A Brief History
The Cyprus Problem
You can find all the ingredients of violence in the last 50 years of Cypriot history: Divide and rule tactics, car bombs, bullets in the back, interrogation and torture, mass graves, UN troops, meddling foreign states, a coup, an invasion, occupation, and enough propaganda for another century of hostility. Any account of the Cyprus Problem will offend many, whether they are Brits, Greeks, Turks, Greek-Cypriots or Turkish-Cypriots, and if one is honest and unflinching about the facts, all will take offense.
Cyprus became independent in the 1960’s after the Greek Cypriot underground group EOKA waged a five-year guerrilla war against Britain, the colonial master. But EOKA wanted union with Greece, not independence. In short, they wanted to be Greeks, not Cypriots. Turkish nationalism grew as a counterpart to the Greek variety, and the underground group TMT formed to pursue the partition of the island between Greece and Turkey. Violence ensued, and the UN arrives with a peacekeeping force.
Violence continued with both sides suffering atrocities perpetrated by extremists on each side, while the Turkish Cypriot minority withdrew into enclaves.
In 1974, the dictatorship in Greece staged a coup to annex Cyprus to Greece. Turkey then invaded, claiming its right as a guarantor power to intervene and restore constitutional order, and ended up occupying the northern third of the island, killing thousands in the process. Greek Cypriots living in the north were forcibly displaced to the south, while Turkish Cypriots in the south were moved to the north. The Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash later unilaterally declared the north to be The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which remains recognized only by Turkey. To this day, the Turkish troops have not left, and the island remains divided.
A Brief History of Famagusta & the Varosha District
Varosha Before 1974
During the conflict of 1974, a six square kilometer district of Famagusta known as Varosha, was fenced off from the rest of the island by barbed wire. Famagusta itself is the setting for Shakespeare’s Othello and is one of the island’s most important harbors, tourist destinations, and center of culture, trade and commerce.
To this day, Varosha remains surrounded by barbed wire. Once known as the jewel of the Eastern Mediterranean where people like Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton summered, it is now a ghost city; a place of captivity; an abandoned and derelict area in the divided region of Famagusta; a pawn in a political struggle that has yet to be resolved.
The rest of Famagusta is inhabited by Turkish-Cypriots who were either originally there before the Greek-Cypriot community left or who were displaced from other parts of the island. There are also Turkish migrants from mainland Turkey who live in their own separate neighborhoods. The entire Famagusta region, which like Cyprus has in its history a long list of invaders, continues to retain the status of a fragmented community.
Our connection to this place
Emily Markides, mother of Famagusta Ecocity Project founder Vasia Markides, was born and raised in Varosha, and like all of its Greek-Cypriot inhabitants, retains a certain nostalgia and longing for her hometown that will move anyone who has the chance to hear her story. She, like many other Famagusta refugees, has never recovered from its loss. It remains like an open wound for those who left their belongings, their homes and their communities one day thinking they would return the next.
A handful of photos are the only physical record that remains of Emily’s childhood in Famagusta.
Emily’s obsession with her hometown infiltrated Vasia’s psyche so deeply that it launched her career as a filmmaker. In 2008, Vasia made a documentary short called Hidden in the Sand about the city and the larger Cyprus problem that has kept it in captivity. As both the filmmaker and a participant in the story, Vasia examines the fate of this city in captivity and her family’s connection to it.
All of the work that Emily has done in launching eco-peace communities both in Maine and Cyprus, has been inspired by Famagusta and her dream to see it revitalized as Europe’s model ecocity. The idea stuck and in 2013 Vasia decided to finally pursue a longer, more elaborate film on the subject. Emily, Vasia and her husband Armando, began meeting others who immediately saw the potential of this idea.
These extraordinary individuals quickly became a team ready to help make this ecocity happen. The idea started catching fire and The Famagusta Ecocity Project was born, and a documentary production with it.