Rauf Denktaş laid to rest with tears

Rauf Denktaş laid to rest with tears

Rauf Denktaş laid to rest with tears

Turkish top officials, including Turkish FM Davutoğlu (R to L), Deputy PM Bekir Bozdağ, Turkish PM Erdoğan, Turkish Cypriot President Eroğlu, Turkish President Abdullah Gül, Former Turkish oppostion CHP leader Deniz Baykal prays for Denktaş in his eral in Nicosia. AA photo

Thousands of Turkish Cypriot mourners lined up behind top Turkish officials in the streets of Nicosia yesterday as soldiers carried late leader Rauf Denktaş’s body for a final farewell.

People had gathered outside the presidential palace in the early hours for an official ceremony in honor of the former leader who died after a long illness Jan. 13 at the age of 87. Tears flowed as the gun carriage carrying Denktaş’s flag-draped coffin passed by the mourners, many of whom clutched pictures of the veteran politician. The crowd applauded as the late leader’s coffin was carried through the streets.

“I feel sorry [...] He left us a republic which we will keep alive forever,” a man in his 40s said. “We’ve lost a great leader,” agreed 63-year-old Tezgül Karaman, while 60-year-old Sertap Şah said the death of Denktaş was “like we lost our father.” Denktaş’s successor, Mehmet Ali Talat, and the current leader of the Turkish Cypriots, Derviş Eroğlu, also attended the funeral.

Turkey, the only country to recognize the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, sent a large delegation to the ceremony headed by President Abdullah Gül. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel were also among those who attended. The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli and former CHP leaders Deniz Baykal, Hikmet Çetin and Altan Öymen also attended the funeral yesterday.

Gül, Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek and Erdoğan also attended the funeral prayer at the Selimiye Mosque. After the prayers, Denktaş was buried at a symbolic park in Nicosia next to the monument of the Turkish Resistance Organization (TMT). 

Soil taken from Turkey, his son’s grave and from a religious place in the Greek side of the island was poured into Denktaş’s grave. Denktaş had previously told his family that he wanted to be buried near his son’s grave.

Pictures of Denktaş hung in almost all shops, which were closed because of the national mourning. The police also took strong security measures in Nicosia for the funeral. In Turkey, all the mosques recited the sala (a religious prayer recited after a person dies in Islam) for Denktaş, following an instruction from the Religious Affairs Directorate. Denktaş suffered a blood clot to the brain in May last year that left him partially paralyzed. In July, he received treatment at a military hospital in Ankara, but his condition failed to improve.

Compiled from AFP and AP stories by the Daily News staff.

Rauf Denktas,