Belfast, Nicosia, Mostar, Jerusalem, Mitrovica : Dividing Walls and Divided Lives

The Berlin Wall, the most famous and probably the most symbolic wall, fell in 1989. But ten years on many cities are still divided: Belfast, where around ten walls separate the Nationalist and Loyalist districts; Nicosia, where UN soldiers have been maintaining the ceasefire between Turkish and Greek Cypriots for 25 years; Mostar, a casualty of the Bosnian war, which is divided between Croats and Bosnians; Jerusalem, which is divided between the three monotheistic religions; and finally Mitrovica, a city divided by the hatred between Albanians and Serbs. The aim of this project is to show the daily lives of these people whose existence is shaped by an unwillingness to understand or by their hatred of others - those who are on the other side of the wall.


Belfast, Northern Ireland : Dividing walls and Divided lives
In September 1969, as the army put up barriers of barbed wire and sand bags between the Republican and Loyalist districts of Falls and Shankhill to stop the clashes, Lieutenant Sir Ian Freeland said, "We are not going to have a Berlin wall or anything of the kind in this city". But the temporary ‘peace line’ of sand and barbed wire evolved into a wall of stone and sheet metal and multiplied so that by the year 2000 there were around ten walls in Belfast, without any reduction in tension between the two communities. Though the standard of living in these working-class districts on both sides of the walls has improved considerably in the last 25 years, socio-economic problems have increased and there is a high rate of unemployment, especially amongst the young. Vandalism, theft, drug problems, and crime make the districts around the so-called "peace line" the most dangerous in the city, paradoxically. A generation has already grown up with these walls and the present generation is growing up with hatred for those who live on the other side. How is the next generation to grow up?

Nicosia, Cyprus : Dividing walls and Divided lives
On 24 December 1963, violence erupted in Cyprus between the Turkish Greek Cypriots. On 30 December, it was decided that a neutral territory would be demarcated along the length of the ceasefire line, known as the "green line", separating the zones occupied by the two communities in Nicosia. In reaction to the aborted coup d’état of 15 July 1974 against Archbishop Makarios by Greek extremists, backed by the military government in Athens, the Turkish army landed on the island in July-August 1974. Their objective was to join the island to the "motherland" against the will of both communities on the island. In 2000, around 30,000 Turkish soldiers still control 37% of the territory in the north-east of the island. Nicosia is therefore separated by a wall and barbed wire. The wall crosses the old town along Paphos and Hermes streets, a 20-metre wide no-man's-land lined with windows and hundreds of loopholes from which soldiers from the two communities observe each other. The population is torn apart and there is almost no contact between the two sides.

Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina : Dividing walls and Divided lives
In 1993-94, the war between Croats and Muslims left 2,000 dead and ended in the spring of '94 with the city being divided into two sectors: one in the west for 4,000 Croats, and one in the east for 30,000 Muslims. Only 10% of the population lives in the same place they did in 1991, having either fled the city or moved from across the river. Since July 1994, Mostar has been placed under European Union administration and in 1995 a NATO international force (SFOR) was deployed. Since the end of the war, the level of tension has remained high between the two communities. Efforts by the European Union to reunite the city have failed faced with Croatian nationalism which aims at making West Mostar the capital of the illegal "Herzog-Bosna Republic ”. There is almost no contact between those on either side of the Neretva and the brand new bridges that span the river, financed by the European Community, remain deserted.

Jerusalem, Israel : Dividing walls and Dividing lives
Jerusalem, which has been under Israeli control since 1967, remains the principal stake in the region with both Israelis and Palestinians claiming it as their capital. Ehud Olmert, the mayor of the city, who was elected with the votes of Orthodox Jews and is close to Benyamin Netanyahu, fiercely rejects the Palestinians' claims on the city and does not believe that there can be two municipalities in Jerusalem. The strict identity checks performed by the Israeli soldiers, however, are a sign of the division that exists between the Jewish and Arab districts. Will it be possible to reach an agreement for the city? The great majority of the city's 560,000 inhabitants are Jewish. With many Arab families being expropriated and Jews moving in to replace them, a large number of Jewish settlements has sprung up in East Jerusalem. The city's inhabitants live in “ghetto districts” where there are those who live wrapped up in their religious extremism and in fear of bombings and those who have no identity.

Mitrovica, Kosovo : Dividing walls and Divided lives
On 5 June 1999, an agreement was signed between Yugoslavia and NATO concerning the withdrawal of Serbian troops from Kosovo, bringing the bombing to an end and signalling the return of peace. The Albanians were able to return to their homes and Serbians living in Kosovo were to be protected by NATO. Mitrovica, a town situated forty kilometres north of Pristina, was the last town to be evacuated by the Serbian army. When the Albanians began to arrive back, they found that their homes had been ransacked and burnt. In retaliation, they attacked the houses owned by gypsies and Serbs. Following violent clashes, the French soldiers who were in charge of the town were obliged to step in. A year later, after a number of errors committed by the KFOR and the UN administration during the autumn, the situation degenerated into a stalemate. Mitrovica has become a divided town. The Albanians are building their country and want independence, something which was not part of the agreement that Belgrade signed with NATO. Only a renegotiation of the treaty might allow their hopes to come true. Such a renegotiation, unthinkable for Belgrade, would only be possible with Milosevic's successor, and this is what the NATO countries are waiting for. The Serbs feel besieged in the northern part of the town. On one side they are next to Serbia but Serbia no longer wants anything to do with them. In their day-to-day lives, the Serbs and Albanians are wrapped up in their hatred. There is no contact between them and there seems little hope of reconciliation in the future.

Frédéric Sautereau

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