19 Haunting Photos Of Cyprus's Frozen-In-Time Contested Zone

On July 20, 1974, Turkish soldiers invaded the island of Cyprus. The invasion, which the Turks claimed was aimed at protecting Turkish Cypriots from persecution, ended up splitting the island almost exactly in half.

For the past 40 years Cyprus has remained divided between the southern Republic of Cyprus and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which has only been recognised by Turkey. The rest of the international community considers Northern Cyprus to be a Turkish-occupied territory, and the Turkish Army maintains a large force on the island.

The dividing line is the United Nations Buffer Zone, which cuts straight through the capital Nicosia and across the rest of the island.

Ranging from 11 feet at its narrowest to 4.6 miles at its widest, the zone was hastily evacuated during the Turkish invasion of Cyprus. It has remained uninhabited, effectively frozen in time.

The United Nations Buffer Zone cuts through the entirety of Cyprus.

The Nicosia International Airport was contained within the zone and has since been unused.

Even the airport's planes were left behind to rot.

A cafe within the airport stands abandoned.

As does the airport's departure lounge, which is covered in thick layers of dust.

Billboards and signs throughout the zone still display ads for products from over 40 years ago.

Residential and shopping districts of Nicosia that fell within the buffer were evacuated ...

And the old residential neighborhoods had fallen completely into disrepair.

Multiple blocks now stand completely empty.

In some cases, people fled the zone so quickly that they didn't even clear tables.

Car dealerships also fell within the buffer zone inside central Nicosia.

Now vintage Toyotas can be found still bearing their import stickers.

Former homes also stand empty, surrounded by barbed wire.

In some cases, the doors of former houses were filled with sand bags and turned into firing positions.

Watch towers dot the landscape, providing surveillance opportunities along the entire length of the divide.

Over the course of 40 years, Cypriots of both republics have grown accustomed to the UN outposts.

Both Turkish and Greek Cypriots are barred from entering the buffer zone, so their experience is limited to seeing it from outside.

Within Nicosia, fortified walls run throughout the city prohibiting access.

However, there are signs that the situation in Cyprus is slowly approaching rapprochement. In 2008 Ledra Street, a thoroughfare linking North and South Nicosia, was opened allowing Cypriots to mingle and cross through the buffer zone.

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