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War and Cultural Heritage: Cyprus After the 1974 Turkish Invasion
2005-12-07 14:39:06

Minneapolis, Nov. 18 - A veteran journalist on the Middle East based in Cyprus, Ms. Michael Jansen, launched a book on the looting of culture in Cyprus at the University of Minnesota in the US.

The book, called "War and Cultural Heritage: Cyprus After the 1974 Turkish Invasion" deals with the ugly phenomenon of the looting of cultures, an important international phenomenon.

While making references to her book, Ms. Jansen, focused on the impact that looting has had and continues to have on societies which have experienced such misfortunes. She reminded the audience that besides the intrinsic value of the objects stolen, there is the tragedy of taking these objects out of their context and of affecting the reconstruction of the history of a particular region.

In the case of Cyprus, she made a telling point of the fact that few international archaeological expeditions have been undertaken in the northern occupied part of the island in contrast to the thriving activity in this field in the south. Unfortunately, illegal excavations still take place in the occupied area, in spite of efforts by the authorities of the Republic of Cyprus to curtail such activities and protect the cultural heritage of the island.

In describing her new book in the ‘Preface’, Michael Jansen writes: “This slim volume is a journalist’s account of the looting and destruction of the cultural heritage of Cyprus following Turkey’s invasion and occupation of the north in 1974. . . . Archaeologists, historians, military strategists, art an antiquities experts, and policemen may one day get together and assemble a comprehensive study of the fate of the relics of the many civilizations which flourished on this island since people first settled on its shores. But until they do, I hope that my small contribution to the literature on the looting of Cyprus may convey to readers what takes place when wars are waged in countries with long and rich histories.”

Ms. Jansen's presentation was preceded by a brief statement by Theofanis G. Stavrou, professor of history and director of the Modern Greek Studies Program at the University of Minnesota, as well as editor of the series in which the Jansen book appeared.

Professor Stavrou emphasized the significance of books like this one in making the voice of Cyprus heard in the international arena, among academic circles, statesmen, and the public at large. He pointed out that an engagingly written book on an important topic like culture looting also directs attention to political problems, which are faced by small states like Cyprus, problems which have international as well as domestic repercussions.

Ms. Jansen is not new to the issue of the looting of cultures. She had previously published “Cyprus: The Loss of a Cultural Heritage” in the scholarly journal Modern Greek Studies Yearbook (Vol. 2, 1986) of the University of Minnesota. In that review article she pointed out that “The political-demographic partition imposed on Cyprus since 1974 threatens not only the unity and integrity of a modern nation-state but also the millennial cultural integrity and continuity of the island which has been the crossroads of civilization of the eastern Mediterranean.”

Michael Jansen is a graduate of Mount Holyoke College and the American University of Beirut with specialization in the politics of the Middle East. She has since worked as a regional correspondent for the Irish Times [Dublin], Middle East International [London] and the Deccan Herald [Banglagore, India]. She also contributes columns to other publications including the Jordan Times [Amman] and is the author of The United States and the Palestinian People [1970], The Battle of Beirut [1982 and 1983], The Aphrodite Plot [1983] which deals with the 1974 invasion of Cyprus by Turkey, and Dissonance in Zion [1986]. Following the outbreak of the civil war in Lebanon, Jansen took refuge in Cyprus, where she has lived since 1976.

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