Across Cyprus there are dozens of abandoned villages and no trip to the Island is complete without visiting one. Taking the time to walk around one of these abandoned villages enables you to see the impact of the ongoing Cyprus Problem. During our trip to Cyprus we visited the derelict village of Souskiou. It is located in the Dhiarizos valley in the Paphos district.
The population of the village peaked in 1931 with 525 residents. 304 of these were Turkish Cypriot and 121 were Greek Cypriot. However in 1958 all of Souskiou’s Greek Cypriots left. In 1915, Cyprus was annexed to the British Empire after the Ottomon’s entered WWI. During this time the Greek Cypriots became increasingly dissatisfied with British rule and favoured political unification between Cyprus and Greece.
During the Cyprus Emergency, 1955-1959, in which EOKA a Greek Cypriot nationalist paramilitary organisation began a violent campaign to end British colonial rule and the unification of Cyprus and Greece. This led to the creation of the TMT, the Turkish Resistance Organisation who supported the partition of Cyprus. In 1958 Harold Macmillan, British Prime Minister, was expected to propose a resolution to the Cyprus issue. Turkish Cypriots rioted in Nicosia to promote the idea that Greek and Turkish Cypriots could not live together. This led to the looting of Greek Cypriot shops and homes. Greek and Turkish Cypriots fled mixed population villages where they were a minority. This was the beginning of the segregation of the two communities.
Tensions grew further between the two groups. There had been years of disputes and deadlocks in government. This came to a head on 21st December 1963, known by the Turkish Cypriots as Bloody Christmas. Weeks of fighting was triggered by a Greek Cypriot policeman shooting dead a taxi driver refusing to give access to check the IDs of his customers. In total 364 Turkish Cypriots and 173 Greek Cypriots were killed during this violence. 25,000 Turkish Cypriots fled their villages and were displaced with thousands of Turkish Cypriot homes being destroyed. During this time Souskiou was a stronghold for Turkish Cypriot fighters. It also served as a home for displaced Turkish Cypriots from Kidasi village.
On the 21st July 1974, one day after the the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, Souskiou was evacuated. Some villagers went to Stavrokonnov village until that was also evacuated in September of 1975. Others secretly escaped over the mountains to the British Base Area. The were taken to the Northern part of the island via Turkey in January 1975.
We visited the abandoned village after dark which made the experience quite surreal. As we walked around we could hear the sound of cars driving past on the main road and the constant bleats from the local livestock. One of first buildings we came across was the mosque. It is the building that is the most preserved and has a beautiful painted alcove inside. It looked like the mosque was still being looked after, there was a lock on the gate, even though part of the wall was missing, and the inside was kept neat and tidy.
The village had a mixture of stone and concrete buildings. One two storey house appeared to be mid-construction when the villagers fled. This was built on the edge of the village upon a hill. It was missing part of the wall and a roof so you could look up to see the stars and out towards the city lights. It was mesmerising.
Nearby to the village is a functioning olive grove and the land is used for grazing animals. Walking around the village was a case of dodging cow pats, rubble and brambles. Some of the houses are used to store hay for the cows and pigs nearby. Dotted all over the village are water pumps, provided by the British, all stamped with ER and dated 1956. Fittingly, since the Ottomon period Turkish Cypriots called the village Susuz which means “without water”.
Last Updated on 9 April 2023 by Leonie