2017 - Ongoing
Cyprus, a land divided between two communities since Turkey’s invasion and the war of 1974, is united by a river crossing from the West to the East - a tale told through its eyes.
Cyprus, a small island nation in the Eastern Mediterranean, has been divided since 1974 following Turkey’s coup.
The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, or TRNC, controls approximately 1/3 of the island and the Republic of Cyprus, the officially recognized government of Cyprus, and an EU member, controls the other 2/3rds.
Before the war, before the division and before the now-infamous buffer zone, the Pedieos river ran from its source in the mountains of Machairas to the magnificent bay of Famagusta in the East – in an undivided island.
The river tells the tale of a divided nation. A lot of blood was shed during the conflict, leading the Turks to call it “Kanli Dere”, or bloody river. Running from the south into the divided capital of Nicosia to the north into the TRNC, the Pedieos represents today a way to comprehend the various elements that make up part of this complicated conflict.
By following the river one can see how the landscape changes, how religion is omnipresent on both sides and how, to a certain extent, it comes to define the lives of those who live there. Certain stories are told by the river - lessons both sides can gain from understanding that nature rules undivided, even if men’s actions come to define the lives of those stuck on both sides.
This project aims to understand what people have lost, what they have gained and what hope people of this island ever have of coming together, of coming back home and of living together.
The river tells a tale as it runs its course, but this river is temporary. As the rain appeases and the summer sun turns the grass into dry wheat, the land of fire awakens, and the river disappears. Like all things in this world, nothing, not even conflicts, lasts forever.
I have already followed part of the 98km length of the river in search of answers, once in winter 2017 and another in the spring of 2019. I have met people on both sides who care deeply about this issue and want to see it come to an end.
My purpose is to bring these stories to life and to create an interactive map dotted with various points of interest that readers will be able to click on as they follow the river from its inception to its final destination. These points highlight the landscape or lack thereof, the stories of people that live in its vicinity and show how Cypriots (Greek and Turkish) have always viewed the river as a natural extension of their life on the island and have perched some of their most important shrines and on its path.
Cyprus is not only marked by religion, Orthodox Greeks make up around 80% of the population and Muslim Turks the other 20%, but by its geographical location as a bastion for many other minorities in the region (Latin, Maronites, Armenians) who have also suffered greatly as a result of the ongoing conflict. To think that 45 years later some of these towns are still ghost towns, inhabited, or militarily occupied and fenced off from their own communities is truly a tragedy. Greek Cypriots live in limbo, waiting for resolution, awaiting to return to the lands they owned in the North that are now occupied by Turks from Turkey who came after ’74 to settle and cultivate the land. Turkish Cypriots live in fear and anxiety, thankful for the protection that Turkey affords them but tired of being a pawn in the ever-consuming geopolitical games of the region. Neither side wants to give, neither side wants to lose – hence, the everlasting stalemate.
These stories have never been told in the way this project aims to and that is why I am more conscious that now, more than ever, is the time, before a reunified or federal Cyprus, before those who have lost everything whither away and die, to be present, to show them and to help them reconcile with one another. I hope this project can do justice and contribute to the peace that one day will certainly come.