Turks cross to Greek Cyprus for Eid prayers at historic mosque
LARNACA – Agence France-PresseHundreds of Turks crossed the “Green Line” dividing the Mediterranean island of Cyprus on July 7 to pray at a mosque in Greek Cyprus, a rare pilgrimage made possible by a 2014 accord.
In searing heat, police escorted a convoy of buses carrying the pilgrims to the Hala Sultan Tekke mosque, a site revered by Muslims as the burial site of the aunt of the Prophet Mohammed.
The visitors then held a prayer service marking Eid al-Fitr, the festival that concludes the holy fasting month of Ramadan.
The mufti of Turkish Cyprus, Talip Atalay, negotiated an agreement in 2014 with Archbishop Chrysostomos II, head of the island’s Greek Orthodox church, to allow Turkish pilgrims to pray three times a year at the site.
Yunus, a 21-year-old student from Adana in southern Turkey, said he was delighted to make it to the mosque.
“When I heard that I could come, I was really happy,” he told AFP. “We can all pray together, it’s very important.”
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops intervened in its northern third in response to an Athens-inspired coup seeking union with Greece.
A U.N.-controlled buffer zone – the “Green Line” – runs across the island and through Nicosia, Europe’s last divided capital, separating Turkish Cyprus from Greek Cyprus.
The leaders of the Turkish and Greek sides of Cyprus re-launched negotiations in 2015 with U.N. mediation to reunify the island.
Representatives of the Maronite, Armenian, Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches, who have expressed support for the peace process, also took part in the prayers.