I spent some time tonight at the Cyprus High Commission viewing a very powerful exhibition of photographs showing how a huge number of churches and places of worship have been desecrated in those parts of Cyprus that were invaded and occupied by Turkish forces in 1974.
The photographs were taken by Doros Partasides who settled in London with his family after the 1974 invasion (he also photographed the invasion itself and its aftermath). In the last few years, it has been possible for him to return and, as he puts it, that it was “with great trepidation” he finally visited his father’s village in the occupied area for the first time in over thirty years.
“It was if time had stopped there in 1974. It was immeasurably moving for me. I decided then to record these tragic images and so this long photographic journey began.
The first church I photographed was in the village of Gerolakos. … The doors were shut. Inside, a hut had been erected next to the altar labelled ‘KEBAB’.
From then on, wherever I went, the message of devastation was the same. I encountered abandoned churches to the point of collapse, interiors desecrated with animal and human waste, precious frescoes defaced, altars and icon stands damaged beyond recognition; churches transformed into mosques, places of entertainment, military headquarters and watchtowers; cemetaries strewn with broken headstones, the graves themseves dug up.
My camera became my weapon. The anger and horror I experienced served only to give me the strength to continue recording this terrible destruction of my religious heritage.”