Monday, March 16, 2009

Histories of archaeology, and the liberation of censorship

The Histories of Archaeology Research Network (HARN) - which has a weblog and a project page on Antiquity - explores 'the histories and philosophies of archaeology and reconstructs the lesser-known social, political and intellectual aspects of archaeology's history'.

Last month, I briefly posted my concerns about Michael Jansen's claims about Jacques Dalibard's UNESCO report. A couple of days ago, at HARN's last meeting, I explained my concerns more fully. (Soon, I'll look more closely at Christopher Hitchens' claims and his sources.)

I called the paper the liberation of censorship in Cypriot archaeology: Representations of a suppressed UNESCO report in histories of cultural heritage destruction, because I believe that, when UNESCO censored the original report, it liberated propagandists to misrepresent both the content of the report and the nature of its censorship; that propaganda has managed to misdirect histories of Cyprus and of censorship itself.

Hardy, S A. 2009: "The liberation of censorship in Cypriot archaeology: Representations of a suppressed UNESCO report in histories of cultural heritage destruction". Paper presented at the Histories of Archaeology Research Network Meeting, Cambridge, UK, 14th March. Available at:

After the Greek Cypriot coup and the consequent Turkish invasion in 1974, UNESCO visited a sample of sites across the island, then appointed an Advisor for the Cultural Heritage of Cyprus to help with cultural property conservation and restoration. The advisor, Canadian restoration architect Jacques Dalibard, inspected a set of sites in 1975 and duly submitted a report. But UNESCO first suppressed, then published it - very heavily-edited - in 1976.

Both sides cited the convenient parts of the edited report, the parts that praised them (e.g. ROCPIO, 1997; TRNCMFADSCS and TRNCMNECDAM, 1986); unfortunately, that is unremarkable. What I want to focus on is the public representation of the original, suppressed report, and how censorship was liberation for propagandists who subverted both scholarship and public understanding.

The original report became a legend: its suppression was cited in general histories of Cyprus and global histories of the censorship of historical thought. Telling Cyprus's history – unfortunately without citing even an anonymous source – in 1997, Christopher Hitchens (1997: 113) wrote that UNESCO kept the report 'confidential – in the hope of avoiding a rupture with Turkey' (but, apparently, not with Greece or the Greek Cypriot administration).

Previously an Amnesty International monitor, historian Antoon de Baets followed Hitchens. Citing him when presenting a global history of the censorship of historical thought in 2002, de Baets (2002: 146) grounded Cyprus's place in that history in UNESCO's suppression of information about the 'many Christian and Hellenic monuments... destroyed and archeological sites desecrated' (but, apparently, not Islamic or Ottoman monuments).

They are a couple of examples of the continuing influence of the suppression of the report upon public discourse; notably, they are both genuinely, demonstrably independent authors; however, their works were incidentally biased. A single figure appears to have been central to the presentation and promotion of the suppressed report, and to its influence upon (academic and popular) public understanding.

Journalist Michael Jansen first accused UNESCO of 'giving the [Turkish Cypriot and Turkish] looters and smugglers both license and immunity' in 1986 (Jansen, 1986: 315; she appeared to attribute her opinion to a newspaper report by John Fielding (1976: 13), but I haven't had access to that yet).

In her recent book, Jansen (2005: 27) said that Dalibard's original report's 'contents still remain a carefully guarded secret to all but the few who manage to obtain a copy'. Jansen included the original report in her bibliography (2005: 75), and spoke with authority about what would have happened if it had been publicised (2005: 27-28), so it seems that she was one of the few.

Like most people, I did not; but I do have a copy of the censored one, and Jansen got worryingly simple details about the censored report wrong. For example, Jansen said that Dalibard's censored report was five pages long (2005: 28), but the part on northern Cyprus is over six pages long, and the whole is nine pages. She said he spent two months on the island (Jansen, 2005: 24), but he spent more than three there (Dalibard, 1976: 1).

