A Brief History
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.
Hidden in the Sand (2008)
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.
Any reopening of the 43-year old militarily occupied ghost town of Varosha, a district of historic Famagusta on the Eastern coast of Cyprus, presents a unique opportunity to learn from the mistakes of the past and rebuild for a better future. Yet it comes with significant risks. Without careful planning, it could become just another unsustainable development in an already crowded Mediterranean tourism market, while cementing Famagusta as the second divided city in Cyprus.
Rebuilding Varosha in the context of a model ecopolis promotes peaceful coexistence amongst all of Famagusta’s inhabitants while embracing the latest ecocity technologies and turning Famagusta into a center for peace and sustainability within a troubled region. The project ultimately aims to turn all of Famagusta into Europe’s model Ecocity. This is a multi-track approach to environmental sustainability, economic prosperity and peace building. Those involved are local and international architects, permaculture designers, economists, business owners, urban planners, engineers, horticulturists, historians, artists, filmmakers, conflict mediation specialists and much more.
Our aim is to prepare the communities for the implementation of the Famagusta Ecocity into a thriving cultural, economic and environmental hub. This takes much planning a preparation ahead of time before the area opens up again to human habitation, and after 40 years of separation between Greek and Turkish Cypriots, the road is certainly a bumpy one.
In addition to completing an architectural design studio, which brings five sets of ecocity ideas to the communities, we are working on a documentary film that will both tell the story of the city and show why it is the perfect laboratory for an ecocity to be born.
2014 Funding Campaign Video
The Documentary Film
Currently in production, Waking Famagusta is the story of this mother/daughter-led team as they rally support across the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, to transform a captive ghost town into a model ecocity. Vasia Markides grew up in Maine, in the northeastern U.S., hearing stories from her mother, Emily Markides, about her lost city, now decaying behind barbed wires on the northeast coast of Cyprus. It was only in 2003 when Turkey loosened restrictions at the checkpoint when Vasia was able to see the ghost town herself, from across the fence. The grip it had on her from that moment forward was unrelenting, and Vasia devoted the next fourteen years of her young adult life to exposing Famagusta to the world. Her aim ultimately was to help Emily pursue her longtime dream of seeing the entire city of Famagusta revived into a model of sustainability and reconciliation at the crossroads of Asia, Africa and Europe.
Famagustians from both sides of the divide, come together, stirring momentum beyond their expectations on the island and beyond. Historic peace negotiations aim to reunite the island after 43 years of division. If this happens, Famagustians will be given the right to return home, and will confront what could be the largest reconstruction challenge the world has seen since the end of World War II.
Whether the group fails or succeeds in creating an ecocity in Famagusta, this story inspires other communities to take action towards a more lasting future.
Q. What is the Famagusta Ecocity?
The Famagusta Ecocity is our vision for an integrated, sustainable, and environmentally responsible Famagusta that promotes peaceful coexistence amongst all of its inhabitants and embraces the latest environmental and urban technologies. What started out as a plan to revive Varosha, the captive ghost district of Famagusta, grew into something much more integrated with the needs of the island. In our vision, the Famagusta Ecocity will be a centre for peace and sustainability within a troubled region and a magnet for high-quality trade, commerce, tourism and investment.
Q: How will you put this vision into practice?
We will put this into practice through The Famagusta Ecocity Project, which has the following elements:
1) January 2014: Design Studio: An architectural design studio run by the renowned MIT Professor Jan Wampler, with input from 15 of his own students, Cypriot students and Cypriot stakeholders from both communities, as well as specialists from other disciplines. The design studio was hosted by the Famagusta Municipality Cultural Centre in Deryneia, adjacent to the UN-monitored buffer zone overlooking the ghost city of Varosha. The design studio was a major success which contributed to ongoing local dialogue on the vision for an integrated, post-settlement, Famagusta. The studio offered outlines of different proposals, which the local stakeholders can draw information from as guides in the future development of the city.
2) Spring presentation 2014: A conference in the spring of 2014 that presented the ideas of the design studio and what the next step of those ideas could be.
3) Ongoing: Documentary: A ﬁlm that will document the design studio at work, workshops with stakeholders and specialists, interviews with current and former inhabitants of Famagusta, and inhabitants of eco-villages around the world, while also preparing the ground in both communities to ﬁnd the strength and resolve to crack a decades-long conﬂict using a fresh idea. Our aim is that the documentary can also provide a blueprint for other towns to use in preparing their own communities for a more stable and lasting future.
4) Ongoing: Online databank: A free and open online resource to serve as a repository of all prior publicly available research and studies on Famagusta, in order to enable present and future teams of specialists to draw on the best research and ideas to date.
5) Ongoing: Outreach: We are spearheading a local and international informational and educational campaign via individual meetings and a wide variety of media, including the documentary ﬁlm and social and traditional media.
6) Ongoing: From Vision to Reality: Our aim is to showcase for public and private investors the feasibility of a successful reconstruction of Varosha and the wider Famagusta as a state of the art environmental showcase providing economic independence for both communities while acting as a magnet for sound investment and high-quality tourism, and peaceful co-existence.
