writing by Merve Berker

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