Greeks Who Stayed Behind in the North Find Coexistence is Peaceful
EVERY Wednesday afternoon, a United Nations convoy laden with goods pulls up to a municipal building in Dipkarpaz, a town on the Karpaz Peninsula in northern Cyprus. Most Greek Cypriots left the northern part of the island following a population exchange agreement reached by the two sides in 1975, but some - along with a few hundred Turkish Cypriots in the south - chose to remain in their villages.
About 620 Greeks live in Dipkarpaz. For the past 14 years the Cyprus government in the south has financed shipments of food, medicine, and clothing to them, whom the government calls refugees living under Turkish occupation.
They live alongside Turkish Cypriots, have their own schools, a working Greek Orthodox church, jobs, and the freedom to resettle in the south.
``I stayed because this is my home and there were never any big problems here,'' says Dimitri.
``Maybe when my children are grown I will move to the south where much of my family is, but I like living here. We live well with the Turkish Cypriots and have no troubles,'' he says.
A United Nations official who has traveled with the convoy for a year says the shipments are a propaganda ploy. ``These people don't need this food. It's certainly nothing they can't buy here. They have jobs, they have money, but everything they need - from diabetic bread to tampons - gets bought for them by the south.''
Greek Cypriots living in the north also get pension and welfare benefits from the south, given to them in Cypriot pounds and calculated according to the south's higher cost of living, UN officials say.
``This is probably one reason they stay here. With the shipments and money, they have a much higher standard of living than they would in south Cyprus,'' says a UN official.
Between old age and resettlement, UN officials estimate that within 15 years there may no longer be a Greek Cypriot community in the north.
``But for Turkish Cypriots, or Greek Cypriots, who say the two communities can never live together, they should visit the Dipkarpaz or Turkish Cypriots in the south and see that it is possible,'' says a UN official in charge of processing Greek Cypriot transfers to the south.