Going backwards and forwards to the north for the last two months, specifically to Alaykoy (Gerolakkos), in order to be trained for a new job, means that I cross the border at least twice a day, if not more. In fact, it’s usually more than this.
Having to cross the border so very often has resulted in some rather comical if not strange comments from the border police. I wanted to share some of these:
Officer: Is your father or mother Turkish?
Me: Yes, but I don’t have (KKTC) citizenship.
Officer: We can check you in on this ID but you won’t be able to leave unless you stay and get a KKTC ID. These are the rules.
[stay there for another 10 minutes trying to explain I was born in the south, my father never lived in the north]
Me: My father always stayed in the south. [then they (two officers) try and find my grandfather in their system] My grandfather also never lived in the north.
Officer: You can stay and get issued with a KKTC ID or you’ll have to go to this government office and prove that your father and grandfather never stayed in the north.
[Conclusion: went to another checkpoint, where they let me cross on my Republic of Cyprus ID]
Officer: Ah your father is Turkish I think?
Me: Yes but I don’t have citizenship as we stayed in the south, in a mixed village.
Officer: But you’re young, I don’t think you lived there while it was mixed.
Me: Yes, yes I did. It’s still mixed; Turkish and Greek Cypriots live together there.
Officer: Oh! I want to visit this village.
Officer: Do you have a KKTC identity card or passport you can cross with?
Me: With me, no.
Officer: You can’t cross with this ID as you’re not a real Greek Cypriot (Rum).
Officer: Do you have a KKTC identity card?
Me: No, I don’t have citizenship. My family never lived in the north, they stayed in the south.
*A second person in the booth starts saying: “Let’s try and find her father in the system. If her father hasn’t lived in the north, her grandfather will have done, he will be in the system.”
Officer: Can I have your KKTC identity card?
Me: I don’t have KKTC citizenship.
Officer: You know this is going to become a problem at some point.
Me: Yes I know.
Officer: Please use your passport to cross as you don’t have KKTC citizenship. (i.e don’t cross with your Republic of Cyprus ID)
Republic of Cyprus checkpoint
Me: Yeia sas.
Officer: *takes my passport, looks at it, does not scan it and gives it back to me.
Me: Yeia sas.
Officer: Are you a Cypriot.
Me: Yes, I’m Cypriot.
Officer: Ah yes now you’ve convinced me, because you look more foreign than Cypriot.
Me: My mother is Irish.
The above incident especially has taken place countless times since the opening of the checkpoints in 2003 in a number of forms, with the officer asking if I’m Cypriot or simply saying ‘hello’ in Greek as a kind of test to discover whether I’m Cypriot (or at least a Greek-speaking Cypriot which they equate with being Greek Cypriot). There have also been countless occasions where they’ve even looked at my Republic of Cyprus ID but because I’ve been speaking to them in Greek, they allow themselves to come to the conclusion that I’m Greek Cypriot.
Both communities use these strange points of reference for determining whether you’re one of their own or not, never imagining that there’s an in between version; a person that cannot fit in either box, created by an out of date constitution.
- Becoming a child of Cyprus
- The changeable face of nationalism