Wednesday, May 14, 2008

There's no place like...Iowa?

A Brief History of Where We Think We Are
A Note from the Desk of Pam

All of a sudden I realized that here we are an the island about which people know little. It just isn’t in the news much. So my “notes” etc. might mean more if I provided a framework.
Here goes:

Cyprus is the easternmost island in the Mediterranean, very close to Turkey, some 40 miles to the north. You can actually see Turkey on a clear day from Mt. Olympus, the highest point on the island.
It is roughly the size of Long Island. The southern two-thirds is Greek with a population of around 650,000 plus some 100,000 immigrants many of whom are British expatriates.
There are some 80,000 Turks in the northern one-third. They are divided from the Greeks by a UN-patrolled “Green Line.” The area between the two sides is known as “The Dead Zone.”
The British military have three sovereign bases on the island because its location provides unparalleled opportunities for electronic spying on the Middle East, Northern Africa, and Russia. The Americans use the three sovereign areas – for example, U2 flights are from a British air base – and have two of their own in the northern panhandle of the island.
There are two mountain ranges – the Troodos and the Kyrenian – which are green and lovely, while the much more heavily-populated coast is very arid, very Middle Eastern, with signs of ancient mining, terracing for vineyards etc.
The island was first settled by Greeks about 3500 years ago. Despite having been ruled by Phoenecians, Lusignians, Venetians, Turks and Brits over the centuries, which has undoubtedly affected the gene pool, southern Cypriots consider themselves Greek. The Greek flag is flown everywhere and more than the Cypriot flag.
Hellenism – the idea that all Greeks, wherever they live, belong to the same world, culturally, politically, and religiously has been around since Alexander the Great. In the 1950s this idea took a violent turn with a militant group called EOKA which was committed to ENOSIS, union with Greece. The enemy was the British military because at that time Cyprus was a British colony.
ENOSIS is anathema to Turkish-Cypriots. They believe that if Cyprus were part of Greece they would be annihilated. This conflict over ENOSIS led to the Turkish invasion and subsequent occupation of 1974. The occupation forced a number of Greeks to leave their homes and live further south. Likewise, those Turks who lived in the south were forced to leave their homes and live in what is now controlled by the Turkish Army. One of the grim results is villages emptied of people on both sides of the Green Line.
When the dust settled, the south became an internationally-recognized Republic and was admitted into the European Union. The Turks established their own Republic but it is not recognized by any country other than Turkey.
I might leave the wrong impression saying “when the dust settled.” The bullets and bombs have been set aside but the animosities are as alive as they have ever been. For the Greek-Cypriots this island is and will always be part of the Hellenic world. For the Turkish-Cypriots this island was meant geologically to be part of Turkey. If one looks at a map one can see why.
So you have an island split by beliefs that are so ancient the hope of an amicable settlement is just about nil.

But then again maybe we’re in Iowa.

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