I grew up in a housing complex for Greek-Cypriots that were displaced (in 1974) from the northern towns and villages of the island to the areas now controlled by the Republic of Cyprus (under the UN-supervised buffer zone). I remember looking, as an adolescent, at the southern face of the Pentadaktylos/Besparmak 260km-long mountain range and wondering if I will ever get to see what lies on the northern face of the mountain.
Since 2003, mutual contact between the two major communities of the island has been allowed, following a decades-long division that took place in three phases:
a) the inter-communal conflicts of 1958 stemming from the Greek-Cypriot guerilla war against the British (with the goal of becoming independent and uniting the island with Greece) in which the latter used Turkish-Cypriots as police officers hunting down the guerilla fighters and used the incidents as an excuse to block some of the neighborhoods, of Nicosia within the walls, from each other
(a) the creation of Turkish Cypriot enclaves in 1964 following inter-communal conflicts (due to which the tragedy of missing persons began) and the withdrawal of the TC community from government, together with the further division of the walled city of Nicosia in two sectors
(b) the division of the whole island into a northern and southern section in 1974, following the coup d’etat organized by the military government in Greece (with the help of willing Greek-Cypriots) and the armed invasion of Turkey to secure its own hold on the island and on the Turkish-Cypriot community
Situated in the eastern-most corner of the Mediterranean and in the crossroads of 3 continents, Cyprus has experienced several conquerors that left their mark on the customs, the language, the appearance, the genetic code, the architecture, the economy and the governing structures of the island. The experience of being subservient for so many centuries and the nationalistic attachment that grew after 1830 to Greece and after 1925 to Turkey as “mother lands” (the first being the origin of the Mycenean settlers that Hellenized the then-residents of the island in the Copper Era after 1400BC; the second being the origin of the Ottomans who ruled the island between 1571-1878, the year they unwillingly passed it over to the British Empire) has led to the Cypriots having a very confused national identity… and the reason any visitor to the island will see incredible amounts of Greek and Turkish flags flying almost everywhere.
* A video prepared by the students of the Pancyprian High School in Nicosia, presenting the never-ending problem of the division of Cyprus, starting from the displacement of communities in 1964 up to the division of the island in 1974. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K8SClLuDBuI
As Turkish-Cypriot poet Nese Yasin wrote in 1975, at the age of 17, “My country has been divided in two; Which of the two pieces am I supposed to love?” You will see in the video that the students divide the island in 4 pieces. This is because the two smaller pieces represent the sovereign military bases that the UK maintains on the island following the independence granted from the British Empire in 1960.