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Framing Beyond The Walls - Nicosia Airport

Tijen Erol | Cyprus

A bullet hole on the windows of the airport

Nicosia Airport, which was heavily used by RAF during the 2nd World War, was the island's only international airport used by Turkish and Greek Cypriots from 1947 for the commercial reasond until the break out of the war and the seperation of two communities in Cyprus in 1974. Once, other than being the main entry and departure port for two communities, the cafes at the airport building also used to be the places for the families to spend time and socialise at the weekends. The airport which is now within the borders of the Buffer Zone controlled by the UNFICYP after the war ended about 40 years, stays much the same as it was in 1974 frozen in time as a symbol of survival. A Cyprus Airways plane still remains abondoned besides the hangars in the airport area. The engines of the plane has been used to repair another plane during the 1974 war.

This is the second phase of my project. You can see the first phase on http://socialdocumentary.net/exhibit.php?exhibit_id=1601

Statement from my first exhibit "Framing Beyond the Walls"

I was very excited when my Irish photographer friend told me we could get permission to visit the UN Buffer Zone, ‘the no man’s land’ dividing the island from east to west and keeping two communities apart in Cyprus, known also as the Green Line. It was first established in 1960s becoming impenetrable after the physical and communal separation of the city following the July 1974 incidents. As a Cypriot, I was born in Nicosia, where all my childhood memories belong, and lived in this city most of my life. As a child, I have been to the area when it was accessible for all, just like most of the other Cypriots, where we left our childhood memories.

For me, it was so ironic that a person from another part of the world was getting ‘permission’ for a Cypriot to access to this ‘no man’s land’ of her own country. This area was only accessible for the UN soldiers after 1974 who was keeping the Turkish and Greek soldiers on the watchtowers apart along the Buffer zone. I was very excited and didn’t know what to expect to see as it was an unknown for me for years. This is how I physically started my photography project and, by getting permission from the UN, visited some other parts of the Buffer Zone time to time. I have decided to shape my project around the Nicosia section of the 180 meters long Buffer Zone.

From 1974 until the checkpoints first opened in 2003, people were unable to cross over to the other side. During the 29 years, people of both communities have no contact whatsoever and the new generation had no idea what a Turkish or Greek Cypriot, in other words ‘enemy-others’ looked like and the nationalist efforts in both sides escalated the negative feelings for the ‘others’ during those years.

Although both communities could communicate with the rest of the world by telephone lines, it was impossible to call each other even they were living a couple meters away, side by side. Postal services have no connection whatsoever with the other side of the island. Imagine that you have to fly somewhere in the world to be able to send a letter to somebody on the other side 5 meters away from you.

People now can cross from the checkpoints to the other side while the ceasefire continues in Cyprus. The negotiations for the years had no solution for the Cyprus conflict however reunification of the island and a viable solution is the hope for the Cypriots. They want a solution that will enable them to live side by side in a peaceful environment.



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