The Backward View of a Divided Island
On July 20, 1974, Turkey invaded Cyprus, following years of socio-political conflict and hostility which endured between the two countries and the latter’s two communities, namely Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot.
Forced to flee their homes during the invasion, Greek-Cypriots residing in the North were unwillingly directed south of the island. Subsequently, on February 13, 1975, Turkey declared the occupied parts as the state of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, also known as TRNC; an illegal political entity recognised by Turkey alone. Meanwhile, the southern part of the island is still referred to today as the Republic of Cyprus.
Throughout the years, relations between Greek-Cypriots and Turkish-Cypriots had become somewhat non-existent, with the younger generation of both sides, specifically those born after the Turkish invasion, never having come in contact with one another. The political isolation and authoritarian regime, which had long been prevalent in the northern part of the island, played a huge role in the nonexistent socio-economic development between the two communities.
However, some 30 years after the Turkish invasion, due to Cyprus’ Treaty of Accession to the European Union on April 16, 2003, Turkey lifted the entry ban for Greek Cypriots wishing to enter the northern occupied side of the island, allowing them a one-day stay permit. On April 23 of that year, permission for this crossover was officially granted with the Greek Cypriot community using the Ledra Palace checkpoint to do so.
With evidently mixed sentiments of joy and resentment, Greek-Cypriot refugees were returning back to home turf, exactly 29 years after they were forced to flee, agonising over what lay ahead. Once they crossed the border, the refugees found churches, cemeteries and hundreds of other cultural artefacts completely destroyed and left to wither away in the hands of time. Entire homes were dilapidated, abandoned or being inhabited by Turkish Cypriots, Turkish settlers and even European citizens. Some residents welcomed the Greek-Cypriot refugees while others shut the door and refused to communicate with them.
Ensuing years of effort and attempts to reunite the island, a peace treaty still has not been established. Nevertheless, both communities remain hopeful, albeit with opposing reconciliation measures, for a fair solution within the framework of the United Nations’ peacekeeping operations.
* All the photos were captured from 2003 until today. They belong to a long-term project that began in 2003 under the title “Lost HomeLand” and refers to the Northern Occupied Cyprus.