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Crossing Continents Wednesday, 5 March, 2003, 12:42 GMT
Cypriot hopes for the future
Turkish Cypriots demonstrate in Nicosia
In Nicosia, people have been demonstrating for peace
As Cypriot leaders consider the latest peace proposal, Crossing Continents talks to people on both sides of the divide.


"My children will leave. They won't come back."

Ahmed Yagcioglu's family have owned a halva-making shop in Nicosia for 200 years.

He has been making the crumbly, sweet concoction of sesame seeds and sugar in the Turkish part of the Cypriot capital for three decades.

Ahmed Yagcioglu
Ahmed Yagcioglu fears for the future without a solution
"But it is just sentimental now," he says gloomily.

"I do not earn my living from it. I will be the last one in my family making halva.

"There is no future for my children here."

Like many Turkish Cypriots, Ahmed is fervently hoping for a solution to what everyone calls "The Cyprus Problem."

Barbed wire

For the last 40 years the two main communities in this island - Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot - have been bisected.

Intercommunal fighting broke out in late 1963, just three years after Britain had granted independence.

Then, in 1974, the Turkish military invaded and took over the northern third of Cyprus after a short-lived coup by Greek Cypriot nationalists, backed by the military government in Athens, which called for "enosis" or union with Greece.

For the last 29 years this strategically positioned island in the eastern Mediterranean has been physically divided by barbed wire, armed soldiers and mine fields.

Trade embargoes

Ever since, northern Cyprus has been a pariah state, only recognised by Turkey. The consequences for the Turkish Cypriots have been devastating.

Their part of the island now has a GDP which is just a quarter of their Greek Cypriot counterpart in the south.

I want to get on with my life

Gonul Eronen, Supreme Court Judge, northern Cyprus

And with international trade embargoes, doing business with the outside world is extremely difficult.

Tens, if not hundreds of thousands of Turkish Cypriots have emigrated, many of them to the UK.

In fact, it is believed there are now more Turkish Cypriots in Britain than there are in Cyprus.

Supreme Court Judge Gonul Eronen
Supreme Court Judge Gonul Eronen is tired of the conflict
Migrants or "settlers" from mainland Turkey have moved in instead. Some believe a new census would prove the Turkish Cypriots are now a minority in their own land.

"I don't exist," says Gonul Eronen, Supreme Court judge in the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

She dreams of working in a European court; but she cannot because she comes from an illegal state.

"We have to wake up and go to bed with the Cyprus problem. I'm really tired of this. I want to get on with my life.

"I want to think of simple things rather than whether I exist or not."

She is waiting for a solution to the Cyprus problem - one favourable to her people in the north.

Returning home

On the other side of the dividing Green Line, Greek Cypriots are waiting to join the European Union in April, with or without their Turkish Cypriot neighbours.

And many of them are waiting to go back to the villages they have not seen for three decades.

Around 160,000 became refugees after the Turkish invasion.

People like Nicos, who is dominated by thoughts about his village, just the other side of the Green Line.

"It is my home. It is a part of me. It is the soil; it is the soul; it is the air, it is the light, it is the spirit.

"So do not ask me if I am going back; I want to go back to my home."

But Nicos is lucky. Unlike some, he may be able realise his dream, if the political leaders from both sides agree to holding a referendum on each side of the line.

The people will then be able to decide if the plan put forward by the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan will be the one that finally breaks decades of deadlock on Cyprus.

There is a lot of hope, on both sides of the dividing line. But this is Cyprus. No-one is holding their breath.

BBC Radio 4's Crossing Continents was broadcast on Thursday, 6 March, 2003 at 1102 GMT.

 WATCH/LISTEN
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