Cyprus Mail

Call for relatives of persons buried at Athalassa to provide DNA

Xenophon Kallis with an unidentified woman at the site on Tuesday (Christos Theodorides)

By Annette Chrysostomou

The families of missing persons need to provide genetic material to the commission for humanitarian affairs in order to facilitate the identification of the missing, Xenophon Kallis, advisor to commissioner Photos Photiou, said on Tuesday.

Efforts are underway to identify all remains located at the site of the Athalassa psychiatric hospital, but there are difficulties because information on the genetic material is not sufficient.

“My call is for families to provide information, I am sure there are other families who for their own reasons have not declared [that they have lost family members],” Kallis said.

Kallis was speaking at the hospital where he informed Greek and Turkish Cypriot politicians on the progress of the exhumations. The visit took place under the auspices of the Slovak embassy, which has organised such meetings for many years.

In July 1974, the Turkish air force bombed the Athalassa psychiatric hospital, killing 32 people, including Turkish Cypriot patients. Of the 32 dead, the bones of 17 people have been identified so far in two different locations. The bones of 11 victims were found in a tomb behind the current morgue at the Nicosia general hospital and the remains of six more in three separate tombs opposite the morgue.

Kallis explained that among the dead were three Turkish Cypriot patients, and that the first identifications have been made, among them a Turkish Cypriot patient of the hospital whose family supplied samples of genetic material.

He added that the remains of the six people identified in the three separate tombs were transferred to the anthropological laboratory of the Republic of Cyprus in Engomi, and samples were sent to the DNA testing institute.

All remains have yielded genetic material, he explained, but corresponding material from the families are needed.

There are also investigations underway in how far exhumations can be made in the Paphos area where another bombing, in 1964, killed a number of people.

The parties present at the visit read a joint communique, expressing their conviction that the time has come for the two communities to think seriously about the possibility of erecting a memorial of reconciliation in memory of all the victims of the conflict in Cyprus.

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