When news happens, text SDE and your photos or videos to 80360. Or contact us by email and phone.
Where time has stood still
IT'S the heart of a capital city where time stands still.
Once-grand buildings are now derelict and nearing collapse, what were pristine new cars with a handful of miles on the clock keep their place inside a showroom, while the tables of a cafe sit caked in dust.
Through the narrow street that was once a bustling shopping haven there is rubble, overgrown weeds and barbed wire strewn along both sides.
Walls peppered with bullet and shell holes are shored up with old oil barrels filled with rubble and sand, while gaps in the brickwork or high vantage points have been turned into lookout posts.
Walking through the eerily quiet buffer zone in the inner city of Cyprus's capital Nicosia, it is difficult to imagine the bloodshed that took place there almost 40 years ago.
But for the people living north and south of this famous Green Line the memories remain raw. It is a place where 5,500 people lost their lives.
The intense fighting lasted several weeks in July and August 1974 and resulted in this strip of land that is now one of the most hotly disputed areas in the world.
So contentious, it is completely closed and requires a permanent presence by the United Nations – a job that currently falls to the men and women of Marchwood's 17 Port and Maritime Regiment.
The troops are responsible for keeping order here and calming the tensions between the Turkish Cypriots of the north and the Greek Cypriots in the south that can, on occasion, boil over.
In the past few months Hampshire soldiers have seen first hand when things turn nasty – a hotspot being an area famously known as the Silver Bunker where stone throwing, laser pointing, shouting and the odd incident of people breaking into the no-go zone has occurred.
As well as dealing with that and the outbreak of fires in the scorching temperatures, its their job to keep eyes peeled for the sign of any slight change, from the addition of a sandbag or extra brick in the wall on one side that could be enough to spark unrest.
On either side of the capital's bustling Ledra Street, the only road open for people on both sides to cross to the other, large gates are kept shut by padlock and chain.
But encouragingly, the very fact it is now a thoroughfare is a sign of hope for the future.
Here, large scale gatherings take place including protests and demonstrations involving the people of both communities, while only this week some 700 people came together nearby for a peace rally organised by trade unions from the north and south.
Nobody can predict if events like these are a step towards long-term reconciliation, but for the foreseeable future this will remain a divided island that will require a British army presence to keep it in check.
Comments are closed on this article.