A couple of days ago, while driving home from the train station, my attention was grabbed by two words – a name – broadcast over the car radio courtesy of BBC Radio 5 Live. This wasn’t the name of a person, but of a place that has long interested me, and which, at least in part, inspired me a few years ago to begin thinking about contemporary No Man’s Lands. It is certainly not a name one commonly hears on national radio within the UK, an absence that made its on air occurrence all the more intriguing.
The name in question is Bir Tawil – Arabic for ‘tall well’ – an 800 square mile trapezoid-shaped tract of land wedged in between the southern borders of the Arab Republic of Egypt and the northern border of the Republic of the Sudan.
For almost forty years, the island of Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean has been bisected by a ribbon of land, patrolled and administered by the United Nations, which seeks to spatially separate the militaries of the Republic of Cyprus and the self-styled Turkish Republic of North Cyprus.
Created in 1974 as a physical means of “preserving international peace and security” (under UN Security Council resolution 186), the Buffer Zone stretches more than 110 miles – from the western village of Kato Pyrgos to the ‘ghost city’ of Famagusta on the east coast – and occupies more than 130 square miles of land, more than 3.5% of the island’s surface. Continue reading
Ghostly images of crumbling grand building, dust-covered vehicles frozen for 40 years, and the striking array of fortified blockades comprising a mixture of sandbags, razor wire and tall metal gates. Nicosia’s Buffer Zone is commonly featured through these tropes of dereliction, dilapidation and abandonment. The images are striking, but do little to expose the extreme complexities of this space. Continue reading