The President of the House of Representatives of the Republic of Cyprus, Demetris Syllouris, wrote an open letter to the Turkish President, demanding that Turkey ‘show respect’ to Hagia Sophia.
Following the conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque, formerly being a museum, there was international uproar from many world leaders, denouncing Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s decision. Mr Syllouris proceeded to compose a letter directed at the Turkish President, calling him nothing but a ‘conqueror’ who shows complete disrespect to monuments of the Christian religion.
You can read the full open letter below:
I am writing this brief open letter tο you as a European citizen. But also as the President of the House of Representatives of the Republic of Cyprus, whose existence and continuity you had also guaranteed through treaties, although today – you alone – refuse to recognise despite the fact that the Republic of Cyprus is a member of both the United Nations and the European union. It is this treaty of guarantee which you obsessionally and incessantly invoked, to justify your unlawful actions and your illegal occupying presence in Cyprus beyond any political moral as well as the horrible and horrendous acts you have committed against the Republic of Cyprus and the Cypriot citizens. However, with the invasion of your country in Cyprus in 1974, invoking the alleged implementation of the Constitution, and the subsequent occupation of a significant part of the Republic of Cyprus, you have ceased to be guarantors and you are in fact conquerors.
We have been living under the threat of Turkish troops for years now. But I should remind you of what our poet Costas MonIis testifies:
“Chrόnίa sklavkies ateleiotes Ιόπ patson tziai Ιοπ klόtsοn tous: Emeis tziamai: elies tziai teratsies pano sΙόn rόΙsοn tous.”
(“Years of endless slavery at their beck and call ; We stay put; olive and carob trees on their rock.”)
This is the “Cyprus History”. This is the memory we carry through the centuries. It is on these pillars that we have placed our patience, endurance and perseverance over the years.
As a European politician, but also as a Greek and Orthodox Christian, I have followed these days the shouts and chants, the celebrations and reviling and all the exultations for the transformation of Hagia Sophia into a mosque. Along with your own statements and decisions. Ι should remind you that over the centuries we have always respected everything deemed sacred and holy by the peoples we came across or lived with. And you should know that. You shall not find a mosque converted by us into a church, even if dozens of mosques in Cyprus were for centuries in the past Christian temples, with frescoes and paintings still surviving on their plaster-covered walls.
I do not have a deep knowledge of the Qur’an, but I know from dear Muslim friends that a basic principle is to show respect to the monuments of other religions.
You, οn the other hand, in defiance of the agreements and treaties, in defiance of the rule of law, in defiance of the principles that govern monuments of humanity and world heritage according to the United Nations and UNESCO, have proceeded to transform the most sacred monument of Orthodoxy and of Christians, the Hagia Sophia, an achievement of art, the most important and greatest in history, into a mosque. All this, however, suggests only one thing. Your conquering obsession. And that none of what you have conquered belongs to you. And even more, the lack of any respect for the cultural tradition of all mankind. You could go down in history as the man who led the Hagia Sophia to an even better status, as a place of meeting and coexistence of religions. Instead, you chose to go down in history as desecrator of a historical global symbol, a world heritage site, a masterpiece of art and a symbol of the coexistence of cultures and religions.
All this rhetoric of hatred and the emergence of passions, certainly do not lead to peace which you invoke and which peoples search out and seek. What we all expect is to be able to coexist respecting each other’s memory and history and each other’s personality. Through your attempts and methods, you show contempt to the basic rights of all people and especially of us Christians. The right to respect our sanctuaries and to respect our memory.
Mr. President, on a personal note, Ι would like to tell you that Ι come from Potamia, a small mixed village in Cyprus, where Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots lived harmoniously together for many years. Every time Bayram came, we wished the Turkish Cypriots ”Happy Bayram”. And, every time Easter came, the Turkish Cypriots wished us ”Happy Easter”. It is in such a climate of mutual respect and coexistence of religions and cultures that we would like your contribution to be and not, unfortunately, in the opposite direction.
The temple of Hagia Sophia is a symbol for all humanity. Α point of reference for all of us Christians. A place of sanctity. And all that you attempt will only indicate your pettiness, when you bend down to pray under the Holy Dome of Hagia Sophia, under the gaze of Virgin Mary.
But you should know that anything you impose by force cannot reverse or erase the truth of history. The temple of Hagia Sophia remains an eternal symbol and point of reference for all humanity, an achievement of art, an insurmountable monument of civilisation that shall always be called and be Hagia Sophia.
PRESIDENT OF ΤΗΕ HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF ΤΗΕ REPUBLlC OF CYPRUS
Nicosia, 12 July 2020