Historic Armenian Church in Nicosia reportedly leased to a foundation linked to Erdogan
By Nikolaos Stelgias
The Armenian Monastery and Virgin Mary Church, a cultural landmark with an 800-year history in the heart of Nicosia, has become the center of controversy following reports that the site may have been leased to a private foundation with connections to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's inner circle.
With reference to a recent news article in Avrupa newspaper, Cenk Mutluyakali, a journalist for Yeni Duzen, has brought attention to the situation, highlighting the emotional and historical significance of the church, which has served as a vital place of worship and community for Armenians in Cyprus. The church has withstood numerous challenges throughout the centuries, including its seizure by the Ottomans and subsequent conversion into a salt warehouse before being returned to the Armenian community.
The recent rumors suggest that the church has been leased to a foundation associated with Erdogan's son-in-law, Selcuk Bayraktar, raising alarms amongst heritage conservationists and the Armenian community. This move is part of a broader trend in Northern Cyprus, where operations conducted through foundations are increasingly common. These foundations often have close ties to the ruling AKP in Turkey or Turkish individuals and are known to promote Islamic teachings.
One such example is the involvement of the T3 Foundation, run by Bayraktar, in organizing events in cooperation with the Cyprus Science and Intelligence Foundation. These events, which have the backing of Turkish government institutions, suggest a potential shift in educational and cultural emphasis towards Islamic perspectives.
Mutluyakali's inquiry with the Director General of Evkaf revealed that while the church has not been rented out, adjacent buildings have been leased to the Cyprus Science and Intelligence Foundation for a nominal fee. This non-profit organization, headed by Mustafa Tumer, focuses on providing science education to children and receives material support from Bayraktar's foundation in Turkey.
This revelation has sparked a debate over the necessity of new foundations in a country already home to 23 universities and the appropriateness of external influences in Cypriot affairs. The author calls for transparency in the allocation of properties and suggests that returning the Armenian Church to its rightful community and allowing Cypriots to manage their affairs without nepotism and partisanship would benefit all parties involved.
* Photo: Wikipedia