Biography – North Cyprus Founding President Rauf Raif Denktas
Rauf Denktas was a Turkish Cypriot politician, barrister and jurist who served as the founding president of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus from 1983 to 2005. Besides, he was the president of the Turkish Federated State of Cyprus between 1975 and 1983 and was the president of the Autonomous Turkish Cypriot Administration between 1974 and 1975. He was also elected in 1973 as the Vice-President of the Republic of Cyprus.
Denktas was the son of judge Raif Mehmet Bey and Emine Hanim and was born in Paphos. He graduated from English School, Nicosia in Cyprus. Following his graduation he worked as a translator in Famagusta after that as a court clerk and then as a teacher for one year in the English School. He later went to Istanbul and London, training first as a teacher and then as a barrister at Lincoln’s Inn. He graduated in 1947 and returned home to practice law. In 1948 Denktas served as a member of the Consultative Assembly in search of self-government for Cyprus and became a member of the Turkish Affairs Committee. He was a crown prosecutor 1949 – 1958.
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 London and Zurich Agreements (signed 19 February 1959). In 1960, Cyprus won independence from Britain, and the Republic of Cyprus was established. Denktas was elected as the President of the Turkish Communal Chamber. In the 1973 vice-presidential elections, he replaced Dr. Fazıl Küçük. Denktas 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 declaration of independence of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and was elected as the President of the TRNC in 1985, then in 1990, 1995, and 2000. On 14 May 2004, Denktas announced he would not be standing for a fifth term as the president of the TRNC in the next election to be held in 2005. Ending his official involvement in politics, he continued expressing his views effectively on media and fighting for his ideals to safeguard the rights of his people until the end of his life.
Personal life and awards
Denktas is also well known as a photographer and a writer. His photographs have been exhibited in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Italy, some of the former republics of the Soviet Union, Poland, France, Austria and Turkey. He has written about fifty books in English and Turkish, some of which are; ‘The Cyprus Problem: 1968, 1983, 1987’, ‘Advice to the Youth: 1985’, ‘My Vision for Cyprus: 1988’, ‘Denktas as a Photographer, Images from Northern Cyprus: 1991’, ‘Memoirs of Rauf Denktas, 1964–74, Volumes I – X (1964), 1996 – 2000’.
Denktas has been the recipient of many awards and honorary doctorates given by various universities in Turkey, the TRNC and the United States. He was married and had three sons and three daughters. He lost a daughter at the age of three, one son, Raif in a traffic accident and another son in a tonsillectomy. His surviving son Serdar Denktas is the leader of the Turkish Cypriot Democratic Party, and currently the minister of Finance of the Cabinet.
Illness, death and funeral
Denktas’s health gradually deteriorated throughout the 2000s. He died on 13 January 2012 in Nicosia. The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus declared a weeklong mourning period, while Turkey declared five days’ mourning. His funeral, which thousands attended, was held on 17 January. He was buried in Nicosia.