To understand what’s happening around, you need to rise under the situation and to look on everything from the side. There are a lot of opportunities in the world to look into the future, visiting the territories, where were the events alike Ukrainian. I could do it, made a voyage to the capital Nicosia, which divided by the wall between Cyprus Republic and unrecognized Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. The article doesn’t call to find out, who is right and who is wrong, but to look on occupied territory after 41 year.
How it was on Cyprus: the history not so long ago
The history tells that invasion of Turkish Armed Forces on the territory of Northern Cyprus to protect Turkish-speaking population has happened in 1974. The conflict between Greek Cypriots and Turkish army wasn’t long, but tight. As a result the island Cyprus turned out to be divided on North, controlled by Turkish Cypriots (in fact by Turkey) and South, controlled by Greek Cypriots. Nearly 200 000 Greek Cypriots were forced to leave the territory of Northern Cyprus and 2 000 of people are abyss missing in summer 1974. Nicosia is the last city among capitals of Europe, which divided on two parts. Especially this fact made us to go there and to discover how are the things now in this separated city. Moreover, there is an opportunity to visit both of the sides of demarcation.
First impressions, mixed feelings
What looked surprisingly for us is that some officiants in cafe where we were stopping during the travelling through South Cyprus, asked us if we visited the territory of Northern Cyprus. Heard the negative answer, they adviced to go there. This means the peaceful mood of southerners according to their neighbors on the North. Coming closer to the city, the first that we saw was the huge flag of Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, drawn on the slope of the mountain. This flag is seen on the distance in a few kilometers and even ignorant man understands that there the occupied territory begins.
The flag of Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is seen far from the limits of the occupied territory (author’s notes)
The bus has brought us on the intermediate bus station in the center of the capital. The stop was near famous wall of the ancient fortress as a flower, which was built by Venetians in XVI century. The demarcation line goes through the center of it.
Ancient fortress in the center of Nicosia, divided on two parts by the wall
Solved all the organize problems, left baggage, we went for a walk in the city. It happened that it was getting dark, when we came to the demarcation line. It was not the central checkpoint, only simple pass in the wall on the distance from noisy and crowd streets. Blockpost appeared in the dark, attracting the attention by sandbags and barbed of wire streamer. It made us feel discomfort, maybe, because of memories about travellings through the block-posts in Luhansk region. But there was a big difference, guys in military uniform were sitting there with refreshments in their hands and having the chillout conversation, paying little attention on us. The city was living by its usual life, tourists were walking, souvenir shops were working. Nothing showed the presence of the wall from the first view.
The “wall” is a code name. Really the demarcation line consists from the buildings with boarded up windows and doors, fences, concrete slabs, huge iron plates. All of this is covered by barbed wire, even approaches to the wall and parts of streets are blocked in some places.
Conditional partition wall between free and occupied territories
The travelling on the other side of the wall
On the next day we purposefully moved to the main checkpoint. Rules say that you can move on that side only on three hours. It’s because Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is recognized only by Turkey and Abkhazia and stamp makes the passport invalid in other world, that’s why no marks put in the document. The one of the lively touristic streets of Nicosia, Ledra was in front us. Numerous restaurants, souvenir and clothes shops, stores with the famous Cyprus ice-cream worked. There was a monument, dedicated to events of 1974 at the end of the street.
The monument near the central checkpoint
Beside the monument there was not a big accommodation, where border guards, checking the documents, are located. This passage was opened not so long ago, in 2008.
The tourniquet of Greek Cypriots
Interesting fact, there is no checks on the exit from Cyprus republic, the passage between building and tourniquet opened and that’s all. The checkpoint of Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is after 20 meters. There with a big diligence border guards check and scan the passports of all people who wish to go on their territory. Much more people in uniform, but tourists are walking and with the same carelessness and curiosity staring at the sides. In spite of pointers about ban of photo and severe faces of the border guards I could do some pictures.
The eloquent signs on the occupied territory of Cyprus
Passing all the tourniquets, we saw the same loud touristic street, but with more jewelry stores and points of currency exchange.
The continuing of Ledra street, but with Turkish coloring
The currency exchange right at the entrance on the occupied territory. All for the comfort of tourists.
Double tags, pointing on the value of goods and services in the Turkish lira and in euro, were
Double prices in cafe is the usual situation
Passing 300 meters on the street, we were surprised that it harshly ended and from the both sides there were closed showcases or parkings except restaurants and shops.
Damaged buildings in the center of the capital don’t wonder anybody
Ex picturesque streets of the resort capital of Cyprus
Turbulently “developing” business on the occupied territory
The further we were going deep on the occupied territory, Cyprus began more remind Turkey, but cleaning hasn’t been doing there for a long time.
