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A no-go area or no-go zone is a region where the ruling authorities have lost control and are unable to enforce the rule of law.


The term 'no-go area' has a military origin and was first used in the context of the Bush War in Rhodesia. The war was fought in the 1960s and 1970s between the army of the white minority Rhodesian government and black nationalist insurgents who were infiltrating the country from outside the country.

The initial military strategy of the government was to seal the borders to prevent infiltration, however this became untenable and an alternative strategy ("mobile counter offensive") was adopted. This involved defending only key economic areas and transport links ("vital asset ground"). The rest of the country was abandoned to insurgent control and became a patchwork of "no-go areas". The Rhodesian army would not maintain a permanent presence in a no-go area and civilians were advised to stay out of it.

Northern Ireland

Between 1969 and 1972, the term was used in Northern Irelandmarker to describe barricaded areas in Belfastmarker and Derrymarker, which police and the British Army were prevented from entering by militant residents, republican or loyalist paramilitaries. The areas' existence was a challenge to the authority of the British government in Northern Ireland, and the army finally demolished the barricades and re-established control over the areas in Operation Motorman on 31 July 1972.

Other uses

From the mid 1970s, the term became widely used in the English speaking world to describe anything that was immune to:
  • change
  • entry
  • participation
  • interference
For example, consider the following reports:
  • "certain parts of Britain's inner cities have become no-go areas for the company's delivery drivers." — report on courier services in the UK, June 2005
  • "New legislation to stamp out income tax avoidance will turn Britain's film industry into a wasteland within days. The government was warned that Britain could become a no-go area for film makers." — report on film making in the UK, February 2004
  • "The property boom is making homeownership a no-go area. An average priced house is out of the reach of average-income households in more than 50% of English counties …" — report on home ownership, August 2001
  • "Fundamental reform of doctors’ pay has been a no-go area for successive governments." — report on doctors' pay, August 2003


  1. The Guardian, 20 June 2005 : no-go areas for DHL courier service
  2. Film Focus UK, 12 February 2004 : UK a no-go area for films
  3. The Guardian, 21 August 2001 : home ownership a no-go area

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