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A safe space within No Man’s Land that brings Turkish-Cypriots and Greek-Cypriots together

The Home for Cooperation in Cyprus is located in the de-militarised buffer zone and stands as a symbol for reunification.

A woman on her phone outside the Home for Cooperation, 2021

The Home for Cooperation ( is the first establishment of its kind, being one of the only shared spaces to exist within the demilitarised buffer zone of Cyprus. The designated, safe, and bi-communal space brings together Turkish-Cypriots and Greek-Cypriots through events and projects, standing as an environment for discussion and learning. 

The Cyprus Buffer Zone was established in 1964 during the start of the Cyprus conflict and was extended in 1974 following the Turkish invasion of the island. Since then, it has served as a UN controlled zone for peacekeeping between the two conflict communities of Turkish-Cypriots and Greek-Cypriots. The zone, which expands 180 km across the island, has since been reduced to desertion, rendering villages and structures susceptible to nature’s subjugation. Decades later, an initiative was formed that would be central for peacebuilding in the midst of a long-standing established polarisation. 

The cafe interior of the Home for Cooperation, 2021

“If the barricades hadn’t been opened this space wouldn’t exist.”

When the barricade checkpoints were established in 2004, permitting crossing between the two, an opportunity for reconnection had been established for the first time in 30 years. A newfound need for understanding the bi-communal history emerged. The opening of the gateways led to the founding of the Association for Historical Development and Research ( when academics, historians and educators came together from both communities. After a long time, they were able to congregate and exchange ideas and thus created the association with a common interest of cultivating a culture of peace through education. An abundance of material was produced, mainly for educators and teachers to understand how to use history as a means of edifying trust and cultivating the pedagogy of peace and coexistence with contributions being made from all of the island’s communities. 

In 2008, the association saw limitations in meeting and the need to establish a communal space. At the time the state of affairs did not make bi-communal collaboration accessible at either of the two sides. This space would be a neutral and safe space in a common ground that would accommodate the association and create an environment that fosters growth. In 2008, the association was presented with a funding opportunity and managed to take over an abandoned house within the buffer zone to create the Home for Cooperation (H4C).  

Built around 1955, the house that belonged to the Armenian Mangoyan family was initially divided into shops split across two levels. Τhe house next door belonged to the in-laws. They were both located in the Armenian neighbourhood of old Nicosia. It is believed that the Mangoyan family abandoned the houses sometime around 1958 when the first conflict happened, leading to a British military intervention and a subsequent ceasefire. The first bordered separation of communities began as a result. The house was abandoned and only its shops were used by the shop owners to serve UN soldiers. 

In 2014, three years after the founding of the H4C, the association identified a need to serve the public’s affairs, beyond those of their own. They agreed that other groups, organisations and individuals would benefit from the use of the space and thus transformed the H4C into a community centre that expanded its reach to the communities of the island that also align with the inclusive and peace-driven ethos of the association. It has become an increasingly integral piece of social infrastructure ever since. One that symbolises unity and sovereignty. 

In 2021, I had the opportunity to speak to Lefki Lambrou, who was the director of the H4C at the time. The interview gave me an insight into its operations and the way it brings Turkish-Cypriots, Greek-Cypriots, and the rest of the communities together in a neutral setting. 

A part of the buffer zone barricade taken in South Nicosia. Greek text reads 'Liberation, wake up!', 2021

“Because people meet through common interests, they discover people from other communities whom they would normally never get a chance to meet, all through something they love.”

One group utilising the space were the PeacePlayers (, who bring together children from all over the island, using basketball as a means of social cohesion. Another, the Cyprus Dialogue Forum ( establishes dialogue amongst stakeholders, such as trade unions and academics, in order to discuss common topics and collaborative solutions in terms of the sociopolitical affairs of the island. Voice of the Island (, a bilingual online platform that covers local news in Turkish and Greek, also operates within H4C. Amongst these is also the Religious Track Office of the Cyprus Peaceful Process (, where religious leaders from the island, including Maronites, Latins, Armenians, the Archbishop and the Mufti engage in dialogue with each other in the space. The Cyprus Youth Council ( is another non-governmental association under the H4C which fosters dialogue and collaboration amongst young people in the island whilst also forging connections with youth across Europe and globally. Lastly, the Europe Direct Information Centre Nicosia ( informs the island’s citizens about the EU, their rights, and opportunities available to them.

