Protecting Cultural Heritage
“I fear nothing as I expect nothing I am a free woman and, free I shall remain as that is my strength…”
The Icon Hunter
Tasoula Hadjitofi, “The Icon Hunter,” is renowned worldwide for her work combatting art trafficking. In 1997, she coordinated “The Munich Case,” one of the largest art trafficking sting operations in European history since WWII. More than 5000 artifacts were found hidden in the double ceilings and hollow floors of the Munich apartments of Aydin Dikmen, a Turkish dealer known as “The Archaeologist.” Tasoula’s work as a campaigner to protect the world’s cultural heritage spans over 30 years.
Her memoir, “The Icon Hunter” is based on her life’s work.
“A gripping memoir. As a former refugee, she reveals the despair and irreparable loss of losing not only a nation but also its cultural heritage. She exposes the “underworld of art traffickers” with intricate detail as she documents all the legal loopholes and battles that stand in the way of repatriating stolen artifacts. The book is a powerful and important chronicle of art trafficking and its impact on the lives of those torn apart by war, and Hadjitofi is a caring and exacting storyteller.”—Publishers Weekly
In 2011, Tasoula founded “Walk of Truth”, a non-governmental organization whose mission is to engage the public about the importance of protecting and preserving cultural heritage in areas of conflict. The NGO rallies legislators and political leaders to strengthen the laws around art trafficking and restitution and continues to help others in their efforts to repatriate looted artifacts. She has dedicated her life to bringing looted artifacts home to her native Cyprus in an effort to compensate for her own inability to return home. On August 14, 2018 she is organizing a silent “Ghandi” style walk to Famagusta, Cyprus to raise awareness about the continued military occupation. To register, please click here.
Culture Crime Watcher
Walk of Truth receives anonymous tips from around the world about stolen artifacts. The NGO attracts volunteers who are interested in joining its effort to protect and preserve cultural heritage. Walk of Truth welcomes refugees, immigrants and displaced people who have been forced to flee their homelands due to violence and invites them to join the Walk of Truth platform so that they can protect, restore and repatriate their own cultural heritage as a way to reclaim their identity. Tasoula travels to refugee camps in an effort to inspire people using her own story of survival as inspiration. Walk of Truth offers to teach refugees skills that can provide them with the self-sufficiency they need to rebuild. Tasoula says, “I want to empower the refugees to rebuild their future with the ruins of their past.”
In 1987, Mrs. Hadjitofi was appointed Honorary Consul of Cyprus in the Netherlands. Her inspiration to tackle art trafficking came when art dealers tried to sell her artifacts that were stolen from Cyprus. This led to nearly three decades of tracking down leads from art dealers, detectives, and lawyers, to recover the stolen religious heritage of her motherland.
As an adult, Tasoula became a successful entrepreneur in her adopted country, founding Octagon Professionals International, an IT recruitment agency that serves clients throughout Europe and Asia.
Tasoula was born and raised in Famagusta Cyprus. In 1974, at the age of 14, she and her family fled their home to escape the Turkish military invasion of Cyprus. They eventually settled in the Netherlands as refugees.
The Icon Hunter’s book has been welcomed by the literary community. Read more
“The Icon Hunter is not only a quest for justice but for spirituality as well. Tasoula Hadjitofi achieves both. She is truly brave and her work is a shining example to us all that a persevering woman is a force to reckon with. In the age of ISIS and the routine destruction of historic sites, art, and artifacts, Tasoula’s work is timely and an inspiration for all who care to preserve the human legacy of art. I simply cannot wait for this story to be turned into a movie. As a book, it is impossible to put down.” Ayaan Hirsi Ali, New York Times bestselling author of “Infidel” and “Heretic”
“In a memoir that reads like a high-stakes mystery, Cypriot refugee Tasoula Hadjitofi struggles to find her rightful place in the world and to return the religious treasures of her homeland to theirs. Along the way, her compelling personal tale illustrates the devastating cultural, historic, spiritual and moral consequences of illegal art trafficking.” Nicholas Gage, author of Eleni and Greek Fire
“An explosive account. Tasoula’s life is derailed during the Turkish military invasion of Cyprus, but years later her life comes full circle as she seeks justice for the hundreds of churches that were looted and destroyed in the occupied areas. Through Tasoula’s efforts and passion, we learn the deeper meaning these artifacts hold for Orthodox Christians worldwide. The Icon Hunter is a timely story to be savored and treasured.” Priscilla Jana, author of Fighting for Mandela