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I have a recommendation for those governing this country: they should go to the land border gates in the very early hours of the morning and observe the people crossing from north to south… When I say “people,” I mean the Turkish Cypriots…

It is possible to see our citizens of all ages in those crowded, distressful queues at the gate. The young, the middle-aged, the elderly, people of all ages.

Notice that I also mentioned the “elderly”… Yes, our people who shouldn’t be working any longer, who should be enjoying retirement, who should rest, those who feel the weariness of the years in every particle of their bodies.

They cannot enjoy retirement; they continue to work, pushing their tired bodies.

Although their bodies are exhausted, their experiences, their accumulated knowledge and labour are valued in South Cyprus in exchange for euros.

They work for themselves to some extent, but mostly for their children and grandchildren. They want to contribute as much as their strength allows.

Grandmothers and grandfathers push themselves to the limit so that their grandchildren who attend private schools are not affected by rising school fees. Of course, not just for school [fees], but also to meet other needs that have risen to extortionate prices…

Not only grandmothers and grandfathers, but also mothers, fathers, and siblings toil there to cope with the uncontrollable high prices.

We are not focusing on the difficulty of the work done in the south; the money it provides is important and so is the value of spending Euros in the north…

Neither the suffering at the land border gates nor the challenging jobs beyond the border can discourage people because they are forced to do so in order to make a living, pay off debts, make ends meet, and avoid helplessness…

There are many stories of people who have gone bankrupt, who became miserable due to difficult conditions in the north but managed to overcome these problems by working in the south. There are many true stories, have you ever listened to any of these?

When I mentioned grandparents earlier, do you think I said it just casually?

Yes, there are also grandmothers among the people waiting to cross to the south at the border gates.

They do cleaning jobs at hotels, restaurants and workplaces, they cook in kitchens.

Is it shameful to work? Of course not… All professions are sacred, but it is not easy for people of retirement age to be forced to work.

Although many people of all ages at those border gates appear tired.

There is also the excruciating return trip for those people who set out on the road before sunrise, waiting to cross. You can’t just comfortably return home; you endure the suffering again at the gates with all your fatigue.

After passing through the land border gates, it’s possible to reach the farthest point within an hour or let’s say an hour and a half at most.

However, people have to wait almost that long at the land border gates.

40 minutes, 50 minutes, sometimes an hour of waiting is unbearable.

It’s as if the shared desire of those governing on both sides is for the people to experience suffering when crossing from one side of their country to the other… Actually, using the word “as if” is an understatement; it’s blatantly wanted.

They’re not opening new gates; nor do they take steps to ease crossings at the existing ones. Both sides’ administrations have their own political calculations, although they may not openly express them…

Yes, go and take a look at those land border gates; you’ll see a lot.

In South Cyprus, many Turkish Cypriots work in jobs that don’t require a university degree.

They toil in heavy, demanding, labour-intensive jobs… Is it shameful? Of course not… Everyone can work any job; if they can put forth their labour and get paid in exchange, why not?

I find this extremely natural, but the picture painted to us by those who govern the country contradicts the realities being experienced. This is not the so-called future that they portray for Turkish Cypriots.

By the way, Turkish Cypriots also work in significant spots that “require a university education” in South Cyprus. You might ask, “Does this mean there is brain drain across the border?”.

Why not? If the conditions dictate it, if [the conditions] require it, then it will happen, of course…

This was not the future promised by those who govern this country nor is it what they still promise.

So, to keep saying that “We are not dependent on the Greek Cypriots” doesn’t cut it.

What would happen to the market if there were no Greek Cypriot customers coming from South Cyprus? What would businesses, shop owners, retailers, souvenir vendors, restaurants and many others do?

What would the governing authorities do for businesses that were to shut down, pull down the shutters and go bankrupt?

What have they done so far that they will do again? Would they save them with so-called measures that wouldn’t even be a band-aid solution for the wound?

What would they have done if there were no job opportunities in South Cyprus and thousands of people couldn’t find employment there? We would have literally consumed each other on this side. They may not like to hear these things, but this is the truth.

It’s a good thing that despite all the suffering, these land border gates are open. It’s a good thing that our people go and work there, and it’s a good thing that Greek Cypriot customers and tourists can cross to this side through those gates. What if they didn’t? I can’t even imagine how things would be.

Troubled mothers, fathers, spouses and children with wounded hearts see the fact that their relatives go to work in South Cyprus, as if they go to another country, as a consolation. They say, “Instead of emigrating to another country, let our children and relatives go to South Cyprus and work there.”

There is a multi-faceted tragedy in this divided country, even if some people don’t want to see it… For now, this is how things are going. Let’s see what the future holds in this country dominated by the non-solution and uncertainty.


Ali Baturay was born in Klavia (Alanici) village of Larnaca on 14 October 1968. He studied journalism. He holds a master’s degree focusing on “New Media and Changing Newspapers and Journalism in the Northern Part of Cyprus”. He worked for Halkın Sesi Newspaper between 1986-1995, for Yenidüzen Newspaper between 1995-1998 and for KIBRIS Newspaper for 22 years, between 1998-2020. He worked as news director, managing editor and editor-in-chief at KIBRIS Newspaper. In February 2020, he moved to digital newspaper Haber Kıbrıs as general editorial coordinator, where he also wrote daily columns and produced a programme on Haber Kıbrıs WEB TV. As of January 2023, he works as the editor-in-chief of digital news site Bağımsız.

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