Q. Will the ecocity be funded by taxpayers’ money? Isn’t that a luxury?
How to ﬁnance an integrated Famagusta Ecocity is one of the questions we shall examine during the design studio. Broadly speaking, we envisage a virtuous circle in which visionary ideas, solid planning and productive cooperation attracts not only private investors but also ofﬁcial sector E.U. funding as well as companies who want to showcase their latest eco-friendly technologies.
Q. Who is on your planning team?
Vasia Markides (Cypriot ﬁlmmaker); Ceren Boğaç (Cypriot / Famagustian academic architect); Armando Garma-Fernandez (Architect, Animator & Filmmaker); Fiona Mullen (economist specializing in the Cyprus economy including post-settlement); Nektarios Christodoulou (Cypriot / Urban Planner); Emily Markides (permaculture adjunct professor; Famagusta native; the vision’s originator).
Q. How are you funding this?
Primarily through private donations. For the documentary, we raised $17,000 in private donations and $34,000 from our crowd-funded Kickstarter campaign, 10% of which goes to Kickstarter. Documentaries that pay their staff regular salaries typically cost $300,000 – 1 million, so we are starting this on a shoestring and we are still campaigning for more funds. For the architectural design studio, we have raised $20,000 through private donations to cover travel, accommodation and costs on the ground. We have also received a pledge for a small donation from an EU-based NGO (non-governmental organization). This money will be used to cover costs such as equipment, travel, services, etc. All spending will be fully accounted for.
Q: Are you saying Varosha should be returned in advance of a settlement?
The Famagusta Ecocity Project is keen to ensure as wide support as possible support for the project from stakeholders in both communities. For that reason we are not taking a position either way on when Varosha should be returned. We are only preparing for what could happen if it is returned.
Q: Are you related to the Bicommunal Famagusta Initiative?
One of our team members was also a core team member of The Bicommunal Famagusta Initiative (BFI), which is a separate organization. We are grateful to BFI for providing us with information and logistical support. Owing to signiﬁcant overlap in the ultimate objectives and in the stakeholder-centric processes adopted by all organizations, the Famagusta Ecocity Project and the Bicommunal Famagusta Initiative are mutually supportive of each other’s efforts.
Q: Are you going to interfere with my property rights?
The design studio will proceed on the premise that property rights will be fully respected, and that no property owner will feel that they might eventually be forced to demolish their property as a result of designs made by someone else. We are only presenting ideas and information; we are not trying to impose a way of life on anyone.
Q: Are you forcing an outsider’s plan on us?
The Famagusta Ecocity Project has made a public commitment from the outset that no proposal will be put forward that does not carry widespread bicommunal support among the immediate stakeholders. Ultimately it is all about involving stakeholders and Cypriots in designing a well-planned integrated Famagusta. In the end, Cypriots will decide how that happens.
Q: Do you have political support for your project?
Both the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot municipalities of Famagusta have publicly expressed their support for citizen initiatives regarding the future revitalization of Famagusta. Government ofﬁcials in various departments and at various levels have also privately expressed their support and encouragement to the proposition that a vision for the reconstruction of Famagusta, garnering widespread bicommunal stakeholder support, ought to be in place in advance of a comprehensive settlement, as this would prepare the ground for a successful “Day After” and be a good omen for the implementation of any agreed political solution to the Cyprus problem.
Q: What media coverage have you had to date?
Have more questions?
The Full Team
Vasia Markides - Filmmaker, Director/Producer, Artist
Ceren Boğaç - Professor Architecture and Environmental Psychologist
Fiona Mullen - Economist
Nektarios Christodoulou - Urban Planner
Armando Garma Fernandez - Architect, Animator, Filmmaker
Christina Elia Architect - Architect
Emily Markides - Peace, Sustainability & Permaculture
Jan Wampler Distinguished MIT Professor of Architecture, renowned designer of sustainable communities worldwide
Michael Loizidis Environmental & Chemical Engineer, Director, Founder of Akti & Isotech
Bernard Amadei Founder of Engineers without Borders, Professor of Engineering at the University of Colorado (Boulder)
Here is some of the international press coverage that the Famagusta Ecocity Project has received since its inception.
Welcome to Varosha, the Mediterranean's best kept secret. Miles of sand where it's just you and nature. Dozens of grand hotels where you'll have the pick of the rooms.
My Dream of Reviving a Ghost City - BBC Outlook (audio interview)
Vasia Markides grew up with her Greek Cypriot mother's stories of Varosha which was once the booming tourist resort of Famagusta, but it has now been fenced off from the world for nearly 40 years. Vasia has launched a campaign to bring Varosha back to life, and to make the whole area into an eco-city. Ceren Boğaç, a Turkish Cypriot from Famagusta, grew up next to Varosha, and shares Vasia's dream.
The grass-roots project — the brainchild of Greek Cypriot-American Vasia Markides — aims to transform the ghost town into a model eco-city, preserve local character, generate revenue for the debt-ridden country and provide a forward-thinking example of planning in a drought-prone country plagued by overdevelopment.
CLOSE to 100 participants will take part in the five-day Famagusta Ecocity Project Design Studio launching on Thursday to draft a range of design proposals for turning the ghost town of Varosha and the wider Famagusta area into a model reunited ecocity, fit for the 21st century.
We are undergoing a major overhaul of our online presence. If you need to reach us, then please fill out our form and we will get back to you as soon as we are able.