Gyaros Islet

Μετάφραση Greek Version

Gyaros Islet

Gyaros, also known as Gioura, is an arid an uninhabited rocky island in the northern Cyclades, near the islands of Andros and Tinos. With a size of less than 23 square kilometers, this tiny island manages to house a wealth of hidden stories. Gyaros served as a place of exile in the early Roman empire and for left-wing political dissidents in Greece from 1948 until 1974. During that time, more than 22,000 people were exiled or imprisoned on the island. Gyaros is an island where nature meets history. Apart from its historical past, it is also an island of great ecological importance as it is home to a large population of monk seals. According to WWF here lives 15 percent of the total population of the monachus monachus monk seal, which is probably one of the largest colonies worldwide.

Recent History

Following the Civil War (1946-49), thousands of people mostly rebel fighters and communists were exiled to Gyaros. It was a place of forced labor and torture, described by many as a concentration camp and “an island of the devil”. In its first years of usage the prisoners sent to the island were split into the five camps around the five bays – initially to live in tents and dry-stone constructions in all weathers. Under these conditions, they were forced to build the main prison which would house them. In 1952, as soon as the red-brick building was completed, it was abolished. The main reason was the outcry from the international community and protests by the UN. However, the prison was used again during 1957-1964 and 1967-1974 during the dictatorship. For the first time among the prisoners were women, even in pregnancy.

When the structures start to decay, the prison island was finally abandoned and used only as a target range for the Hellenic Navy until 2000. The former prison buildings are now crumbling, but still in relatively good shape. The huge red-brick-prison complex stands as a sole sign of former life – and at the same time as a symbol of death. It is an extremely grim place, but unfortunately is not allowed to visit. Today the island is a protected ecological area, included in the Natura 2000 list. In 2001 Gyaros was declared a historic monument, which means that all building activity is prohibited.

Currently the island is off-limits for general public, including fishermen who are forbidden to fish near the shore as there are protected species of seals and wild birds. The only way to witness this prison island is from the sky or by contacting the local associations of the Panhellenic Union of National Resistance Fighters (PEAEA) and asking when their next scheduled visit to the islet is going to take place. The aim is to open the island for visitors, but in such a way as to preserve both its historic character and natural beauty. Local communities in neighboring islands also support the sustainable and mild tourist development on Gyaros. The island is blessed with stunning diving landscapes and would serve as an excellent option for scuba diving, snorkeling, and deep-sea diving.