The restoration of cultural heritage as a tool for reconciliation of divided communities: a case study on the Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage in Cyprus   

Rieti and L’Aquila Detention Centre 

Cyprus attained independence from the British Empire in 1960. Even though the constitution aimed to balance the interests of Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities, a series of crises resulted in the outbreak of violence in 1963. In 1964 the United Nations Peacekeeping Force arrived and in 1974 Turkey invaded Cyprus. The Turkish military forces occupied an area which is known as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. There is a Green Line which separates Northern Cyprus from the Republic of Cyprus. Since 2003, it is legal to cross the line. Even though the border is open, the dispute is ongoing. The whole situation has seriously affected both the social fabric and the immovable cultural heritage of Cyprus. Most of the damage to the cultural heritage has occurred in the north. Not considering itself an occupier, Turkey does not recognize any responsibility coming from the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. Therefore, there are many political difficulties in preserving the cultural heritage of the area. In 2008, the European Parliament requested the European Commission to carry out a Study of the cultural heritage in the north. Within this context, the Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage was established. This is a joint Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot mechanism for restoring heritage that helps to consider the preservation in a non-political manner in order to take practical measures. The project also aims to promote dialogue, cooperation and confidence building between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots. Since 2012, the Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage has restored 33 heritage sites island wide, while 23 sites benefited from small-scale works. This case study gives evidence of the employment of cultural heritage as a resource to cope with a crisis.