Saturday, April 16, 2011

The "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus"

Yesterday, in conjunction with work in Nicosia, I made my first ever visit to "the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus" which is only recognized as such by Turkish Cypriots and the Country of Turkey.  The rest of the international community considers the entire Island to be the Republic of Cyprus (ROC), evidenced by the fact that the ROC has been granted membership in both the United Nations and the European Union. Most Cypriots simply refer to the disputed area as "the North" which comprises about a third of the country and which depends heavily on Turkey for political, military and economic support.   However an estimated 30,000 Turkish Cypriots commute between the North and Greek-speaking Cyprus each day and are paid in Euros. 

The North is separated from the rest of Cyprus by a buffer (called the green zone) which also runs through Nicosia  The North's flag is usually flown in tandem with the Turkish flag. There is a large replica of it on one of the mountains in the Kyrenia Range where it can be seen from long distances to serve as a symbol of Northern pride.

The only routes in and out of Northern Cyprus are via boat or plane from Turkey or through one of several crossing points from Southern Cyprus. I crossed at the Nicosia check point and expected that it would be much like it was to cross from West Berlin into East Berlin at Check Point Charlie in the 1980s.  It turned out to be much easier, perhaps because I was in a vehicle with US Embassy plates. When we approached the barrier we simply held up our passports and they waved us through. The North looks pretty much like the South with the most obvious differences being the flying of the Northern Cyprus and Turkish flags and shop signs with Turkish language and Turkish Lira prices.  The North has some beautiful mountain trekking destinations and beach resorts which are popular with Turkish tourists. The following link discusses the problem of Cypriot identify for ethnic Turks and contains a photography of the gigantic replica of the Northern flag

Since the Internet contains a great deal of information on the wars and politics of Cyprus, I won't bother to go into it and will instead refer yo to the following links. The first one from YouTube focuses is on
the buffer zone and shows some of the ruins still there from the 1974 war.  The US Government still has ownership claims on some ruined properties in this area.
With regards to the history and culture of the island, I was here about 5 years ago and had time to visit some of the island's ancient sites. Among the highlights were communities in the Trodos Mountains where there are 10 Byzantine churches on the UNESCO world heritage list.  Kykkos Monastery, the best known of the many Greek Orthodox monasteries in Cyprus, is also located in these mountains.  Former Archbishop Makarios who was also the first president of Cyprus, was an apprentice priest in this monastery and was buried at Throni which overlooks Kykkos. The island's combination of beautiful beaches and fascinating history makes is a beloved tourist destination for many Europeans, especially the Greeks and the British who colonized it in the 1800s at the behest of the Ottoman Government. Below is the official tourism site for Cyprus.

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