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Michael Theodoulou

Nicosia, Cyprus
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About Michael
I’m a Cyprus-based Middle East correspondent, reporting on the region since 1989. I have extensive broadcasting experience with LBC, IRN, National Public Radio and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. I’ve had 1,100 stories published in The Times (London) and also written for The Observer, The Christian Science Monitor, The Daily Mail, The Scotsman and The National (Abu Dhabi). In recent years I’ve focused on Iran, which I’ve visited 14 times since 1993.

The Forgotten Village: Layali Ibrahim's Story

15 Mar 2023  |  www.theguardian.com
Layali Ibrahim, a stateless Iraqi Kurd, turned 16 in Richmond Village, an isolated part of a British military base in Cyprus, where she lives with her family and other refugees. Born on a boat of migrants headed for Italy, Layali and her family were rescued and brought to RAF Akrotiri, a British base, and later moved to Dhekelia. Despite being top of her class, Layali's future is uncertain as her family is considered 'failed asylum seekers' by the British authorities. The UK refuses to admit the refugees, fearing it would set a precedent. A legal battle is ongoing to determine Britain's responsibility for the refugees, while the Cypriot authorities have stopped considering Farhad Ibrahim's asylum claim, threatening deportation. The refugees live in poor conditions, receive minimal welfare, and have limited rights on the military base.

I recently compiled and wrote most of this special background briefing on efforts to reunify Cyprus since 1974. There are profiles of the main players in the current negotiations and of those involved in previous settlement attempts. There are concise, factual guides to earlier peace plans, a useful chronology of events going back to 1955, maps and features. You will also see photographs of Varosha before and after it became the world’s biggest ghost town plus a video of Nicosia International Airport.

Historic moment fails to excite Facebook generation

12 Jan 2017  |  www.thetimes.co.uk
Young Cypriots find it challenging to envision a reunited Cyprus, with the division of the island being a distant memory for anyone under 43. Nikolas Neophytou, a 22-year-old student, notes that the Cyprus problem is rarely discussed or posted about among his peers, who are more engaged with issues like Brexit on social media. The symbols of the conflict, such as barbed wire and sandbags in Nicosia, have become a normalized part of the landscape for the younger generation.

Erdogan’s mosque-building spree helps drive Cyprus back together

22 Nov 2016  |  www.thetimes.com
A large Turkish-funded mosque nearing completion in northern Nicosia, Cyprus, symbolizes Turkey's growing influence in the region, which is causing concern among both Greek and Turkish Cypriots. Despite Turkey's financial and security support for the breakaway territory, many Turkish Cypriots are wary of President Erdogan's political Islam and authoritarianism. Experts suggest that this discontent may accelerate moves towards the reunification of Cyprus.

Syria conflict: Why Cyprus backs Cameron on UK air strikes

26 Apr 2016  |  www.bbc.com
Cyprus has extended an offer to France to use an airbase near Paphos for humanitarian and support missions in Iraq. The Cypriot foreign minister also suggested that they would likely respond positively to a French request to use the base for military operations in Syria.

Cypriots draw on spirit of '74 to see them through the island's bailout.

A 15-minute phone call between Barack Obama and his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani, thaws 34 years of ice between US and Iran.

Michael Theodoulou’s ancient house in Cyprus collapsed halfway through its renovation. It has now risen from the dust and rubble

26 Apr 2016  |  www.thetimes.co.uk
Journalist Michael Theodoulou shares his experience of purchasing and renovating an ancient house in Nicosia, Cyprus. Despite the initial state of disrepair, with issues such as damaged walls, overgrown weeds, termite-infested wood, and lack of proper plumbing and electricity, Theodoulou and his wife Rachael took on the challenge. The article describes the potential they saw in the property, which included large rooms, high ceilings, a stone staircase, and a courtyard. Theodoulou admits to having had delusions of grandeur about the renovation, while his wife possessed the imagination to envision the finished home.

