Today’s From the Field blog will take a look at a post from PPI-CY’s past, from October 15, 2010.
Just a 5 minute walk from PeacePlayers – Cyprus’ office in downtown Nicosia lies a 10 foot brick wall covered in barbed wire that cuts through the center of the city. This wall guards the edge of the “green line” or “buffer zone,” a militarized area controlled by the United Nations that runs 110 miles over the full length of the Cyprus. This barren land is a constant reminder of the tragic events that occurred over 35 years ago, which left a country divided into two parts.
But what if this area can be turned from a symbol of conflict, to a symbol of peace?
Cyprus has been a divided island since 1974, after a Greek military coup followed by an invasion by the Turkish Army left the island’s Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot residents separated by the buffer zone. Today, Cyprus remains partitioned by the UN-patrolled buffer zone, with Greek-Cypriots concentrated in the southern part of the island and Turkish-Cypriots in the north. Only in 2003 were even limited crossings allowed between the two communities, and children from both ethnic groups are still subjected to negative propaganda about the other side from their parents, schools and media.
We at PeacePlayers – Cyprus use the game of basketball to facilitate positive dialogue and interaction between Turkish-Cypriot and Greek-Cypriot youth, with the ultimate goal being improved relations between the two communities in Cyprus. There is currently no basketball court located in the buffer zone, which means all basketball games must be located on either side of the green line. This creates a major problem because many kids and parents from both communities cannot or will not cross to the other side.
Building a court in the buffer zone would be a symbol for peace; a safe place where children from two divided communities can come together on neutral ground to play, learn and grow for generations.
We are currently working with many partners to try to make this dream a reality. Nothing like this has been done before in Cyprus, and there are some obstacles in our way. But the impact a Buffer Zone court would be immeasurable. The buffer zone is one of the only areas on the island where Greek and Turkish-Cypriots can meet on equal terms. It is more than “convenient,” it is essential to the impact we ultimately hope to make.
The PeacePlayers Buffer Zone Basketball Court would not only be practical for many kids to use, but a picturesque symbol for hope in the center of conflict, in the divided capital of Cyprus.
P.S. PPI – Cyprus has entered this project into an innovative design competition sponsored by Architecture for Humanity and Game Changers’ “Sports Micro Venture Fund.” Check it out here.