Jansen said that 'there was massive pillage and destruction in the north and none in the south' (2005: 45); but even the one-and-a-half pages about southern Cyprus in Dalibard's censored report recognised that the third-holiest site in Islam, Hala Sultan Tekke, had been damaged (1976: 2), and recorded that Ömeriye Mosque was in 'very bad condition' and that Bayraktar Mosque had been 'totally vandalized, the minaret pulled down, the windows blocked, the roof in a state of collapse' (1976: 3).

The numerical mistakes could be dismissed as forgetfulness or thoughtlessness; but the claims about destruction are different. Her representation was not a result of the problems inherent in doing this kind of fieldwork research, and it was not a result of poor or lazy scholarship; others had done the fieldwork research, and she had studied their results in detail. Her representation could only be a deliberate misrepresentation of the facts, but it requires a slight digression to prove it.

When Michael Jansen exclaimed that there had been no destruction in southern Cyprus, she had been using UNESCO's investigation to criticise the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe's one. Jansen (2005: 45) believed that because PACE's Senator Ymenus van der Werff and Consultant Expert Robin Cormack also inspected cultural heritage sites in southern, as well as northern, Cyprus, their report 'would lean over backwards to minimize criticism of the Turkish side' (as she felt the UNESCO report had done).

This is another consequence of the censorship: when other, uncensored, unedited research confirmed the results of the censored UNESCO study - destruction on both sides - it was condemned as biased too.

Jansen judged that 'the two situations [north and south] were not in any way comparable', flourished that 'Cormack made a show of even-handedness' and concluded that '[b]y taking a balanced approach,... [they] played down Turkey's role in the plunder, pillage, and destruction of the heritage of the island' (Jansen, 2005: 48; 50; 51). Jansen must have read van der Werff's (1989) and Cormack's (1989) report, to have been able to quote and cite it so substantially (Jansen, 2005: 48-51).

Yet, apart from restoration of possibly decaying, possibly damaged mosques and Ottoman buildings noted by both van der Werff and Cormack, van der Werff observed that Ktima Paphos's New Mosque 'had been entirely razed' (1989: 11) and that Evdimou Mosque had to be 'virtually... rebuilt' (1989: 13).

Again, Jansen did not acknowledge this destruction in southern Cyprus. Indeed, by denying that any destruction had taken place, she implicitly denied that these specific acts of destruction – ones she knew UNESCO and PACE recognised – had taken place.

Michael Jansen's work is exemplary. Apparently impartial and investigative, she has presented her book in the British Parliament, and at an event partly organised by the New York Foreign Press Association; she testified at the European Parliament's Public Hearing on the Protection of the Cultural Heritage in Cyprus.

Her book was favourably reviewed by a cultural heritage expert in the Friends of Cyprus Report (Clark, 2006: 56-58); her work was discussed in (albeit Hellenist) community newspapers, magazines and blogs (e.g. grhomeboy, 2006; Klok, 2007; Yiannis, 2006), and that discussion was reproduced in international academic conversations (e.g. Meadows, 2006). Indeed, I myself unquestioningly accepted Jansen's interpretation of Dalibard's report and UNESCO's censorship in a paper just last year (Hardy, 2008).

When she (literally) wrote the book on looting and destruction of cultural heritage in Cyprus, she had lived in southern Cyprus since 1976, had help from Greek Cypriot archaeologists, art historians, politicians and diplomats (2005: xiii-xiv), and used maps and photographs provided by the Greek Cypriot Department of Antiquities and Department of Lands and Surveys, and the Press and Information Office (2005: figs. 1-30), including two '[p]repared specially... by the Cyprus Department of Antiquities' (2005: figs. 2-3); indeed, former antiquities director Sophocles Hadjisavvas 'reviewed the text' for her (2005: xiv).