Lefki Lambrou, the H4C director, in 2021

Language barriers are also broken down by associations that provide Greek and Turkish lessons that give the opportunity for participants to meet, exchange ideas and converse about sensitive topics that can’t easily be talked about elsewhere at costs that are made to be as inclusive as possible, in order to contribute to the sustainability of the establishment. 

These make a few examples of non-governmental associations and non-profit companies that were housed under the H4C.

The space faces a number of challenges, a main one being its location within the buffer zone, often referred to as ‘no man’s land’. Due to the zone’s nature, there is not much footfall other than pedestrians, such as workers and university students crossing through the checkpoint. Visitors have to be brought to the space, passing through their respective borders. With the Buffer Zone under its authority, the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) serves as a reminder of the ongoing limitations and challenges that exist. 

Whilst visiting in 2021, Lefki Lambrou, then director of the H4C, shares her experiences. She affirms;  “One of the biggest obstacles we face is the language, so with introducing our languages to each other, we will obviously come together more.”

The peace work process of the H4C continues through more programmes such as salsa classes, dance, yoga, djembe and choir as well as cycling and walking tours, often designed and organised by the public themselves. “Because people meet through common interests”, Lefki explains, “they discover new people from the other communities that they would never get the chance to meet, through something that they love”. This is something that has not been possible for decades and has received global recognition. The Buffer Fringe Performing Arts Festival (, for example, has received the EFFE label ( and has been awarded the Europa Nostra award ( 

Citizens taking part in a workshop at the H4C, 2021

Lefki describes her contribution to the H4C as an honour, regardless of the challenges. “Its not the kind of space which is easy”, she admits. The people that the space hosts are tremendously devoted and express their desire for reunification. Lefki explains that there is a constant driving force to continuously develop and achieve, though understands this can be challenging. She concludes that, as well as requiring perseverance, this requires patience as this is “something that becomes shaped through its community through the years.” 

The space is shaped by the abundance of people that contribute to the space. Lefki explains how  you cannot see the space completely as a professional establishment: “It’s not a space you can see solely professionally. There is professionalism, especially from the people that dreamt about it and built the foundations and from the team members that continue. There is professionalism, I don’t want to devalue that, I just want to say it’s also an ideology.”  

“The role of the Home is to create the right conditions for people to get together and to get to know each other.”

The youth play a central role to its development, with their hope and positivity, qualities that are crucial to the unification of Cyprus. “It [the H4C] has had a massive impact, I can see it and I see it mostly from the youth. They need an opportunity to interact with people from the other side. A chance to create an experience. Once they have that experience, the rest takes its own path.”

The North side of Nicosia as seen from the Home for Cooperation, 2021

Even with the hopeful standing of the H4C, political tensions remain. One can easily be disheartened by the emotive sentiments of groups against bi-communal activities and against reunification. Lefki understands that safety can be a concern and that the space is located within a demilitarised zone. Surveillance and barbed wire dominate the surroundings, and are accompanied by a remainder of possibly active landmines amongst the landscape. “As the situation stands, it is a post-conflict country. You could not have a space such as this one in any of the two sides. It is perhaps safer that we’re here.”

The Home for Cooperation, apart from contributing to bi-communal peace work, stands as a symbol of inspiration for places where conflict and polarisation persist. An initiative such as this helps unpack and deconstruct differences, but to also appreciate them. It establishes connections that remind us of how much we have in common and that we can be celebrated through cultural and creative collaboration. 

“I am so positive, even though there is so much negativity around the Cypriot status quo. The youth from both sides, generations have changed. There are so many people that are collaborating. And the Home is just an example of how the future of the land of Cyprus could be. A united land.”

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