Greek Cypriots angry at invitation to attend the inauguration of a hotel in Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus
5 July 2010
Helena Smith in Athens
Singer Jennifer Lopez may have given it little thought when she accepted a seemingly innocuous invitation to celebrate her 41st birthday in northern Cyprus.
The deal: a sun-soaked stay en famille at a $220m destination described as the "single biggest hotel project both sides of the island" in exchange for a one-off performance to celebrate its opening.
But on the Island of Love, where memories of war are never far removed, the star appears to have walked into a political minefield. Instead of eliciting hot anticipation, the visit has ignited the sort of controversy that no celebrity needs.
Cyprus was invaded in 1974 by Turkish troops in response to an attempted coup by the Greek junta in Athens, and has been divided between Greeks in the south and Turks in the north ever since. It remains one of the world's most intractable disputes, where almost every action is seen through a political lens.
A web campaign led by indignant Greek Cypriots to convince Lopez to change her mind has attracted thousands of signatories angry that she should even consider performing in territory that is not officially recognised by the United Nations.
"It is with dismay and shock that the people of Cyprus and especially the Greek Cypriot women in the Republic of Cyprus and elsewhere in the world heard the news that you intend to attend the inauguration of a hotel in the occupied by Turkey [sic] part of our native country," says a letter that forms the basis of the campaign.
The missive, carried on the Cyprus Action Network of America, argues that nearly four decades after the island was "barbarically invaded" it would be morally unconscionable for the artist to visit.
To add insult to injury, campaigners say the hotel in Kyrenia will open on 20 July, exactly 36 years since Turkish paratroopers were dropped onto the island's central plain.
"The Turks go to a great length to secure support from people like you in order to promote their political ambitions and objectives. Does your charitable work and status permit you to give credibility to Turkish rapists, thieves, invaders, occupiers of our stolen properties," the letter asks.
Despite the furore, the five-star Cratos Premium insists the event will go ahead, promising a "very special birthday party … full of surprises for Jennifer Lopez".
But opposition is mounting. An estimated 7,000 people have signed up to a Facebook campaign – and it shows no sign of letting up.