Remembering Denktaş’s legacy in Cyprus
It was a rather interesting and odd development, but that was indeed what happened on that sad day seven years ago on Jan. 13. “Tell them [Greek Cypriots] that this is an independent state” were the last words of Rauf Denktaş. And he said it in Greek. It was a shock for all those who heard him speaking in Greek though it was no secret to anyone that, like his Oxfordian English, his Greek was as good as his mother tongue Turkish. All through the many decades of heated discussions with Greek Cypriot counterparts, be it his close friend Glafkos Clerides, Archbishop Makarios or others, no one ever managed to see him speak in Greek.
Was it a farce of life? How could a man who struggled for the security, dignity, wellbeing and equality of the Turkish Cypriot people with the Greek Cypriots and who all the time insisted on talking publicly in Turkish or English utter his last words in Greek? It was indeed rather reasonable. Not only during the weeks when Denktaş was undergoing treatment after suffering a serious stroke, there were also statements from the Greek Cypriot leadership ridiculing the Turkish Cypriot people, trying to show Turkish Cypriots as a “cultural-ethnical minority community” of the “Cyprus nation.” Denktaş, in his death bed, was replying to that perennial Greek Cypriot obsessive mentality with a reminder, in the Greek language, that the Turkish Cypriot people are no longer a community, but they had established long ago their own independent state.
The entire life of Denktaş, since his first public statement back in 1948, was an exemplary devotion to the Turkish Cypriot struggle for the creation of an order among equals between the two people, the relationship of which was never one of a minority’s and majority but rather one of two ethnically, culturally and linguistically different people sharing the same homeland on the basis of a full political equality.
It is of course nonsense to ask how a community that comprised less than a quarter of the overall population of the island could be politically equal with another community comprising almost two thirds of the island’s population. If Cyprus was to have a state of two people, there would be of course a ratio in transforming the sizes of the two communities in the governance and sovereignty-sharing issues. That was why the 1960 system provided the island with a unitary state with effective governance, allowing the smaller community to participate effectively in the governance of the island.
That system faltered in 1963 with Greek Cypriots demanding abrogation of the effective federation clauses of the 1960 constitution on grounds that those powers given to Turkish Cypriots hampered effective governance.
All through his life, Denktaş tried to explain to the international community of nations that as long as Greek Cypriots refused to share power with Turkish Cypriots on the basis of political equality of the two people of the island, there cannot be a Cyprus settlement irrespective of what model of resolution was considered.
Denktaş passed away seven years ago. He indeed left the presidency back in 2005. He was accused all along for being “Mr. No” and branded as the culprit of failure of all peacemaking efforts till that date. But nothing could be achieved since then towards a Cyprus resolution even though both the second president and the incumbent were committed federalists who always defended failure to reach a settlement was because of the “stubborn Denktaş.” Now, incumbent Mustafa Akıncı, as well as Ankara, have realized that if a settlement could not be achieved it is because of the Greek Cypriot noninterest in sharing power with Turkish Cypriots.
Rest in peace, Denktaş… Your diehard opponents have become your supporters today.