Clubbers who pray amid the debauchery

26 Apr 2016  |  www.thetimes.co.uk
Bex Walker, a 25-year-old dance student from the UK, joined a 'fantasy boat party' in Ayia Napa, Cyprus, not for the typical revelry but to offer support to those who might be vulnerable due to intoxication. The article describes the party atmosphere, which is known for its wild antics and games, but highlights Walker's and her teetotal friends' intentions to pray and assist individuals who could be making decisions they would not make if sober. The presence of crew members with suggestive nicknames like Father Sleaze and Constable Cruise indicates the usual tone of these parties, but Walker's group represents a different kind of participant.

An early regional overview of the Arab Spring for The National.

Banned from driving a car, Saudi woman becomes pilot

26 Apr 2016  |  www.thetimes.co.uk
Hanadi Hindi is set to become the first accredited female pilot in Saudi Arabia after signing a contract with the fleet of Prince al-Walid bin Talal, a reformist billionaire and nephew of King Fahd. Although she won't be permitted to drive to the airport due to Saudi laws, she will be able to fly jet aircraft. Hindi has expressed pride in her achievement and gratitude for her family's support and the opportunity provided by Prince al-Walid bin Talal. She has completed an advanced flight training program in Jordan, funded by the Prince, and is expected to start her new role by the middle of the next year.

For The Times, I watch the Red Arrows in Cyprus train for a big test.

Where to join the fun: Ayia Napa and Ibiza

26 Apr 2016

‘Living martyrs’ still crippled by Saddam’s mustard gas

26 Apr 2016  |  www.thetimes.co.uk
Hamid Dehghan, a former Iranian soldier, recounts his experience of being subjected to a chemical weapons attack with mustard gas by Iraqi forces in 1985. He describes the immediate effects of the attack, noting the appearance of a white circle in the battle area, the smell of rotten fish, and the onset of violent symptoms including coughing up blood and skin blisters. Dehghan collapsed and was unconscious for three days, highlighting the severe and life-threatening nature of chemical warfare.

Greek and Turkish Cypriots remove the divide on Nicosia’s main shopping street that kept them apart for nearly half a century.

In 40 years Cypriots have given Britain kebabs, easyJet, George Michael and Stavros Flatley.

26 Apr 2016  |  www.thetimes.co.uk
The article discusses the illegal practice of trapping and eating migratory robins in Cyprus, which has seen a significant resurgence in the past three years. Many British robins migrate to Cyprus each winter in search of warmer weather. However, they are being lured into traps using false birdsong or caught with glue-covered sticks. This has led to the slaughter of around a million songbirds, which are then sold to restaurants as part of an illicit industry. Conservationists are concerned about the impact of this practice on bird populations.

EgyptAir hijacker's Ex-Wife reveals he was a drug addict and marriage was hell

30 Mar 2016  |  Mail Online
Marina Paraschou, the ex-wife of EgyptAir hijacker Seif Eldin Mustafa, described their five-year marriage as a living hell, characterizing Mustafa as a violent, jobless drug addict. Mustafa hijacked a plane from Egypt to Cyprus to see her, wearing a fake suicide vest and taking passengers and crew hostage. He was arrested after a six-hour standoff, and his suicide belt was found to be fake. Paraschou's account contradicts media portrayals of the hijacking as a romantic gesture, detailing abuse and fear during their marriage. Mustafa had previously been jailed for forgery and fraud in Egypt and had escaped during the 2011 uprising.

Kayaking instructor to stand trial for soldier’s death

10 Feb 2016  |  www.thetimes.co.uk
A British kayaking instructor, David Hughes, is set to stand trial in Cyprus over the death of Private Jamie Sawyer, a 20-year-old soldier from Birmingham, during an adventure training exercise. The incident occurred when Sawyer's canoe overturned in rough seas off Cape Greco. The British Army's role in the tragedy is expected to be scrutinized in court. Hughes claims the weather was initially perfect for kayaking but changed suddenly, leading to the accident. Cypriot police have investigated the incident, noting that strong winds created waves as high as three meters.

