Rüstem Tatar, the father of President Ersin Tatar, passed away in the early hours of Saturday, 24 April, aged 90. The news was announced by the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus (TRNC) Presidency.
He was laid to rest the same day in the capital Lefkoşa in accordance with Islamic customs, with just close family and state dignitaries present due to the Covid-19 restrictions.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and senior officials, and the Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades called the TRNC President to extend their condolences for the loss of his father.
A former Auditor General of the Republic of Cyprus (1960-63), the Minister of Finance for the Cyprus Turkish Administration (1964-76) and Turkish Cypriot Representative of the Committee of Missing Persons in Cyprus, Rüstem Tatar was a prominent Turkish Cypriot political figure throughout his life.
Born on October 23, 1930, in the village of Yakacık, in Paphos district, Rüstem Tatar was a bright boy who came top of his class at the Cyprus Turkish Boys High School College.
He gained a first in the London Matriculation exam in 1948, and went on to graduate with a first class honours degree in Finance and Economics from the University of Nottingham.
Between 1951 to 1955, he completed his training at the financial auditing company Moore & Moore, receiving his Chartered Accounts Diploma from the British Financial Consultative Institute in 1955.
After returning to Cyprus in 1955, Rüstem Tatar served as a 1. Class Revenue Officer at the Revenues Department, going on to become the Director of the Revenues Department between 1958 and 1959.
He was a co-founder of the Cyprus Turkish Public Sector Workers’ Union where he served as General Secretary.
In 1959, he married his first wife, Canev. The couple had two sons, Ersin Tatar and his younger brother Erhan.
Canev Tatar tragically passed away in 1968, when Ersin Tatar was aged 8. The widowed Rüstem Tatar had to bring up his two sons alone during a difficult period for Turkish Cypriots living under oppressive conditions in Cyprus, yet he combined his parenting duties with his demanding political life.
Rüstem Tatar was the economic advisor of the Turkish Cypriot delegation during the negotiations, attending the historic signing of the 1959 London and Zurich agreements that led to the establishment of the bi-communal partnership Republic of Cyprus in 1960.
He was appointed the Republic’s first Auditor General. He also represented the newly independent state at international summits.
His role as Auditor General was cut short after the power-sharing government collapsed in December 1963, following planned Greek Cypriot attacks against the smaller Turkish Cypriot community.
Launched island-wide on 21 December, these brutal attacks continued over Christmas and New Year, earning it the name ‘Bloody Christmas’. As Greek Cypriots violently seized control of the Republic and its government, hundreds of Turkish Cypriots were killed and over 20,000 displaced.
Turkish Cypriots quickly set up their own administration in January 1964, with Rüstem Tatar involved in the financial and accounting sections of the General Committee.
In addition to these duties, he also served as the Head of the Audit Department and as the President of the Turkish Civil Servants Cooperative Savings Bank Ltd during the period 1964-1967.
Between the years 1967 to 1976, Rüstem Tatar served as the Minister of Finance and Budgetary Affairs in the Temporary Turkish Cypriot Administration, which evolved into the Turkish Cypriot Administration and later the Autonomous Turkish Cypriot Administration.
In 1976, he founded Tatar & Co., working as an independent financial advisor and auditor. He also became a financial advisor to the newly formed Turkish Cypriot Airlines in 1976-77.
Rüstem Tatar was appointed Special Adviser on the Economy and Finance to the President of the Turkish Cypriot Federated State (KTFD) in 1977.
For four years, between 1977 and 1981, he chaired the KFTD delegation that liaised with the European Economic Community.
He served as a Board Member, Vice President and Deputy General Manager of Cyprus Turkish Tourism Enterprises during the same period.
In 1977, he married another widow, İsmet Hanım and had a third child, Havva Tatar, and adopted İsmet Hanım’s two older sons, Ertuğ and Necat Ertuğrul.
Between 1984-2005, Rüstem Tatar served as the Turkish Cypriot Representative of the Committee of Missing Persons in Cyprus, formed under the auspices of the United Nations.
Despite his advancing years, Rüstem Tatar remained active in public life. As President of the TRNC Chartered, Certified and Certified Public Accountants Association and into his retirement after 2005, he continued to provide consultancy and significant advice and support to the Turkish Cypriot state on a variety of issues.
Earlier this year, his incredible life story was captured in a book, ‘Her Şeye Rağmen-Rüstem Tatar: Başarı, Adalet ve Hüznün Hikayesi’ (Despite All – Rüstem Tatar: A Story of Success, Justice and Sorrow’). The biography was written by renowned Turkish journalist Ferhat Atik.
Throughout his life Rüstem Tatar played a major role in Turkish Cypriot public life, leaving behind a huge legacy.
The Turkish Cypriot people will never forget the long years of service he has dedicated to them, taking his place in the national struggle to co-exist in Cyprus, helping Turkish Cypriots fight for their political rights during their darkest days to the present. May he forever rest in peace.
Rüstem Tatar, 1930-2021.
Main photo, top, of Rüstem Tatar and his eldest son Ersin Tatar. Photo © Ertuğrul Çavuşoğlu