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20 July, 2024
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The conclusion of Aydin Dikmen's artifact saga

A triumph of justice as 60 artifacts to be returned to Cyprus

Apostolos Kouroupakis

Apostolos Kouroupakis

The case involving Aydin Dikmen, the Turkish antiquities thief, reached its conclusion on Tuesday, June 6th, as the Munich Court of Appeal ruled on the return of remaining artifacts: 24 church relics and 36 prehistoric and other antiquities that hadn't been recovered in previous years. With this resolution, a significant chapter in Cypriot archaeological history, spanning over two decades, finally draws to a close.

The seizure of Cypriot land, museums, and both public and private archaeological collections, alongside the pillaging of churches and monasteries, represents a grievous crime committed during the aftermath of the invasion. This systematic exploitation, orchestrated by individuals who sought to capitalize on the cultural wealth of the newly occupied territory, extended even to the ruins of a land left stagnant.

Over the course of twenty years, relentless efforts by the Church of Cyprus, alongside the Republic's authorities— including the Department of Antiquities, the General Prosecutor's Office, and the Cyprus Police— as well as dedicated individuals such as Dr. Johannes Deckers, Dr. Katerina Chatzistylli, Tasoula Hadjitofi, former Consul of the Republic of Cyprus in The Hague, Byzantinologist Athanasios Papageorgiou, and Republic of Cyprus lawyer Enno Engbers, have led to significant progress, as outlined in the announcement by the Synodal Commission for Monuments and Art of the Church of Cyprus.

While much priceless historical, artistic, and archaeological value has been lost or remains dormant, perpetuating the wounds of the invasion, the recovery of all confiscated objects remains a challenging yet fervently pursued goal, cherished by experts, laypeople, and ordinary believers alike, who remember and yearn for justice.

In this endeavor, the Bicommunal Commission for Culture, akin to the Bicommunal Commission for Cultural Heritage, plays a crucial role. Exploring avenues to preserve archaeological finds, artworks, and ecclesiastical monuments currently held in private collections or museum spaces, particularly within churches such as those in Trikomo, Agios Mamas, or the monastery of Apostolos Varnavas, offers hope for their revival through shared management approaches.

The return of 219 works of art from the Famagusta Municipal Art Gallery marked a significant milestone, safeguarded for 47 years by Turkish Cypriots who preserved them with care. Similarly, the return of approximately 50 books from the Community Library of the occupied village of Neo Horio Kythrea brought immense joy to displaced residents, despite the loss of other books in the aftermath of the invasion. These rescued artifacts, while perhaps lacking objective value, hold immeasurable emotional significance, highlighting their profound impact on people's lives.

Thus, the closure of the Dikmen case represents a pivotal moment, offering hope for further positive developments in the future. While such news may not fully heal the wounds of the past, they serve to provide solace and a sense of justice, easing the burden carried by those affected.

[This article was translated and edited from its Greek original]

Cyprus  |  artifacts  |  crime

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