Nicosia, the Wounded City

Nicosia City Map

A city is a living being , breathing, smelling, beats, life flows through his arteries. A city can not be divided because it was created to be one, because it shares its entrails, gutters, sewers, electrical conduits .... its streets are sought and found walls and fences  that separate them. It makes no sense to separate the body of a living being to develop in two separate halves.

 

This is the case of Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus, a country that on July 1 it is the turn to chair the European Union. This mandate will coincide with the 38th anniversary of the separation of the island and its capital into two halves.

 

This is not a story of good and bad, is the story of an island that has managed to be alone, a country that did not rely on independence, influenced by the long list of civilizations previously dominated. Cyprus has been a slave to its important geographic location. Senitas, Hittites, Egyptians, Phoenicians, Persians, and of course, Greek. It was part of the empire of Alexander the Great, the Roman, Byzantine. Conquered by Richard the Lionheart in the Crusades and sold to the Templars who in turn sold it back to a French feudal dynasty. In 1489 it was ceded to the Venetian empire who fortified Nicosia to defend the continuing Turkish incursions. In the summer of 1570 was the invasion of the island by the Ottoman Empire this time in the south. It's domination lasted three centuries, creating a new ethnic group formed by the Turkish soldiers to the Empire lands granted to the Turkish Cypriot population grew rapidly. In the early nineteenth Greco-Cypriot supported the Greek independence from the Ottoman Empire and after the victory of the Greeks they begin to demand the union of the island home. At the end of this century, the Turks signed a pact with the British Empire and give them control of the island. After the Second World War the two ethnic groups that populate Cyprus are two distinct views: the Greco-Cypriot independence seeking to be annexed to Greece in the so-called enosis, the Turkish Cypriots prefer to remain under British rule or from the island in two, taksim (partition) to the Turks. In the fifties the EOKA guerrilla founded the National Organization of Cypriot Fighters, led by Georgios Girvas, but Cyprus, a hero to the Greeks during World War II. Harassment starts towards the British until independence in the summer of 1960. The constitution promotes a mixed government with a president and two thirds of Greco-Cypriot ministers and vice ministers and a third of Turkish Cypriots.

Georgios Girvas was an important figure in the history of Cyprus and out of the island at different times always with the idea of enosis and confrontation with the Turkish Cypriots.

 

After serious incidents between the two communities, Turkish Cypriots out of the government. The radical supporters of enosis undertake violent actions against the Turkish Cypriots and 63 late starts a new conflict that triggers a civil war between the two ethnic groups with the Turkish intervention to defend the interests of the Turkish Cypriots. In 64 enters the island the United Nations Force-keeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), but clashes between the two communities are repeated for subsequent years.

On July 15, 1974 is a coup against the Government of Makarios, head of the Cypriot Orthodox Church and president of the government, but previously was a supporter of enosis, at that time not contemplated before the fear of an invasion Turkish. The coup carried out by the Greco-Cypriot military supported the military junta ruling Greece had entered, it fails. Still, the Turkish military operation called Attila begins on July 20, invading the island in the north under the pretext of preventing the annexation to Greece. The invasion not only meant loss of territory, also brought thousands dead, thousands missing, mass graves, prisoners sent to Turkey. It matched well the list of atrocities from both sides.

 

  The invasion ends on August 16 with a ceasefire, establishing the "Green Line", a buffer zone separating the two warring parties and is controlled by the UNFICYP peacekeepers. The Turks refused to leave the island and thus began an exodus from the two new parties created. Turkey began its policy to repopulate the island with settlers from Anatolia to balance the population as it did centuries ago. On November 15, 1983 was proclaimed the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), recognized internationally only by Turkey.

 

Nicosia'm starting as an apple becoming two capitals of two enemy states. The buffer zone, "Green Line" leaves a gap in the center of the city that became no man's land where one can spend the UNFICYP soldiers and where time stands still creating a new ecosystem where the center of the capital resembles a ghost town where herbs have overcome the asphalt, where the walls and windows of the houses begin a continuous degradation and the objects are still for decades. The streets speak, the traces of the shots on the walls whisper in his ear as the battles. The parapets were never conquered that contains the sand with which the soldiers hastily filled that summer. On both sides of the booths and lines of defense of the two opponents and waving flags visible to its neighbor, the Turkish along with that of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and the Greek front next to that of Cyprus.

After partition, the old Nicosia, the city that lies within the circle formed by the Venetian walls begins to undergo rapid transformation, not only for the "Green Line" is also about the treatment you will receive political managers of both sides.

 

The Nicosia southern part of Cyprus is a modern city with its shopping areas, residential neighborhoods, business area .... but within the city walls is another. The main street of this side of town is the Ledra Street, a pedestrian street lined with shops and modern clothing known brands, restaurants and tourists. It begins in the heart of the old city, in the same "Green Line" and leads in a south to the walls in a pleasant walk of a mile .. If we start to get into the old city from the walls and as we move away from the resort we found another Nicosia. Empty houses that have not been touched since the inhabitants were abandoned, either because they now reside on the other side, either because they left the area rocked by the misfortune of war and the memory away and near the enemy, or because never heard of their owners. As you approaching the center, which ends this part of town and begin the fences and walls that separate, we found more traces of his wound, the city is slowly dying, areas inhabited only by old and carpentry workshops that the days that close and stop the noise of saws, hammering and welding of metal, this area becomes a desert silent, deserted in a city where the only claims that people are attracted to the nightlife and the Civic Center arts.

 

In the rest of the streets there are many foreign residents who came in recent years called by the economic boom of the euro area, Filipinos, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis Bulgarian and foreign to the penalty did not live and that depresses the old town. On Sundays the old city and the city park attached to the wall becomes a meeting place for hundreds of Filipinos working as maids on their day off. In recent times are often found mixed couples Cypriots and Filipino men.

 

To the east, between the Orthodox churches of Agios Georgios and aggios Kassianos and delimited between the old wall and the wall sorry, we found a residential area of low houses now highly prized, where tranquility and silence broken only what prayers for speakers Orthodox deacons, or the call to prayer of the magnets on the other side of the "Green Line". The overview of the European part of the old city of Nicosia is one of sadness, discouragement and loneliness.

 

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