International political systems are often too complex for even the most qualified people to wrap their heads around. The saddest part about it all is that when relations between nations sour, it”s the common people — not the politicians — who suffer the most.
Varosha, a Greek resort town on the island of Cyprus, is a perfect example of how quickly things can unravel.
Prior to 1974, Varosha was a thriving resort city on the coast of Cyprus. Those who lived there at the time likened it to the French Riviera.
In its prime, the city hosted the best of the rich and famous, including Richard Burton, Brigitte Bardot, and Elizabeth Taylor.
Today, however, the only residents of Varosha are wildlife and a few Turkish soldiers who still control the region.
In 1974, the Turkish army invaded Cyprus, occupying the northern third of the island in response to a coup instigated by the Greek government.
Residents fled in terror as troops swept across the island toward Varosha.
Some former residents were forced to flee quickly and leave most of their possessions behind. A few even recall having to leave pots boiling on the stove and food on the table.
In 1984, administration of Varosha was handed over to the United Nations, and a buffer zone known as the “Green Line” was established around the city.
Starting in 2003, travel restrictions around Varosha were partially lifted for the first time, allowing Cypriots from both the Greek and Turkish sides of the island to visit.
However, non-residents are forbidden from trespassing in the area. Groups of Turkish soldiers still patrol Varosha with orders to shoot on sight.
Despite that, a few photographers have braved the risk and posted pictures online of the once-beautiful resort town.
(via: All Day, BBC)
While Cyprus is still divided today (Varosha being a casualty of that division), there is hope in some circles that a united Cyprus is not far off. Judging by political rhetoric on both sides, however, that hope might be misplaced. Until reunification comes, we can look to Varosha — and Cyprus at large — as a symbol of the tragic and unintended consequences of toxic politics.