Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Another land, like Abkhazia, that doesn't come to mind (for most in the West) very often, if at all? Know where it is?
Here's a clue:
It has been described as "a jolly, sunny place beside the sea, with private beaches, brandy sours and sweet-smelling, tree-lined avenues named after battles, generals or air marshals."
Know where it is now?
The flag of the United Kingdom flies over it, for this Middle England transplanted in the eastern Mediterranean is ....
... a British military enclave covering 3% of the land area of the island of Cyprus. That's almost 254 square kilometres of south-central Cyprus.
This land was retained as a “Sovereign Base Area” by the UK under the London Agreement of 1959 granting the independence of Cyprus. It was part of the price of the UK quiting its colonial rule of Cyprus and it provides the British with port and airfield facilities but also - and perhaps more importantly nowadays - the perfect electronic listening post to monitor signals of every kind from the Middle East, North Africa and the Balkans.
Indeed it said to be home to a listening station capturing telephone calls, faxes and e-mails around the world. It may be a key part of ECHELON, the largest electronic spy network in history, run by the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
More than 3,500 British military personnel are located there; their families and civilian staff bring the British population to around 8,000. British servicemen and women and their families covet the posting there. Apparently the western sovereign base area of Akrotiri is the biggest RAF facility outside Britain and its nicknamed the "kebab posting" by airmen.
Then there are the people who used to call this land their own. To gain some insight into their situation read this recent news:
Nine British soldiers charged after bar brawl in Cyprus
by Audrey Gillan
The Guardian, Monday February 4 2008
Nine British soldiers have been charged following a bar brawl in the Cyprus town of Ayia Napa on Friday. The men had been celebrating what is known as "millionaire's weekend" - they had received their last pay packet before their tour of duty on the island was due to come to an end next month.
... According to CyBC state radio, police said that at least 20 British soldiers, all serving at the Dhekelia base in Cyprus, attacked the owner of the pub and five of his customers. Kyriacos Hadjiyiannis, the owner of the Bedrock Inn, told the island's Sunday Mail newspaper: "A friend of mine suffered a broken nose after he was hit with a pair of crutches. He also had to spend three hours in hospital to have 22 stitches to his face."
... Last year two British marines returning from Afghanistan were charged with assaulting a taxi driver after breaking curfew for a night out in Limassol during a Cyprus stopover.
Soldiers are banned from certain areas of Ayia Napa, particularly the bars clustered around the town's square - notorious for debauched behaviour by tourists.
There have been several cases involving soldiers serving on the island, the worst of which was the rape and murder of Danish tour guide Louise Jensen in 1994.
Now tell me, do you think they're pleased to share their "sunny place beside the sea" with the people who call it "the kebab posting"?
In July 2001, violent protests were held at the bases by local Cypriots, angry at British plans to construct radio masts at the bases, as part of an upgrade of British military communication posts around the world. Locals had claimed the masts would endanger local lives and cause cancer, as well as have a negative impact on wildlife in the area.
The British government denied these claims.
News Archive for Akrotiri and Dhekelia
Wikimedia Atlas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia
HDI: N/A (Rank: N/A)