Biography - Founding President Rauf Raif Denktaş
Rauf Raif Denktaş has distinguished himself as an accomplished lawyer, organizer and political leader. He has been Barrister-at-Law of the Lincoln’s Inn in London, a Member of the Bar, and a Member of the Consultative Assembly (1948), a Member of Turkish Affairs Committee (1948-49), a junior Crown Counsel, Crown Counsel and Ag. Solicitor General (1949 to 1957), and the elected President of the Federation of Turkish Cypriot Associations, a voluntary organization activating social and economic life of Turkish People in Cyprus and organizing their resistance to Greek Cypriot agitation for uniting Cyprus with Greece. He helped establish the Turkish Resistance Movement (TMT) against the Greek Cypriot terrorist organization EOKA which aimed at union with Greece. “No to neo-colonization — No to union with Greece” became the freedom cry of Turkish Cypriots. As leader of Turkish Cypriots, Mr. Denktaş organized all activities for aid to refugees from 33 villages destroyed by EOKA in 1958, and with volunteer working groups re-built destroyed houses which were soon to be destroyed again in a new Greek Cypriot onslaught in 1963; the destruction continued until 1974. In 1958 Mr. Denktaş went to the UNO with Turkish Cypriot leader, Dr. Fazıl Kuchuk, in order to explain the Turkish Cypriot case. He stated:
Under the guise of applying the right of self-determination to Cyprus, Greek Cypriots wanted to colonize Turkish Cypriot people… This we cannot we shall not accept. The principle of the right of self-determination was not evolved in order to colonize one set of people by another. We are as much entitled to the right of self-determination as the Greek Cypriots are… The Greek Cypriot political aim is union with Greece… Turkish Cypriots cannot bow to this demand which is, for them, neo-colonization.
The Turkish Cypriot people’s policy for a dignified existence in Cyprus as free people evolves around this basic idea.
Zurich and London Agreements were made in 1959 between Turkey, Greece, and Great Britain as the three interested countries in Cyprus and the two communities Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots regarded respectively Turkey and Greece as their motherlands.
Mr. Denktaş played a leading role in consolidating Turkish Cypriots* rights and liberties and their communal co-founder partner status in the body politic of the Republic of Cyprus. With Dr. Fazıl Kuchuk he led the Turkish Cypriot Committee at the London Conference (1959) and later led his community at the Constitutional Committee which prepared the Constitution of Cyprus (1959 to 1960). He represented the Turkish Cypriot Community at the Athens Conference (1959-1960) which prepared the agreement for the presence of Turkish and Greek troops (650 and 950 men respectively) as part of the Treaties of Alliance and of Guarantee. In the 1960 elections, he fully supported the veteran leader of the community, Dr. Fazıl Kuchuk, for the post of Vice-President of Cyprus; he stood for presidency of the Communal Government called the Communal Chamber. He argued:
‘This to me is more important.. Everybody is after becoming an MP at the Legislative Assembly or a Cabinet Minister at the Central Government where Turkish Cypriot People’s partnership share is 30%. To me the biggest challenge is to set up this new Communal Government and win the confidence of our people, and the most important, recognition of our partnership status in the body politic of Cyprus. This is proof of our equality as one of the two peoples who co-founded the Republic of Cyprus.
Within a short time the Turkish Cypriot Communal Chamber was fully and adequately established serving the Turkish Cypriot people in social, educational, religious, cultural matters, and through its Cooperative Institutions and Cooperative Central Bank served its economic affairs.
Meanwhile, important cases affecting the constitutional rights of the Turkish Cypriots had to be presented to the Supreme Constitutional Court, and Mr. Denktaş was the chosen advocate not only of his Community but also of aggrieved individuals.