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an island: divided

The 'an island: divided' project is a series of documentary photo series that primarily focus on contemporary socio-political issues in Cyprus. Through these photo series, which focus mainly on depicting the common wounds of Cypriots, the project aims to activate the fading hope as a key to the healing process and thus provide an empathetic and unbiased approach to the recognition of unresolved deep grievances alongside the acknowledgement of other issues.

As the main beneficiaries of the division of Cyprus - the UK, Turkey and Greece, as well as the UN troops on the Green Line - who declared a ceasefire 50 years ago, ignoring the wounds that remain unhealed for the people of Cyprus. And as the years go by, instead of healing the pain, they deepen it day by day, while serving many countries and the Cypriot elite. 

One of the reasons for my longest stay in Cyprus since 2013, during the pandemic months of 2020-2021, was the background for my re-exposure to the island's current problems, that I could 'stay far away'. During this four-month period, I spent most of my time with my 96-year-old grandmother, who told me stories that validated my knowledge, unlike those Turkish-speaking Cypriots were told by the post-1974 education system, which was confirmed to be nothing but hate-oriented indoctrination against Greek-speaking Cypriots. Many of my grandmother's stories emphasised the harmonious and peaceful life of Cypriots regardless of their ethnicity. Until it was ruined by colonial and fascist ideologies that had a profound effect on the collective psyche of the island's inhabitants through violence, fear and ethnic segregation. As a result, the 'benefits' extracted from the situation have resulted in Cyprus remaining divided to this day, despite having been home to different ethnically diverse communities for centuries.

The day when Cypriots collectively move beyond the blame game and take responsibility, accept each other's suffering with compassion, will be the day when they return to a harmonious and united entity, embracing all their colourful cultures and ethnicities.

GHOST TOWN 

Maraş/Βαρώσια/Varosha 
2021

In the past, Varosha was the most valuable and developed tourist destination in Cyprus. After the 1950s, the island experienced a victorious independence movement against British colonisation. However, this was soon followed by a rise in Greek nationalism in Cyprus, which led to a Turkish military invasion in 1974. Since then, only the Turkish army has had access to Varosha. For almost half a century, the area remained a forbidden zone, guarded by the Turkish army and used as a valuable 'key' in Cypriot negotiations. The emotional impact of the place is reflected in the growth of plants in the living rooms or bedrooms of the people displaced. Bullet holes and broken glass decorate the walls of houses and shops looted during the invasion. Since 2020, the town has been open to the public as a tourist attraction, allowing visitors to explore on foot or by bicycle along designated renovated roads. It is difficult to imagine the anguish of those who lived through the city's most vibrant period. However, as I passed another building that had been looted and abandoned, with bullet holes still visible on its facade, I saw a couple who were posing and smiling for a photograph. This only served to intensify my feelings of shame, sadness and anger, even after I had left the 'ghost town'.

AYGURUŞ
Esentepe /Αγιοσ Αμβροσιοσ

2020-2021

The village of Agios Amvrosios was previously inhabited by Greek-speaking Cypriot communities until the 1974 invasion compelled its population to relocate. The subsequent displacement of individuals based on their ethnic identity can be attributed to the colonial British rule that designated them either Turkish/Muslim or Greek/Christian. Consequently, the Turkish-speaking Cypriots, who currently reside in Agios Amvrosios (known as "Ayguruş" among them), relocated from their original village, Aynikola (Agios Nikolaus), situated in the southwest of the island in close proximity to Paphos. Following the breakdown of peace negotiations, the Turkish-speaking community established the "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus" in 1983, receiving full support and recognition from Turkey. Subsequently, numerous villages and cities underwent a process of rebranding with the objective of facilitating Turkish assimilation. As a result, Agios Amvrosios is now known as Esentepe (Breezy Hill). Despite the lack of historical documentation, this village, where I was born and most of my family still resides, is situated between the Mediterranean Sea and the mountains, offering breathtaking sunsets, landscapes and beaches.
The residence in which I was raised was initially provided to my parents as a temporary accommodation until a peace agreement was signed. However, despite the continued division of the area, it has become a home.

"FOREIGNERS'" CEMETERY
Ayguruş/Αγιοσ Αμωροσιοσ, 2020

As I followed an indistinct path during a walk in the nature took me to the appearance of a yellow stoned wall between the green surface and the blue sky, which continued horizontally until my eyes caught a partially demolished gate to enter behind the wall. The walk was continued in the hope of catching even more picturesque landscapes, which would provide a true colour palette of Cyprus's green and blue.
Proceeding to traverse the half-arched gate, the appearance of destroyed gravestones bearing carved names in the Greek alphabet and also dates, all preceding July 1974, was noticeable. What could have motivated such a violence? It is possible that greed, hatred, revenge, apathy, or a combination of all these factors were present simultaneously. Following this experience, I conducted research on Christian cemeteries locally known as "Greek Cemeteries" in order to ascertain that the same scenery was prevalent in other villages in the northern part of the green line. Furthermore, I discovered that some British people who are nowadays living in the northern part of the island requested that the authorities restore the Christian cemeteries. However, they were met with a rejection, which was conveyed in the following statement: The response indicated that the restoration of the "Foreigner's cemeteries" was not the responsibility of the authorities, but rather of the relatives of the deceased, who were "not interested" in the matter.. After reading that I could not stop repeating "Could it be apathy, hatred, revenge, greed, or a combination of all these factors?"..
However it is a shame of humanity.