Initially, it appeared that her spoken rhetoric was different: having criticised others for doing so, she began her presentation to the American National Press Club by discussing the treatment of cultural heritage on both sides of the island (c.f. Jansen, 2006). Yet, Jansen (2006) summarised a bicommunal architectural survey's results as, 'a majority of mosques in the south are in fair to good repair while most churches and monasteries in the north.... have been looted of icons and stripped of wall paintings and mosaics'.

Very simplistically, statistically, this may have been true. The Cyprus Civil Engineers' and Architects' Association and Chamber of Cyprus Turkish Architects' website, Cyprus Temples (, featured 85 of 115 mosques in southern Cyprus; and many were in fair to good condition; but at least 20% were utterly ruined, destroyed or razed to the ground.(1)

And, despite the bicommunal team's outstanding work, there were errors in it that hid other destruction: for instance, Evdimou Mosque was listed as '[v]ery [g]ood' condition, but, as Council of Europe Senator van der Werff (1989: 13) observed, it had had to be 'virtually... rebuilt'.

Possibly the most shocking of Jansen's active distortions – as opposed to her chronic silence about destruction of Turkish Cypriot cultural heritage – is her representation of Senator van der Werff's opinion (in a later Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe report).

Jansen parsed van der Werff thus:
Most of this damage has occurred in the north and is the result of looting[.]... evidently linked with the highly professional international market in illegally exported art. After early opportunist raids during the unsettled period following 1974, more organised looting of selected targets seems to have taken place between 1977 and 1982.... Some damage was however clearly caused for no other purpose than destruction (van der Werff, 1989: 11, cited in Jansen, 2005: 50 – original ellipses).
Jansen's ellipsis following '1977 and 1982' erased:
Public opinion, through the Turkish Cypriot press, is now increasingly aware of the problem. The south is also vulnerable as the theft of the Leda and Swan mosaic from the Paphos museum shows. Unfortunately, the international art market is now well aware of the existence of a well-funded market in the south for items coming from the north (van der Werff, 1989: 11).
She had passed over the parallel trade in antiquities from southern Cyprus, and the Greek Cypriot administration's equal inability to suppress it. She cannot be accused of hiding Greek Cypriot collectors' involvement in the trade, as she had acknowledged it earlier, even if she did present it as reactive and patriotic (2005: 19-20), rather than proactive and greedy.

Nevertheless, the end of her quotation should have been:
Some damage was however clearly caused for no other purpose than destruction. In the south, we visited the site of the main Paphos mosque that had been entirely razed and saw damaged graves (van der Werff, 1989: 11).
She had distorted a condemnation of pre-1974 Greek Cypriot destruction of Turkish Cypriot cultural heritage to make it sound like a condemnation of post-1974 Turkish Cypriot destruction of Greek Cypriot cultural heritage. That is an appalling and inexcusable traducing of sources.

And any last doubt of Jansen's position is dispelled by her (2007) article in an international policy journal, Europe's World, which was actually 'sponsored by the government of the Republic of Cyprus'. Unfortunately, Michael Jansen can only be considered a Greek Cypriot asset – and it is this asset who has led both academic and public (mis)understanding of this particular case for more than twenty years now.

More than two decades after the alleged "bowdlerisation" of his report and "exposure" of UNESCO's appeasement of Turkey, Dalibard discussed the events, but neglected to mention either of those things. He explained that he had had 'to go from one side to the other and try to convince the armies' – note the plural - '... not to blow up the heritage buildings.... and to stop the looting and all these things' (Dalibard and Donaldson, 1999 – emphasis added).

Notably, Dalibard stated that years before Jansen published her 2005 study, which still did not even acknowledge the destruction documented by Dalibard in 1976 and first denied by Jansen in 1986. Yet Jansen's representation of Dalibard's work and its treatment is now more influential than his own.
  1. Kidasi Mosque 'does not exist any more'; Falya/Gökçebel Mosque 'no longer exists'; Goshi/Koşşi Mosque and Ktima Paphos/Kasaba Baf's New Mosque were 'demolished'; the mosques in Deneia/Denya, Flasou/Flâsu, Korakou/Coracı are '[o]nly ruins'.

