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16 April 2014, Wednesday
 
 
Today's Zaman
 
 
 
 

Founder of Turkish Cyprus, Rauf Denktaş, dies at age 88

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RAUF DENKTAŞ (PHOTO: AA)
13 January 2012, Friday /TODAYSZAMAN.COM WITH WIRES
Rauf Denktaş, the former Turkish Cypriot leader whose determined pursuit of a separate state for his people and strong opposition to the divided island's reunification defined a political career spanning six decades, has died. He was 88.

Dr. Charles Canver, who treated Denktaş for his heart condition, said he died late Friday of multiple organ failure at Near East University Hospital in Lefkoşa. He had been in poor health since suffering a stroke last May.

Denktaş's death comes in the middle of yet another diplomatic drive to reunify Cyprus, which has been split along ethnic lines since 1974 when Turkey intervened the island in the aftermath of a short-lived coup by supporters of union with Greece.

Denktaş had maintained the Turkish Cypriots needed a separate state to preserve peace and avoid a return to what he called massacres of Turkish Cypriots at the hands of the majority Greek Cypriots.

His dedication to the partitionist cause made him a hero to many Turkish Cypriots, just as Greek Cypriots saw him as their arch-villain - the standard-bearer of all they opposed.

Turkish President Abdullah Gül said in a statement he had been "deeply saddened" by Denktaş's death.     

"The loss of Mr. Denktaş is not just that of the Turkish Cypriots but a loss for the Turkish people as a whole. Our people have lost a true hero," he said.     

"The greatest legacy of his life dedicated to the just cause of the people is undoubtedly the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus," he said. "The Turkish Cypriot people will always find the Motherland Turkey beside them in this honorable struggle."

That image began to be molded in the late 1950s when Denktaş helped found the Turkish Resistance Organization or TMT as a counterweight to EOKA, a Greek Cypriot group waging a guerrilla campaign against the island's then colonial ruler Britain to achieve union with Greece.

"Greek Cypriots saw him as the cynical adversary," said Cyprus University History Professor Petros Papapolyviou. "He was seen as the man who put the interests of Turkey above those of Cyprus."

Born in Paphos, which is in today’s Greek Cyprus, on Jan. 24, 1924, the London-trained lawyer rose to prominence as a leading figure in the Turkish Cypriot community during the tumultuous period in the 1960s and 1970s when inter-communal conflict claimed hundreds of Cypriot lives.

He blocked efforts to reunite the island, claiming that unification would open the way for Greek Cypriot domination and raise the threat of renewed violence.

After the Turkish intervention, he was chosen as leader of what was then the self-declared Cyprus Turkish Federated State. He proclaimed the independence of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC) in 1983, but the state failed to gain recognition from any other country other than Turkey, which maintains some 35,000 troops there.

"He was Mr. KKTC," said Eastern Mediterranean politics professor Erol Kaymak. "He was very much a man of is time ... you could rely on him to stick to the ethno-nationalist line that he believed in."

A series of United Nations-backed talks to end the island's division through the 1980s and 1990s went nowhere.

Most of these negotiations pitted Denktaş against a familiar adversary - Glafkos Clerides, who was Denktaş's Greek Cypriot counterpart for much of his time in power.

Clerides, like Denktaş, is a lawyer, and the two men knew each other from the 1950s when they locked horns in the courtroom with Denktaş prosecuting EOKA fighters and Clerides defending them.

Their personal relationship was said to be cordial, even friendly - the two men often cracked jokes as an icebreaker prior to hard bargaining in numerous rounds of peace talks.

But that friendship did not extend as far as the negotiating table, where they were unable to overcome their differences.

Clerides and the Greek Cypriots sought to reunify Cyprus as a single federated state, envisioning a power-sharing arrangement between Cypriots of Turkish and Greek origin.

But Denktaş said Greek Cypriots abrogated any right for a renewed partnership under the island's 1960 constitution when they launched attacks on Turkish Cypriots.

Backed by Ankara and the powerful military establishment whose respect he commanded, Denktaş argued for a two-state solution in defiance of international support for a federation.

Denktaş's dominance of Turkish Cypriot politics was reflected in his victory in every presidential election between 1983 and 2000.

But in his later years, many Turkish Cypriots came to view his insistence on a separate state as an obstacle to a settlement that would lift them out of international economic and political isolation and usher them into the European Union that the internationally recognized Greek Cypriots were negotiating with the bloc.

Denktaş's domestic opponents also accused him of bringing in settlers from Turkey who voted for him in exchange for promises of land that had previously belonged to Greek Cypriots.

As thousands of Turkish Cypriots took to the streets in 2003 in support of a settlement coupled with a realignment of Turkish government policy objectives on Cyprus, another round of UN-sponsored talks culminated in 2004 in a reunification plan that Greek Cypriots rejected and Turkish Cypriots endorsed in separate referendums.

Greek Cyprus subsequently joined the EU but only the Greek Cypriots enjoy membership benefits. Nonetheless, Denktaş was relieved at the plan's failure, said Kaymak.

Denktaş left politics in 2005 after announcing that he would not seek re-election. But as a respected elder statesman, he continued to be a very vocal supporter of a two-state solution.

"Whatever mistake we committed, the result is a 23-year-old young, dynamic, small Republic which is absolutely necessary for the security and strategic location of Turkey," Denktaş said in 2006.

"No one would like to see the Turkish soldiers to return to Anatolia as if they lost a war ... May God save this nation from seeing such a shame," he said.

Denktaş was highly critical of his leftist successor Mehmet Ali Talat's handling of renewed peace talks that began in 2008 and have made limited progress since. Talat lost a presidential election in 2010 to Denktaş protege Derviş Eroğlu.

