Relaymedia

Citing Security, Turkey Restricts Christians From Attending Church to Once a Year in Northern Cyprus

( [email protected] ) May 30, 2016 01:51 PM EDT
Christians in Turkey's controlled territory in northern Cyprus are now allowed to attend church service only once a year on either Christmas or Easter.
Turkish military forces of the Jandarma (police) block access at the Mursitpinar crossing gate near the Syrian border, where Syrian Kurdish people seek to pass, on Sunday. Turkey's leader says the country is willing to fight ISIS. Bulent Kilic

Christians in Turkey's controlled territory in northern Cyprus are now allowed to attend church service only once a year on either Christmas or Easter.

Turkey cites security as the reason for the restriction because of too many people coming from the south to attend church service in the north, but the UN is gravely concerned at the rippling social and religious effect once the people started to feel their freedom is being choked.

Turkey took over the northern part of Cyprus Island after the 1974 war. Greek-Cypriots were not allowed to live in the north, but Turkish-Cypriots both lived and worked in the south.

Ministry Undersecretary Mustafa Lakadamyali said the restriction was taken to prevent "the exploitation of religious right," aside from the fact that authorities cannot cope with the security on the increase of church goers.

Since 2013 Greek Cypriots crossing the border has steadily increased. Turkey called its occupied territory Turkish Republic of North Cyprus, but the UN rejected it.

"After many years of every positive improvement on the ability to access churches, here comes a restrictive new policy," UN envoy Espen Barth Eide after meeting with Turkish officials.

A non-government organization (NGO) also criticized the move, describing it a "serious blow" to the rapprochement process in Cyprus.

"Such chauvinism was not accepted at a time where the two leaders declared their full support to any kind of dialogue, and the religious leaders take a liberal stance," Serdar Atai, of Famagusta.

Speculations spread that Turkey was reciprocating south's prohibition for TRNC citizens to practice religion on its government-controlled area.

But Lakadamyali brushed them off, saying these were mere baseless thoughts.