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(Karahasan, Sefa. 2020 Ledra Protest. Unite Cyprus Now, DHA News Agency, 7 March 2020, https://www.facebook.com/unitecyprusnow/photos/a.1541251715886040/3053942934616903/?type=3&theater)

Today we are flying off to a little island in the heart of the Mediterranean (Sea); which is as the rest of the world, also fighting with the “common enemy” in disguise as a virus. Being the only country in the EU split in two, Cyprus has been confronted with another definition of unity and division during the global pandemic.  In order to be able to understand the heart and the soul of this story, it is important to take a look at its recent past.

(Keleszade, Burcin. “Soldier.” 26 February 2018)

Cyprus has been a geographically divided island since 1974; under the epithet of a commonly referred “ceasefire” after the Turkish invasion on the island due to rising conflicts. The Green Line (UN Buffer Zone) separates the island as the North and the South, the bogus of reconciliation, constantly acting as a reminder of the war. 

(Ozogul, Fatma Nur, and Violeta Ivanova. “Green Line Attempts ^- holiday.” WordPress, 2017, https://fatmanurozogul.wordpress.com/portfolio/holiday/#jp-carousel-437 )

The traffic between the (so-called) sides was very limited, until 2003 when finally the green light was given to open the borders to commence crossings on the island. “Many observers likened the event to the fall of the Berlin Wall, initiating a spontaneous process of unification”.* Was it really? The answer is tricky, and it changes with what you actually want to hear. If we consider reality from a societal point of view, we are nowhere near to what the majority of the population call “peace”; especially for the young generation who is filled with the passion and longing of unity. A very dear friend of mine, who also had a lot of involvement with the beautiful cause of creating a united society on the island, once told me: “What this island really needs is a solution. We are already in peace, there is no war, but we are not done.”

(Keleszade, Burcin. “Buffer.” 26 February 2018)

As one of the results of living with physical and metaphorical borders, confusing thoughts become embedded in people’s lives and affect how they act within such a small community; which often makes us even more unanimous and devoted to each other. Regardless of all the confusion between the sides, there is no division nor borders within our hearts. In this complex environment, imagine a deadly virus; which has already messed up half of the world, pays a visit to this confusing island, taking the game to another level, influencing the essence of notions such as “normal” and “right” of its members. 

 The whole COVID-19 situation first appears to be a severe health crisis; which indeed is, with many other sub-effects in frames of economy, politics, psychology; as detrimental as its nature. In addition to these common facts, the islanders are being confronted with another/other complex situation in comparison to the rest of the world. According to the official data from the World Health Organization (WHO): the Republic of Cyprus (southern part of the division) so far had 857 positive cases and 20 deaths; whereas the cases from the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), being in a relatively better situation with 108 total positive cases and only 4 deaths, are not included on the official dashboard nor mentioned. Following the official records from various sources; in total, the whole island had 965 positive cases with 24 deaths by the 4th of May 2020. One might question: “Why is it that all the cases from the whole island have not been reported within the official data of a reliable source like the WHO?” That is simply because the TRNC is a state only acknowledged by Turkey; for the rest of the world; it is an occupied zone, even though the terminology would be highly flawed, simply because it is not currently “occupied” by any country; namely Turkey, but rather strictly isolated from the rest of the world, in terms of politics.

(Ozogul, Fatma Nur, and Violeta Ivanova. “Green Line Attempts ^- holiday.” WordPress, 2017, https://fatmanurozogul.wordpress.com/portfolio/holiday/#jp-carousel-437 )

However; the reality differs for the island community. The strings of governments and the labels describing the island are no longer attached to the community. On the contrary, nowadays the communities of both sides are even more united by heart, driven by will instead of allowing the dread of reality dispirit the euphoria of the Promised Land. The Republic of Cyprus has sent medical aid to the TRNC less than a month ago, as expected it did not pass uncriticized by some politicians; disregarding the priorities of health and the need for humanitarian unity now more than ever. However, the community no longer dwells with the ghosts of the past. The awareness of the existence of a new villain is evident, and it is no longer a nation, a person, a country nor a religion. Because we all know now, even more during this crisis time, even when the governments have closed the borders once more after 17 years to control the spread of the virus; that we are indeed one and the physical notions of division no longer have a say in our hearts. As Martin Luther King Jr. once said: “ I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”

By Esra Selin Cinar

Endnotes & Bibliography

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