Maronite Christian towns dying in N. Cyprus

Northern Cyprus was taken over by Turks in the mid 70's. It still remains divided and no country in the world except for Turkey recognized Norther Cyprus as an independent country. Northern Cyprus is, quite literally, occupied by Muslims. Here is the story of the Maronites, who are in communion with Rome, though they follow their own liturgy and have their own bishops.

The article is from Here.

Cyprus' Maronite community in crisis

KORMAKITIS, Northern Cyprus: Aside from the occasional front door propped open, there are few traces of life among the shuttered windows, sun-bleached buildings and silent footpaths of Kormakitis.

This spread-out village - most of whose residents are in their 70s - is buffeted by the sea on one side and enclosed by a verdant, yellow-green plain on the other. Once the bustling heart of the Maronite community, Kormakitis today has been stripped to a ghost town of less than 900 souls by a generation of emigrants to the more prosperous Greek Cypriot South.

"The policy, originally, was to get rid of (the Maronites)," said Marios Mavrides, a Maronite historian of the community who lives and works in Nicosia but who every week makes the 20-minute car journey to the land where he was born.

"Now that they (the Turkish Cypriot government) realize that eventually they will die off, they leave them in peace."

In 1974, thousands of Maronites streamed across the Green Line leaving their homeland for an uncertain future in the Greek Christian south after Turkish troops invaded northern Cyprus. The intervention followed a decade of ethnic strife between the Greek and Turkish communities and a coup aimed at bringing about unification with Greece.

"1974 turned the whole community into refugees," said Antonis Hajji Roussos, the Maronite parliamentary representative. "Gradually, everyone left and only the old people remained."

The Maronites left behind them ancestral villages such as Agia Marina, Asomatos, Carpasia and Kormakitis. The latter is the only remaining place on Cyprus where Cypriot Maronite Arabic - a dialect infused with a melange of Turkish, Italian and Greek words - is still spoken.

The dialect's long isolation from the main currents of the Arab world has caused it to develop on a track of its own, to such an extent that it is practically unintelligible to native speakers of Arabic. Linguists are puzzled by the characteristics it shares with the medieval Arabic dialect spoken in Baghdad by the Muslims and Jews, even as they point to evidence that it has reached an advanced stage of language death.

Today, the drive to the Maronite heartland resembles a plunge into dereliction. Abandoned villages are fenced off by coils of rusty barbed wire and watchtowers - embedded at regular intervals - delineate out-of-bounds military zones. Military vehicles parked in rows in village squares and derelict church spires peeping above buildings subjected to 30 years of neglect complete the surreal panorama of a militarized rural idyll. Of the remaining Maronite villages, two are closed military zones whose residents need a pass to enter and exit.

"Those who had land stayed behind while the others left," said Mavrides. "But as it became clear there would not be a quick solution and the Turkish sector held few jobs, everyone went."


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