Cyprus

The Wall Between Us

A green line is Europe’s most embarassing border

Cyprus is a Neverland, or rather a half Neverland. While one half is Europe, the other is a geographical void. The contours of this void are demarcated on three sides by the blue of the Eastern Mediterranean, and on the fourth by a green line that a UN General plotted on a map 45 years ago with the first pen that was to hand: that pen just happened to be green.

Everything to the south of this green line is marked on the map as the Democratic Republic of Cyprus. While to the north is nothing: 3,300 square kilometers of houses and hills but no homeland, inhabitants without a passport. To compensate, it has two identities: for those who live there, it’s the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus, proclaimed in 1983 and recognized only by Turkey. For the rest of the world it’s considered a territory under military occupation.

That green line plotted in 1974 mutated into a wall that still stands today: a jumble of oil drums, towers, tyres, sandbags, rolls of barbed wire, low and tall walls, hedges, metal sheets and chevaux de frise barriers even on the roofs of the ancient venetian buildings. The old streets of Nicosia (Lefkosha on the Turkish side) are effectively sliced in half by this barrier that marks the very edge of Europe.

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