Ledra Street (Greek: Οδός Λήδρας Odos Lidras, Turkish: Lokmacı Caddesi or Uzunyol) is a major shopping thoroughfare in central Nicosia, Cyprus, which links North Nicosia, the part of the city under the control of the de facto Northern Cyprus, and south Nicosia.
It is the site of the former Ledra Street barricade, across the United Nations buffer zone. The barricade symbolised the division of Nicosia between the Greek south and Turkish north. It was removed in April 2008 and Ledra Street became the sixth crossing between the southern and northern parts of Cyprus. Ledra Street runs parallel to Onasagorou Street.
The street leads off Eleftheria square, runs in a South to North direction and is about 1 km long. Most of it lies within the area effectively controlled by the Republic of Cyprus while a short stretch at the northern end between the UN buffer zone and the intersection with Arasta Street and Girne Caddesi falls within the Turkish part of Nicosia.
Traditionally, Ledra Street was the main shopping street of the capital, although in recent years it has been superseded by more accessible streets further out from the centre. Properties on the street are largely for commercial use and command some of the highest real estate prices on the island.
During the EOKA attacks that ran from 1955–1959, the street acquired the informal nickname The Murder Mile in reference to the frequent targeting of the British military by nationalist fighters along its course.
The sealing of Ledra Street
In 1963, during the outbreak of hostilities between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities following the announcement of unilateral amendments to the Cypriot Constitution by request of Greek militant organizations, Turkish Cypriots withdrew to North Nicosia which became one of the many Turkish Cypriot enclaves which existed throughout the island. Various streets which ran between the northern and southern part of the city, including Ledra Street, were blockaded. A ceasefire was arranged at the end of 1963 and a neutral zone was established along the ceasefire or Green Line between north and south Nicosia which was patrolled by British personnel. With the formation of the UNFICYP, the task of patrolling the Green Line and protecting Turkish Cypriot enclaves was taken over by UN troops.
During Turkish army’s invasion in Cyprus in 1974, Turkish troops occupied northern Nicosia (as well as the northern part of Cyprus). A buffer zone was established across the island along the ceasefire line to separate the northern Turkish controlled part of the island, and the Greek controlled south. The buffer zone runs through Nicosia, where it is sometimes just several metres wide, and all roads running through the zone have been effectively sealed.
The street south of the blockade was largely pedestrianised in 1998.
Earlier attempts at reopening
Events leading to eventual opening
On 8 March 2007, the Greek Cypriot government demolished the wall between the southern portion of Ledra Street and the UN buffer zone and replaced it with 2m-high screens. Then Greek Cypriot president Tassos Papadopoulos said the Cyprus government had unilaterally planned for the dismantling of the Ledra Street wall. He added that with demolition of the wall, his government would consent to the passage being opened if Turkish troops which were present in the area were withdrawn, the derelict buildings on either side of Ledra Street strengthened and Turkish troops allowed UNFICYP to check for landmines. He reiterated that the obstacle to the opening was the presence of the Turkish troops and not the barricade. The move was immediately welcomed by the United Nations and several world leaders.
Dimitris Christofias was elected president of Cyprus on 24 February 2008 on a platform of solving the Cyprus problem. In his first meeting with Turkish Cypriot president Mehmet Ali Talat on 21 March 2008, the two leaders agreed to reopen Ledra Street “as soon as technically possible”. The United Nations Development Programme “Partnership for the Future – Mine Action Centre” proceeded to clear the area of mines on 26 March 2008, and work began to shore up the buildings flanking the street to ensure that they will not pose any danger to the users of the crossing.
Roadblock reopening after 34 years
However, later in the day at 9 p.m. local time (18:00 UTC), the Cypriot police closed off the new Ledra Street checkpoint due to a violation of the agreement by the Turkish forces, whose guards penetrated deep into the UN controlled buffer zone. A Cypriot Police source said that two Turkish Guards had refused to leave the buffer zone which was agreed to remain under full UN control. The Cypriot authorities considered the move a breach of the agreement between the Greek Cypriot President and the Turkish Cypriot President and therefore quickly sealed off the checkpoint. After the arrival and mediation of UN officials, Turkish Cypriot forces withdrew back to their ceasefire positions and the crossing was reopened by the Cypriot Police.
Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus maintains an immigration checkpoint on its side of the crossing and all pedestrians entering and leaving the North have to go through immigration checks. As with all Green Line crossings, Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus immigration will not place entry and exit stamps on passports but on separate visa slips issued by them. The Republic of Cyprus does not maintain any immigration checkpoint at Ledra Street or any other Green Line crossing. It however conducts identification checks on people entering the South from the North.
Elephants for Peace
On 2 September 2014 Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot citizens of Nicosia formed a human chain that stretched from the south part of Ledra Street to the north part of Ledra Street and through the UN checkpoint as a symbol of peace and unification.
Ledra Street has been the starting point of protesters and activists against the austerity imposed by consecutive Cypriot governments such as cuts in civil service salaries and social benefits after the Credit crunch.
On 26 April 2011 anti-nuclear protesters formed a bi-communal human chain to express their concern and fear over radiation leaks from a planned nuclear power plant in Akkuyu,Turkey. Protesters were also commemorating the anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor accident. The human chain was joined by The Progressive Party of the Working People (AKEL), New Cyprus Party (YKP), United Cyprus Party (BKP), Cyprus Green Party, EDON, KTÖS, KTOEÖS, KTAMS, DAÜ-BIR-SEN, BES, ÇAG-SEN, Turkish Cypriot Association for Democracy (UK), T/C The Chamber of Electrical Engineers (EMO), T/C Chamber of Industrial Engineers (ENMO), T/C Chamber of Mechanical Engineers (MMO), T/C Chamber of Environmental Engineers (ÇMO), Friends of Nature, and Green Action Group (Yesil Baris Hareketi).
The southern part of Ledra Street is the starting point of Cyprus’ annual Gay pride parade initiated in 2014 by the Mayor Constantinos Yiorkadjis. The event was organised by the association “Accept-LGBT Cyprus” which is open to all regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, ethnic, cultural background, religious background, language, health condition or physical condition and supports equal rights for the LGBT community.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Ledra Street.|
- Turkish invasion of Cyprus
- Cyprus dispute
- United Nations Buffer Zone in Cyprus
- Cypriot intercommunal violence
- Dereboyu Avenue
- Rigenis Street
- Laiki Geitonia
More information: Wikipedia “Ledra Street”