Northern Cyprus Struggles under Turkish Occupation

Barbed wire at the border zone "Green Line" in Nicosia, Cyprus.

It's a problem that has been brewing for decades—Cypriots of different ethnicities disagree over who should control the northern portion of the island of Cyprus. A Cypriot is a native or inhabitant of Cyprus, and where Northern Cyprus is concerned, Greek and Turkish Cypriots have had a troubled relationship since the 1960s.

Northern Cyprus flag Cyprus flagCyprus is an island in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, south of Turkey. Archeologists have determined there was human activity on the island during the 10th millennium BC. Today, just under one and a quarter million people live there—a mix of ethnic groups including Greek, Turkish, Armenian, and Maronite Cypriots.

By Golbez - Own work (traced from public domain UN or CIA maps.), CC BY-SA 3.0,

The southern part of the island is the Greek-speaking Republic of Cyprus, a European Union member state. The Republic of Cyprus claims the entire island as its own, with support from the international community. The northern part of Cyprus is the occupied Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), a state that only Turkey recognizes as legitimate. About 360,000 people live in Northern Cyprus and a UN-controlled buffer zone divides the state from the rest of the island.

How did Cyprus become divided and why does the division seem irreconcilable?

In 1960, with newly gained independence from British rule, Greek and Turkish Cypriots agreed to a shared government, but within a few years, tensions developed, setting off over a decade of political and social unrest.

In 1974, a coup d'état, part of an attempt to annex the island to Greece, triggered the Turkish invasion of Cyprus. Much of the northern region's Greek Cypriot population relocated to the south while Turkish Cypriots moved north. Northern Cyprus unilaterally declared itself an independent state in 1983, but that status is recognized only by Turkey, on which Northern Cyprus is heavily dependent.

While the Turkish Army maintains what most of the world denounces as an occupation force, Northern Cyprus is not doing well, and there's no solution in sight.

The flags of Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus at St Hilarion Castle in the Kyrenia mountain range of Northern Cyprus.

Two million tourists visit the region each year, with tourism accounting for about half the TRNC's self-contained economy. But, instead of enjoying robust commerce, the citizens of Northern Cyprus are suffering harsh financial setbacks brought on by two factors, the falling value of Turkish currency and the devastating impact of an international embargo that severely restricts exports from the region.

Financial hardship is causing the population of Northern Cyprus to become increasingly angry with Turkey and that sentiment is spurring calls for reunification. For Northern Cyprus, Greek Cypriotes want the stability that would come with being absorbed into the Republic of Cyprus, a legitimate UN-recognized state and a European Union member state.

Kyrenia Castle in Northern Cyprus.

After 60 years of conflict, if there's a status change coming for Northern Cyprus, it's difficult to predict the nature of that change. Will Northern Cyprus become part of the Republic of Cyprus? Will the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus become a UN-recognized nation? At Seterra, we're watching the situation and are ready to update our map quizzes to reflect any change in the status of this troubled section of Cyprus.