Denktaş lost two of his sons, one during surgery and another in a car crash. His surviving son, Serdar, also entered politics and for a while served as prime minister. Denktaş, who is survived by his wife Aydın, also had two daughters and 11 grandchildren.  

 
 
COMMENTS
He was a true visionary, learning that you could not trust the Greeks, which was the genesis of the Cyprus problem. Greeks could live safely under the Turks, but it was the Greeks who tried to ethnically cleanse Cyprus of the Turk. If it wasn't for leaders like Denktas, God (Allah) only knows what ...
Orhan
The article is sided to claim that Denktas was a block to the peace between Cypriot Greeks and Turks, and does not mention about massacre of Turkish Cypriots in the 1960s and the EOKA responsible from it or the Macarios. Turkish soldiers are shown as invaders. If Turkish soldiers were not on time, a...
JOHN
He was 87, not 88. He died two weeks shy of his next birthday. Or is that a Turkish custom and I'm wrong?
Wylie
this man was a dinosaur
tehlikeli yabanci
May this man's soul rest in peace for protecting the noble Turkish-Cypriot people from extinction.
S.Yilmaz
Nur icinde yat. May your soul rest in peace.
Aydin
God bless him may he rest in peace we need more leaders like him not traitors like Talat .
mehmet
RIP Denktas. There is only 1 Mustafa Kemal Ataturk but after this great man there was Denktas - a hero to the people of KKTC. @Erkan çok güzel kardeşi!
Tal
My mother is from nothern Cyrpus and explained many times the attrocities the Greeks commited against the Turks once the Greeks expelled the English from the Island. Even the English will tell you the terror campaigns the Greeks did against them. If it wasn't for Turkey's intervention and the strong...
Metin
Erkan @ Naming only the others as terrorists shows complete fanatism and lack of realism
vid
A true Turkish warrior. Allah rahmet eylesin.
Volkan
An inspiring leader. May his noble soul rest in heavenly peace.
Ahmed m Ibrahim
Nur icinde yat. May your soul rest in peace.
Aydin
We come from Allah and we return to Him. May Allah have mercy on the dead and his family.
muradali shaikh
All Turks are now Mr KKTC and it will never be abandoned to oppressive occupiers from the terrorist supporting South Cypurs. Turkic Islamic Union is the way forward.
Meat
Greek Cypriots have not acknowledged let alone apologized for their genocidal crimes or the mass graves of Turkish Cypriots from before the 1974 Liberation (Peace Operation). How do you expect that a non-apologetic people will allow you to have a prosperous economy after you abolish TRNC to unite wi...
Sema
May he rest in peace, one of the few who'd truly been in the struggle even through the eonisis attempt.
Halis
Turkish Cypriots will have no economic benefit or be free from "isolation" in a Greek-dominated state. In fact, their economic status will worsen. Most likely, there would be deliberate direct or indirect Greek policies aimed at ensuring the economic deprivation of Turks. To argue in favor of aband...
Erkan
Heading for a better world. Mazel Tov !
Costas Greek Cypriot
RIP. People should not speak ill of the dead!!!! History will remember the sufferings that happen in Cyprus due to the ultra fashist views of Mr. Denktash and others in Cyprus, may the lord forgive them all. I hope now is time to forgive and unite.
hammer
it was difficult to hold back tears when i heard the news, i would certainly cry if i was alone and did not think tears wouldn't fit manhood. he devoted his life to the lives, rightful rights, independence and equality of turkish cypriots. some people may criticize that he wasn't for a UN-backed BBF...
C. Emre Gülsever
REST IN PEACE DENKTAŞ...... YOU ARE TRULY A HERO OF THE TURKİSH NATION AND PEOPLE....... YOU DEDICATED YOUR LIFE TO THE ISLAND AND PEOPLE........
Ersoy
Maybe with 'Mr. No' out of the way reunification can finally take place on Cyprus? This man worked against it his whole life. He may be loved in Turkey, but he's generally despised by Turk Cypriots.
Eckhardt
Rauf Denktash's personal wealth skyrocketed while he was leader of 'KKTC'. It is widely accepted on both sides of Cyprus that Denktash embezzled great amounts of public money and that his son copied him in that.
Yaacov
RIP
GeneralSherman
For any person to dedicate his life for a just cause for his people, what can one say. A great sacrifice. No-one is or can be perfect especially in his countries circumstances. Condolences to his family and a nation and peoples who supported him, believed in him and relied on him. Only if their were...
Senol
may his soul rest in peace he wasn't a bad man - he may have been the founder of the TMT, but as a greek-cypriot i have more respect for him than i do for traitors in greece who deny us membership of the greek-nation; Denktas himself acknowledged the greek and turkish identities of our respective c...
greek-cypriot
R.I.P Sayin Rauf R Denktas, you was our father to our nation and will never be forgotten, you will be missed by all seni saygiyla aniyorum nur icinde yat.....NE MUTLU TURKUM DIYENE!!!
cigdem rasit
He was Atatürk of Cyprus. Rest in peace!
necati
May Allah rest his soul in peace, we will miss him, we lost our Father as Nation...
Alev Altin
May his soul rest in peace in Paradise. Condolences to his wife and rest of family.
AbuBintain
RIP. Big loss for our country and for our people. A true legend. My Condolences to his family. We will always remember for what he did to save us and to this country. This great man gave his life for our country. He was a great leader to us.
Rasit Nevzat
Rest in peace dede. Thank you for everything yo done for us Turkish Cypriots and may your soul be welcomed in the gates of heaven with open arms.
Murat
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