Britain hands 53 migrants who landed on military base over to Cyprus

20 Nov 2015  |  Mail Online
Cyprus has warned it will refuse to accept around 30% of the migrants who claimed asylum after landing on a British military base due to security concerns. Background checks on the migrants, mainly from Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine, are nearly complete. The migrants, who accidentally landed at RAF Akrotiri, have been housed in a heavily-guarded camp. Britain has transferred 53 migrants to Cypriot authorities and warned that those not applying for asylum in Cyprus would be returned to Lebanon. Tensions have risen among the migrants, leading to incidents of arson and suicide attempts.

The divided island comes together to seek protected status for its cheese - but Britain stands up for its own producers

31 Oct 2015  |  www.telegraph.co.uk
Cyprus is seeking Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status from the EU for its national cheese, halloumi, which has caused a dispute with the UK as it would affect British halloumi producers. Both Greek and Turkish Cypriots have united to file a joint PDO application, supported by the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. The UK government has submitted a formal opposition to protect its producers but acknowledges the cheese's unifying nature for Cyprus. Cyprus's agriculture minister, Nicos Kouyialis, is confident of overcoming objections and believes the PDO status could help resolve the Cyprus conflict. British cheesemakers, like High Weald Dairy and Yorkshire Dama Cheese, argue that halloumi is a generic term and its loss would be detrimental to their businesses.

Thomson flight attendants suffer fractures during plane turbulence

09 Jul 2015  |  dailymail.co.uk
Two British flight attendants, Mark Bailey and Jacqueline O'Shea, sustained serious injuries with Bailey suffering a broken pelvis and O'Shea two spinal fractures after severe turbulence on Thomson flight TOM2334 from Manchester to Cyprus. Four crew members were injured in total, but no passengers were harmed. The injured were taken to hospital upon landing in Larnaca, with two attendants later discharged. Thomson Airways' Director of Customer Service, Carl Gissing, confirmed the incident and emphasized the airline's commitment to safety and support for those affected.

Could DONKEY MILK be the elixir of life?

26 Dec 2014  |  Mail Online
The article discusses the rising popularity of donkey milk, highlighting its historical use and potential health benefits. It mentions that donkey milk is considered an elixir by some, used by ancient Greeks and Romans for various ailments, and by Cleopatra for skincare. The author visits Cyprus's largest donkey milk farm, Golden Donkeys Farm, and speaks with the owner, Pieris Georgiadis, and a dairy science lecturer, Dr. Photis Papademas. The milk is touted for its nutritional properties and potential to alleviate conditions like psoriasis, eczema, asthma, and bronchitis. The article also notes the high cost of donkey milk due to low production and mentions Eurolactis as a supplier. The author shares personal anecdotes of the milk's benefits for skin conditions.

Holidaymaker dies after failed attempt to save fellow Briton

06 Nov 2014  |  thetimes.co.uk
British tourist Bernard Harris died on a beach in Paphos, Cyprus, after trying to rescue Christine Sugarhood, who drowned while swimming. Both Harris and Sugarhood suffered heart attacks, with Harris collapsing post-rescue attempt and Sugarhood becoming unconscious in the water while aiding her husband Norman. The incident occurred on Tuesday afternoon, and all involved were guests at the Athena Beach Hotel.

Snipers called in to tackle Tehran's mutant rats

02 Mar 2013  |  The National
Tehran is facing a significant challenge with a surge in the population of 'mutant' rats that are resistant to poison and have grown unusually large, some weighing up to 5kg. The city's rat population surpasses its 12 million human residents, prompting the deployment of sniper teams to control the situation. These sharpshooters, equipped with infra-red sights, have killed over 2,000 rats, but this is a small fraction of the total. Tehran's municipality is increasing the number of sniper squads to 40 to intensify the efforts. The rats, which are believed to have undergone a genetic mutation, are causing concern as they are now larger than some cats. The issue exacerbates with warmer weather, which drives the rats out from their underground habitats. Despite the extermination of nearly one million rats annually and substantial investment in pest control, the problem persists, with some areas having a rat population six times that of the human population.

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