A Day on the Turkish Side

Today I learned a lot more about the complex political scene of modern-day Cyprus and got to witness this complexity firsthand. 

I was excited for today as I knew we were visiting the Turkish side of the island, but I didn’t know much about the history behind the split. I later learned that after the British left the island of Cyprus, there was tension between the Greek and Turkish populations on the island. As these groups were different ethnically and culturally, there were disputes over who should rule the island and how they should rule it. Eventually, an agreement was made in order to placate both groups. However, a small Greek minority was not happy with this agreement and attempted an armed coup against the government of Cyprus. Once the Turkish government got word of this, they invaded the island of Cyprus and took control of the northern half of the island in a mere matter of days in order to protest the Turkish Cypriot population. To this day, the Turkish military controls the northern half where the Turkish population lives, and the Greek population resides in the southern half of the island.

On our visit to the Turkish side of the island, we visited Famagusta, a once-popular tourist destination in Cyprus. When we arrived, a local Turkish man accompanied us. Walking around the city was a totally unique experience and unlike anything, I had seen before. The city was completely deserted a ghost town. The buildings were empty and decaying, and shrubs and trees grew untrimmed. When Turkey invaded, all the Greek Cypriots who occupied Famagusta were forced to uproot their entire lives and just leave. I could only imagine what it would be like to be forced out of my home. The scene I witnessed was my first viewing of the devasting effects that war can have. In the present day, the city was developed but completely useless. There was no electricity or plumbing, and thousands of feet of prime beaches lay completely vacant. When talking to my tour guide, it was clear there was still tension between Greek and Turkish Cypriots and it was easy to see why. The families who were uprooted from their homes still believe there’s a chance they can recover their old living spaces even if this is unlikely. It’s imaginable that these tensions will never fully be resolved.

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