Rauf Denktaş dies aged 88

Rauf Denktaş dies aged 88

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Rauf Denktaş dies aged 88 The founder and the first president of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Rauf Raif Denktaş, was born on Jan. 27, 1924, in Paphos to judge Raif Mehmet Bey and Enime Hanım, Turkish Cypriots. He graduated from The English School, Nicosia in Cyprus. Following his graduation, he worked as a translator in Famagusta, then as a court clerk and then as a teacher for one year in the English School.

He later went to London for law school. He graduated in 1947 and returned home to practice as a lawyer. In 1948 Denktaş served as a member of the consultative assembly in search of self-government for Cyprus and became a member of the Turkish Affairs Committee. In 1949 he started working as a crown prosecutor, where he remained until 1958.

Years of struggle

In 1957, Denktaş helped found the Turkish Resistance Organization (TMT), an organization, that was formed to resist the Greek Cypriot militant group EOKA's struggle to proclaim Enosis (union with Greece) and worked for the partition of Cyprus. In 1958, he attended the U.N. General Assembly on behalf of the Turkish-Cypriots, and in December of that year, he advised the Turkish Government on the rights of Turkish Cypriots during the preparation of the Zürich Agreement (signed Feb. 19, 1959). In 1960, Cyprus won independence from Britain, and the Republic of Cyprus was established. Denktaş was elected as the president of the Turkish Communal Chamber.

In November 1963 President Makarios gave for review to Turkey, Greece and Britain a document with a series of constitutional amendments designed to loosen the acquired rights of Turkish Cypriots in the name of "the workings of the state."  Soon after, paramilitary action against the Turks began in December 1963, after which Turkish Cypriots forcedly withdrew from government. Upon these events, Denktaş went to Ankara for consultations with the Turkish government. His re-entry to the island was prohibited by the Greek Cypriot leadership in years 1964-68 due to his involvement with TMT.

After the July 15, 1974, Greek ultranationalist military coup in Cyprus, Turkey intervened by landing troops on the north coast of Cyprus. Although during the military operation the dictatorship fell and constitutional order was restored to Cyprus, Turkey continued to advance. The Turkish Army took control 37 percent of the island by the time it completed its second advance on Aug. 15, 1974, and reached Famagusta.

Denktaş was subsequently elected president of the Turkish Federated State of Cyprus in 1976 and for a second term in 1981. He played a key role in the 1983 unilateral declaration of independence of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and was elected as the president of the TRNC in 1985, 1990, 1995, and 2000. The TRNC has never been recognized by the United Nations or any state other than Turkey.


By 2000, the desire of both Cyprus and Turkey to join the European Union led to renewed efforts to reach a settlement. In 2002 there were large demonstrations in northern Cyprus by Turkish Cypriots demanding reunification of the island, which would give them EU citizenship when Cyprus joined the EU in 2004. In December 2003 Denktaş's party suffered heavy losses in legislative elections, suggesting that his days as the unchallenged leader of the Turkish Cypriots were coming to an end.

In February 2004 Denktaş embarked on a new round of U.N.-sponsored talks with the Greek Cypriots, aimed at reuniting Cyprus. Ultimately, as did the Greek Cypriot President Tassos Papadopulous, he opposed the final version of the settlement proposal drafted under the authority of U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, which was voted on by the two Cypriot communities in a referendum on April 24, 2004. The plan was accepted by 65 percent of the Turkish community, but was rejected by a vast majority of the Greeks. On May 14, 2004, Denktaş announced he would not be standing for a fifth term as president of the TRNC in the next election. His tenure as president came to an end following the April 17, 2005, election of Mehmet Ali Talat, who formally assumed office on April 25.

Passion for photography

Denktaş’s favorite pastimes included photography and writing. His photographs have been in exhibitions in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Italy, the former republics of the Soviet Union, Poland, France, Austria and Turkey. He had written about 50 books in English and Turkish.

Between the years 1949 and 1957, he wrote many articles for the newspaper Halkın Sesi (Voice of the Nation), published by Dr. Fazil Küçük, the first vice president of the Republic of Cyprus. Denktaş has been the recipient of many awards and honorary doctorates given by various universities in Turkey, the TRNC and the United States. He is survived by his wife, one son and two daughters. He lost one son in a traffic accident and another son in a tonsillectomy. His surviving son, Serdar Denktaş, is also a politician, and as of 2007, leader of the northern Cypriot Democratic Party. Denktaş is an honorary member of The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation.

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