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The Green Line - Divided Cyprus

by Doros Partasides

11th - 15th February 2000
 New Cellars, Pembroke College

Barbed wire has been extensively used in Cyprus since at least the 1950's, when the colonial government locked roads in order to try and contain Greek Cypriots demonstrating for union of the island with Greece. It seems that by that time nationalism had taken hold of both Greek- and Turkish-Cypriot communities and in a sense, barbed wiring was only the end of the beginning. As a resolution to the competing requests of the Greek-Cypriots for union with what they considered their motherland  Greece and of the Turkish-Cypriots for division of the island into two states, Britain, Greece and Turkey proposed independence of the of the Cypriot State under an unwilling partnership of the two communities. The agreements were signed in 1960.

By 1963 the first inter-communal clashes had occurred and UN soldiers were sent to protect civilians from hostilities; meanwhile the Royal Green Jackets, forming a Constabulary Force, laid barbed wire. A number of Turkish-Cypriots died in a series of highly publicised murders, especially in 1963-64 and 1967-68. As a result, the majority of the Turkish-Cypriot community was forced into enclaves under Turkish-Cypriot administration. Greek-Cypriot police heavily guarded the borders of these enclaves and access to the outside was greatly restricted.

The Green line came into existence in this period and has divided Cyprus into north and south sectors ever since. Plans on how these sectors should be organised in terms of Turkish- or Greek-Cypriot administration were still being discussed when a coup d'etat took place, instigated by an extreme right-wing paramilitary group of Greek-Cypriots (1974). Turkey sent troops as an intervening power but refused to withdraw them when the Greek-Cypriot leader was restored to power. They took control of the north part of the island that borders on the Green Line. The great majority of Greek-Cypriots who lived in this area fled and were re-settled in the south as refugees. The Turkish-Cypriots who lived in the south emigrated to the northern part within the next few weeks, and thus the Green Line has come to mark the division between the island's largest ethnic groups.

The UN mandate for stationing troops to the island has continued to be extended at regular intervals to the present day, due to the inconclusive dialogue between the two communities for a mutually acceptable solution. UN troops are the only inhabitants of the Green Line - crossing is extremely difficult as the Green Line marks the 1974 line of cease-fire (and therefore also referred to as the 'Neutral' or 'Dead Zone'). For many Greek-Cypriots it represents the inaccessibility of lost homes and property and for many Turkish-Cypriots it represents the guarantee of a life in safety. For other Greek- and Turkish- Cypriots  it represents the failure of the international and local communities to provide a viable strategy for co-existence over the most part of the last century.

:: article taken from Varsity student newspaper:

:: article taken from Pembroke magazine:

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Copyright CCC 2000 2000