It may just sound like a word and a number to most or a new pop band even. To many though Block 10 is synonymous with oppression. The main prison in Nicosia, situated near Ledra Palace and the leafy Ayios Andreas area feels very out o f date. In many ways its modern looking observation tower is rather deceiving. Much of the place looks like the 1930’s, a sandstone fortress with turrets and all. Block 10 is situated in the furthest corner of the prison. You enter it through a small square heavy metal door which feels like a remnant of a Colditz escapees story. A friend of mine is here, Very wrongly. He is a student from  who shall be named X. The choice of anonymity is strategically political. By revealing X’s is real name I am unsure if I will do him more damage than good. 5 years ago he came to Cyprus, as an asylum seeker fleeing his country. As a genuine political refugee, his case got lost in the bureaucracy and after 5 years the country he had fled for fear of losing his life had changed from a political hotspot to a less dangerous place. Despite this he still feared for his life. When it became apparent that he would lose his asylum appeal through the Supreme Court, X was immediately arrested on the steps of hypocritical justice and taken handcuffed to Block 10. That was over two weeks ago and during this time he was also assualted by a burly police man, twice his size, who left a huge boot mark on his shirt. X is a peaceful person, he did not retaliate. This brutal attack was also conducted in front of several other officers, one of whom was  a senior officer who insisted X had a mobile. Just for our information, mobiles are only allowed to be used from Block 10 from 4 til 5 each afternoon. The rest of the time they are prohibited. The senior officer asked X why he had phoned certain people, an accusation he denied, the senior officer asked X where was his mobile, to which he replied ‘I do not have mobile’.

The boot took all the wind out of him. It knocked him backwards into some furniture. The burly police man, probably a body builder at some point, struck a couple more times. They ceased when they saw how fruitless the beating was and X was taken back to his cell, which he shares with 2 other people. 

‘I felt ashamed’  he told me ‘when I saw that horrible boot mark – I went to the toilet and tried to wash it off but that made it worse. An African man gave me a shirt. The shirt I had on my back was all I had to wear. I asked to see a doctor but was ignored at first. Two days later they took me to the hospital but all they did was x-ray my chest and nothing else. They said I was OK but I could not breathe properly, I could not cough or laugh without feeling pain.’

Is this really the country which I live in? It astounds me time and time again how people can treat their fellow human beings in such harsh, brutal ways. They took X eventually, after about 4 days to be examined properly and a doctor gave him some painkillers. He did not, no he could not explain how it happened and it seemed like even if he did the doctor would have not been the least concerned. The presence of a police man while he was being examined made this impossible as he knew if he told the doctor how it happened, his return to Block 10 would not have been so hospitable.

I did mention earlier that X is a student. A friend of mine teaches him and according to him, X is also a very fine student. Term starts next week and he lives in hope that he will be released to make it to class. I would like this story to end on a happier note but there may be just as much chance that X is deported. Some times it feels like people in authority who make these life altering decisions are playing roulette with some one else’s fate. They can tell you he will be freed tomorrow and he may be on a plane back to the place he fears more than Block 1o.  

‘Each day’ he tells me just as I am leaving ‘7 new people come here…and each day, 7 people are deported…’