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Spatial Memory of Divided and Conflict-affected Cities: Diyarbakir and Nicosia


Diyarbakir Suriçi (Walled City) and Nicosia are two cities that have been physically and discursively divided by mechanisms of repression and violence. As a collaborative endeavor of Hafiza Merkezi and Home for Cooperation, we organized two workshops in October and November 2022 to trace the spatial memory of both cities. The video titled Spatial Memory of Divided Cities in Conflict: Diyarbakir and Nicosia tells the story of these workshops.


What did we do?

We organized the first workshop in Diyarbakır between 29-30 October 2022, and the other one in Nicosia between 5-6 November 2022. Coordinated by Dilan Kaya, Nihal Soğancı, and Veli Aksoy, the workshops focused on how the youth tackle the issue of divided, conflict-affected cities. We follow their process of moving beyond the dominant discourse about the history of both cities. During the workshop, they shared the different ways in which they reconstructed the spatial memory, and transformed bereavement caused by conflict and forced displacement.

How did we do?

Two main activities of the workshops were memory walks and collage work. The memory walks took place in public spaces that carried the signs of multicultural life and conflict. The walks allowed the youth to talk about the multi-layered memories of these cities. During the memory walks, the participants took photos, and the following day, they had a chance to share their experience of reconstructing urban memory through personal story-telling.

Why Diyarbakir and Nicosia?

Diyarbakir and Nicosia are two cities that manage to sustain multicultural life practices during conflict-affected times. We chose them to highlight the fact that as much as conflict and division foster similar experiences, each city also went through unique changes. We aim to reflect upon the spatial memory of both cities, establishing crucial links between the two.

Diyarbakir Surici has continuously been a living space that hosted countless cultures throughout its history. The Castle of Diyarbakir and Hevsel Gardens Cultural Landscape as well as Suriçi which was declared one of the UNESCO Heritage Sites in July 2015 were destroyed during the conflict in 2015-2016. Afterward, the area underwent a process of urban transformation which led to the loss of its physical, social, and cultural texture.

The Capital of Cyprus, Nicosia, was divided after the military intervention of Turkey in 1974 after the inter-communal clashes from the 1950s. In 1975, after the Population Exchange Agreement, Turkish Cypriots moved to the north of the divide and Greek Cypriots to the south. In April 2003, the first crossing point after 30 years became the Ledra Palace Crossing Point, where the Home for Cooperation is located. The opening of the crossing points also triggered practices of questioning and remembering the past and lost stories of the city.

We thank Olof Palme International Center for its support in organizing the workshops and preparing this video.