Lobby for Cyprus is a non-party-political human rights organisation campaigning for a reunited Cyprus.
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Summer 2007 Issue 20

23 June 2007
The big steal
Not content with having occupied the northern part of Cyprus, Turkey is now engaging in the systematic concreting over of stolen Greek Cypriot land and selling it to foreigners. This is the final act to complete the 1974 ethnic cleansing of Greek Cypriots and to consolidate Turkey’s illegal occupation.

Caption: Desecration of Greek heritage in Lapithos, occupied Cyprus. This systematic destruction was made to make way for an illegal property development  

Quotation: There is no doubt that in law, the Greek Cypriots own their land and properties in occupied Cyprus

What were the steps that led to the current exploitation of Greek Cypriot land and properties? 
  1. Find a pretext to invade Cyprus; 
  2. Ethnically cleanse the Greek Cypriots; 
  3. Systematically destroy Greek cultural heritage; 
  4. Destroy Greek cemeteries and churches. 
  5. Change all place names from Greek to Turkish. 
  6. Bring in tens of thousands of Turkish colonists to alter the demography of the island. 
  7. Destroy or redevelop Greek homes and land. 
  8. Perpetuate the lie that the occupied north is and has always been Turkish. 
  9. Concrete over remaining land. 
  10. Sell new developments on Greek land to foreigners. 

Unfortunately, governments such as those in the UK and the US seem not to possess the ethics or courage to stand up to Turkey, despite its numerous violations of human rights and international law. There exists a complacent attitude taken by the UK government which turns a blind eye to opportunists building on Greek Cypriot land and selling it from the UK.

Land ownership in northern area of Cyprus under occupation
According to official statistics more than 82 percent of property in the occupied area prior to the Turkish invasion of 1974, was either owned by Greek Cypriots (60.6 percent) or by the Republic of Cyprus itself (22.82 percent). By contrast barely 16 percent of the property was owned by Turkish Cypriots. 

Following the Turkish invasion, the illegal regime in the occupied north of the island claimed ownership of the 82 percent of land and produced bogus title-deeds in an attempt to create new ownership. 

As the occupation regime has been deemed an illegal secessionist entity under United Nations Security council resolution 541 and 550 and by the European Court of Human Rights, the occupation regime does not have jurisdiction to perform valid transfers of property ownership. Of course it will be recalled that every court that has ever looked at these deeds has declared them worthless and illegal. The ethnically cleansed Greek Cypriots remain the legitimate holders of title-deeds, as reaffirmed by numerous cases, in particular the landmark European Court of Human Rights Loizidou v Turkey case of 1996 which compensated displaced Greek Cypriot owner Titina Loizidou for loss of use – not loss of ownership, as she remains the legitimate owner. Greek Cypriot ownership was reaffirmed by English High Court (Orams v Apostolides 2006), despite the spin that much of the UK press placed in reports to suggest that the Orams won ownership of Mr Apostolides’ property in Lapithos. Indeed, the High Court judge branded the Orams trespassers. In the recent Xenides-Arestis v Turkey case, Greek Cypriot ownership was reconfirmed. There is no doubt that in law, Greek Cypriots still own their land and properties in occupied Cyprus.

In an attempt to circumvent this, the Turkish occupation authorities are now perpetrating the big steal. Companies are being set up in the UK to promote the illegal sale of Greek Cypriot properties to UK citizens. They use massive property exhibitions such as those at Excel to do this. For example, sales of property in Akanthou, Ayios Amvrosios and Vokolida are commonplace. Yet no Turkish Cypriots owned property in these areas. The buyers are duped into buying, by being told that the title-deeds are safe. They are told that there has been a property exchange between Greek and Turkish Cypriots, which of course is patently untrue, as it takes two willing parties to agree to an exchange. Distributing false title-deeds does not constitute ‘property exchange’ by any stretch of the imagination. 

Lobby advises any displaced land and property owners to contact Lobby if they find their land is being built on. We will offer advice on legal rights free of charge. 

The irony is that the shoddy workmanship of some illegal developments in the occupied territories and the dubious practices of the builders may be what finally kills off this activity. Dissatisfied British buyers have set up their own ‘homebuyers’ pressure group, saying their “dreams of a home” in the occupied north have become a nightmare. This is due to unscrupulous lawyers, builders, developers and estate agents taking advantage of unsuspecting, or indeed greedy buyers keen to seize the opportunity to exploit plundered Greek Cypriot properties. 

The buying or selling of Greek Cypriot properties in occupied Cyprus constitutes a criminal offence. Those found guilty of such exploitation risk facing legal action, which can and has resulted in imprisonment in free areas of the Republic of Cyprus.