Apartment buildings, cars and even an airport were abandoned

Green Line, the no man's land that has separated the two halves of the island of Cyprus since 1974

There are two countries in the European Union that have part of their territory occupied by another country: one of them is Spain and the other is Cyprus.

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In the case of Spain, this situation occurs in the Rock of Gibraltar, a British colony. The case of Cyprus, part of its territory is in the hands of the United Kingdom, Turkey and the UN. This complex situation dates back to 1878, when the United Kingdom assumed the administration of this island by lease, although Turkey retained de jure sovereignty over Cyprus until 1914, when the First World War broke out and the United Kingdom annexed the island, since the Ottoman Empire was an ally of Germany.

An abandoned building on the Green Line as it passes through the city of Nicosia (Photo: Europa Nostra).

In 1923 Turkey renounced all aspirations over Cyprus, which became independent from the United Kingdom in 1960, after a strong nationalist movement on the island. After independence came problems between the two communities that had coexisted until then in Cyprus. Conflicts between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities on the island continued in the following years.

An entire abandoned street on the Green Line in Nicosia (Photo: Europa Nostra).

In 1974 there was a Greek Cypriot coup d'état on the island, supported by Greece (then under the so-called Dictatorship of the Colonels). Turkey responded by invading the northern part of Cyprus. The area occupied by the Turks was declared an independent state in 1983, with the name of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, only recognized by Turkey, which continues to exercise the de facto control over that part of the island.

Abandoned buildings on the Nicosia Green Line (Photo: Europa Nostra).

In 2004, the Republic of Cyprus (which exercises its control over the southern part of the island, with a Greek Cypriot majority) entered the European Union. In turn, the Kingdom The United Kingdom maintains two bases in the southern part of the island that are considered British sovereign territory: Akrotiri and Dhekelia, both claimed by the Republic of Cyprus, which considers both bases as a vestige of British colonialism. The territory of both bases includes civilian residential areas inhabited by Greek Cypriots.

Cars abandoned since 1974 on the Nicosia Green Line (Photo: Sergeant Ian Forsyth RLC).

The complex situation in Cyprus is completed by the so-called Green Line, a demilitarized zone controlled by the UN that divides the two halves of the island. That area, known as the Attila Line by the Turks, is abandoned since 1974. Only the staff of is inside. the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), currently made up of 1,017 military, police and civilians from various countries, mostly from the United Kingdom, Argentina and Slovakia.

A UN Peacekeepers watchtower on the Green Line in Nicosia (Photo: Aaron Miles).

The Green Line crosses the capital of the Republic of Cyprus, Nicosia, dividing it into two parts, in a situation that is very reminiscent of that of the Berlin Wall during the Cold War. It so happens that the so-called Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus considers the northern part of Nicosia as its capital. Many streets in Nicosia are closed and separated with walls and barbed wire, which prevent passage between the two areas.

A closed street at the edge of the Green Line in Nicosia. The white and blue colors of the Greek flag indicate that it is a street in the Greek Cypriot area (Photo: Matthias Kabel).

In Nicosia and other areas of Cyprus, the areas located on the Green Line have remained like stops in time, due to the rapid evacuation they suffered. Old cars from the 1960s and 1970s were left abandoned in garages, dealerships and workshops. Many homes were suddenly abandoned by people from one community or another who fled to the opposite area. A large part of these homes have been occupied by those who arrived from the other area, but the buildings on the Green Line are abandoned and many of them in ruins.

Turkish signs indicating prohibited access to the Green Line on a street in the Turkish area of Nicosia (Photo: Anja Leidel).

It should be noted that the Green Line is not an impermeable zone between the two halves of the island. Since 2003 there are nine points where it is possible to cross from one side to the other. Some of these steps can only be done by car and others on foot. To cross the Green Line in Cyprus it is necessary to carry a passport. In addition to these official crossings, from the Turkish area of the island there are illegal crossings that are generating illegal immigration problems towards the Greek Cypriot area, with a large influx of immigrants of Syrian origin.

The Nicosia International Airport terminal, abandoned since 1974 (Photo: United Nations Photo).

The best-known place on the Green Line is Nicosia International Airport, which was the only airport on the island when the Turkish invasion took place. The airport was built in 1939 and served jointly as an air base for the British Royal Air Force (RAF) until 1966. The current terminal was opened in 1968 and was very modern and luxurious for its time, something that It is due to the important role that tourism played in the Cypriot economy.

The interior of Nicosia International Airport (Photo: Dickelbers).

In 1974, the airport was bombed by the Turks. Several aircraft of the national airline Cyprus Airways were abandoned on their runways, although three of them were later recovered by British Airways. Even today, a Cyprus Airways Hawker Siddeley Trident 2E, 5B-DAB, is abandoned at the airport. There are also parts of other aircraft in its vicinity.

Cyprus Airways Hawker Siddeley Trident 2E 5B-DAB abandoned on the apron of Nicosia International Airport since 1974 (Photo: Dickelbers).

Two months ago, Spanish urban explorer Portillo published an interesting video visiting Nicosiaand showing both the Greek Cypriot area and the Turkish Cypriot area, and also some parts of the Green Line, including Nicosia International Airport and some abandoned military positions in the city (the video is in Spanish, you can activate the automatic English subtitles in the bottom bar of the player):

In 2018, Exploring the Unbeaten Path published this video showing in detail the Nicosia International Airport:

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