Dusty mess on the streets of the city
Nicosia is the city of contrasts
We were at Turkey two years ago and were wondering for a long time how good roads they have and new beautiful buildings. So, seen on the occupied part of Cyprus made the impression of decline and untidiness.
Usual housing of locals
Abandoned houses even in the center of so popular touristic city strongly wondered.
Pension in a marked decline
Ruins in the center of one of the most popular resorts of Mediterranean
Big and little red Turkish and white republic flags hanged everywhere.
The flag of Turkey on the occupied by them territory
The big portrait of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk – the first president of Turkish Republic and respected by Turkish man, flaunts on one of the squares of the city.
The big market-anthill, where clothes and food, shoes and bread sell in confusion, attracted attention. Tellingly, we haven’t met any of such markets on the side of Cyprus Republic, all goods sold in shops. The smell of spies was in the air and loud sound of call to pray from a nearby mosque.
Lord is one, there are a lot of religions
You can often hear about perturbations of Christian Greek Cypriots about fact that Turkish rebuild temples in the mosques on the territory of Cyprus. Coming closer to the source of the sound, we saw Christian temple, but there were shoes on the doorstep, big carpet inside on the floor and there were no icons. Stucco was hit over the sky.
Ex-temple and now the mosque with Turkish flags and Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus
The high tower become the minaret in one part of the temple. It’s interesting, but one window in the form of a cross at the bottom stayed untouched. The combination of Muslim minaret and Christian cross looks very unusual.
Minaret with Christian cross is the surprising combination
There was also a table with ex-name “The Cathedral of St. Sophia” on the enter. The most biggest and oldest gothic church of the Cyprus. It become the mosque only in XVI century.
The table with the ex-name of Cathedral
There are a lot of cases after 1974 of turning Christian temples in mosques. Unfortunately we couldn’t find them for three hours of excursion. There is also one of the building of ex-temple. There was made the ground for dance of Dervishes, which you can watch, paid certain amount of money for the ticket.
A part of the Cathedral and now the ground for the dance of Dervishes
Bright posters with the agitation of local politicians were mounted on the forged gates near mosque. The promises of this people were in the building of the communications (transfer of the electricity) from the continent into island. The schemes and detailed description were provided. There are no wind generators on the territory of Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, as on South, that’s why a lack of this resource is harshly felt.
Traditional Turkish baths are beside the mosque. There is a building near which shows all the polarity of happening. One half of it is the beautiful well maintained restaurant, the second one is the shabby walls of abandoned house. The composition sharply characterizes the atmosphere in this part of the city.
Demolition is neighboring with usual life
The city has the international banks, such as Turkish Economy Bank. BNP Paribas, one of the leading banks in the euro zone, is the owner of 50% of actions.
Working banks on the occupied territory
Coming back on the free territory
Wandering a little bit we went back to the checkpoint. During the passage Turkish side once again was checking the documents and Greek Cypriots looked into the passport and saw stamp of the airport in Larnaca allowed to go through the tourniquet. Stepping on the free territory, it become to breath more easier. Maybe it was because of the situation on the East of Ukraine and Crimea and maybe it’s true that some negative energy exists on all occupied territories. To compare – the South of Cyprus is more clean, comfortable and civilized. It has beautiful development, big incomes from the tourism and agriculture. The prices high on the South, but there also much more incomes. Cyprus become the member of EU in 2004, but de-facto only South part of the island joined it. European Commission during the negotiations to enter the EU 2005 with Turkey has demanded the recognition of the sovereignty of Cyprus republic.
World hasn’t been recognizing Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus for 41 year. Few generations grew up, who was born on the unrecognized territory. Turkish Cypriots are going to work on the territory of Cyprus Republic, because earning in euro is more high than at home. There a lot of abandoned fashionable hotels and tourism development is very weak. Northern Cyprus is the dotation region, Ankara allocates significant sums every year to support life on the occupied part of the island. The situation between North and South become more better at the moment. Checkpoints and roads opened. The talks about union begin to appear. But no, there are still no serious results.
Looking on the grey zones of the world, you began to understand with sorrow, that Donbass and Crimea will be in the degraded state for a long time. That only after a dozen of years I will have an opportunity to visit native home. As Greek Cypriots have done on their Motherland. Alien people live in their houses and city is another. The North has a big potential, which couldn’t be used to the full extent. The situation is more better on Cyprus than in Ukraine, but even considering all inaccuracies a lot of right conclusions could be drawn. They will help to make easy getting out of this situation. Ukraine has a wonderful opportunity to study at the mistakes of others.
Julia Kishenko for informator.lg.ua