|Desecrated tombs of the cemetery in the capital of Imvros. (Photo by N. Manginas)
On October 28, 2010, seventy-eight Christian graves were brutally desecrated in the graveyard of Panagia (Merkez or Imroz), the capital of the island of Imvros (Gokceada), in Turkey. Imvros is home to approximately 200 Greek Orthodox Christians and the birthplace of both His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and the late Archbishop Iakovos of America.
The Greek Orthodox populations of Imvros and nearby Tenedos were largely forced to abandon the islands in the 1960’s and 1970’s due to a policy of systematic ethnic cleansing by the Turkish State. Despite recent improvement in the situation for the few indigenous inhabitants remaining, acts such as this one serve as a stark reminder of the intolerance and intimidation by certain individuals and groups that persists on the islands.
The Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs quickly condemned the desecration in a statement issued on October 31st, stating “we regret that many grave-stones in a cemetery belonging to our Greek Orthodox citizens in Imvros were damaged on the night of October 28, 2010. We strongly condemn it.” The Ministry statement further noted the following, “Upon notification of the incident by the Imvros Metropolitan to the Public Prosecutor’s Office, an immediate investigation was launched in order to catch the perpetrators and bring them before justice. Necessary measures to prevent any recurrence of such an event are being taken by the relevant authorities.”
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