    The survey team knew their locations on maps, but the mosque in Loukrounou/Olukönü was '[n]ot found' on the ground, and the mosques in Fasli/Faslı and Magounda/Yakacık '[c]ould not be found' either.

    Maroni/Marova and Pano Koutraphas/Yukarı Kurtboğan were mere 'ruins' and both Tremithousa/Uzunmeşe Mosque and Tymbou/Ercan's Kırklar Tekke were 'a ruin'; Koilani Mosque was 'partially ruined'. Furthermore, Polis Mosque's 'minaret do[es] not exist'; Famagusta's Sinan Paşa Mosque's minaret was 'half demolished'.

    They did not know the location of the mosque in Axylou/Aksu and were '[u]nable to find' it. An elderly Greek Cypriot local (2008: Pers. Comm.) showed it to me: it was painted blue outside and gutted inside.
Clark, D. 2006: "War and cultural heritage: Cyprus after the 1974 Turkish invasion by Michael Jansen. Minnesota Mediterranean and East European Monographs 2005, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota, ISSN: 1057-3941 pps 92 [review]". Friends of Cyprus Report, Number 49, 56-58. Available at: Reports/REPORT_NO49.pdf
Cormack, R. 1989: "Appendix II: Report". In Van der Werff, Y, (Ed.). 1989: Information report on the cultural heritage of Cyprus (Doc. 6079), 20-34. Brussels: Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
Dalibard, J. 1976: Cyprus: Status of the conservation of cultural property. Paris: UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation). Available at:
Dalibard, J and Donaldson, J. 2006 [1999]: "Interview". McGill University School of Architecture, 16th September. Available at:
De Baets, A. 2002: Censorship of historical thought: A world guide, 1945-2000. Westport: Greenwood Press.
Grhomeboy. 2006: "Antiquities of Cyprus, victims of invasion". HomeboyMediaNews [weblog], 24th May. Available at:
Hardy, S A. 2008: "Cultural heritage ethics in a divided Cyprus". Paper presented at the 6th World Archaeological Congress, Dublin, Republic of Ireland, 29th June-4th July. Available at:
Hitchens, C. 1997: Hostage to history: Cyprus from the Ottomans to Kissinger. London: Verso.
Jansen, M. 1986: "Cyprus: The loss of a cultural heritage". Modern Greek Studies Yearbook, Volume 2, 314-323.
Jansen, M. 2005: War and cultural heritage: Cyprus after the 1974 Turkish invasion. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Jansen, M. 2006: "War and cultural heritage: Cyprus after the 1974 Turkish invasion". Paper presented at a National Press Club Book Event, Washington D.C., USA, 16th May. Available at:
Jansen, M. 2007: "The pillage by Turkey of the 12,000 year old cultural heritage of Cyprus". Europe's World, Spring. Available at:
Klok, K. 2007: "De plundering van Cyprus [the plundering of Cyprus]". Lychnari, 10 Mei. Beschikbaar op:
Meadows, D. 2006: "The looting of Cyprus". Rogue Classicism [weblog], 23rd May. Available at:
ROCPIO (Republic of Cyprus Press and Information Office). 1997: Flagellum Dei: The destruction of the cultural heritage in the Turkish-occupied part of Cyprus. Nicosia: Republic of Cyprus Press and Information Office.
TRNCMFADSCS and TRNCMNECDAM (Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Defence Social and Cultural Section and Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus Ministry of National Education and Culture Department of Antiquities and Museums). 1986: Cultural heritage of Northern Cyprus: Its protection and preservation. Lefkoşa: TRNCPIO (Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus Public Information Office).
Van der Werff, Y. 1989: Information report on the cultural heritage of Cyprus (Doc. 6079). Brussels: Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

No comments:

Post a Comment