One of the most significant personalities from the British Turkish Cypriot community, Fikret Derviş, has passed away aged 86 years old.
Derviş, a former President of the Council of Turkish Cypriot Associations (UK), had been struggling with ill-health for the past few years. He had been in a care home since last July and was admitted to hospital a month ago, where he sadly died on 10 February 2023.
His family have now announced his funeral arrangements. A service for Fikret Derviş will be held at Palmers Green Mosque, in North London, on the morning of Tuesday, 21 February.
Derviş will then make his final journey to Enfield, where he will be laid to rest at Lavender Hill Cemetery, with a graveside service due to start at 11am.
His family have asked that instead of flowers at the funeral, those attending instead give donations to the Turkiye earthquake appeal. Muslim cleric Husayn Hoca, who will be administering the funeral service for Fikret Derviş, will have a donation box on the day of the funeral for those wishing to donate.
Funeral Service: 9.30am at Palmers Green Mosque, 30 Oakthorpe Road, Palmers Green, London N13 5JL
Burial: 11am at Lavender Hill Cemetery, in the Strayfield Road section, Enfield EN2 9JE.
About Fikret Derviş
Fikret Derviş was born in Lefkoşa / Nicosia in 1937. Both his parents were both from Büyükkonuk, a village on the Karpaz peninsula in northeast Cyprus. The family decided to reside in Mağusa / Famagusta, where the young Derviş attended the local primary school, Mağusa Gazi İlkokulu.
He came live with his sister and brother-in-law in London soon after, attending high school at Sir William Collins Secondary School, followed by St Pancras Technical School, where Derviş studied to become a Mechanical Engineer by doing an apprenticeship for five years.
His career included working in the engineering department of global beverages brand Schweppes.
As a young man, Derviş got involved with the British Turkish Cypriot community. He first came to prominence assisting with a variety of vital aid works to support beleaguered Turkish Cypriots in his Cypriot homeland, who came under attack following the outbreak of the Cyprus Conflict in December 1963.
Like many Turkish Cypriots who took up a new life in London, Derviş quickly joined the Kıbrıs Türk Cemiyeti / Cyprus Turkish Association, which was based in D’Arblay Street, Soho.
During the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, the Kıbrıs Türk Cemiyeti and its D’Arblay Street headquarters served as the heart of London’s growing Turkish Cypriot community. It was here that members and activists would gather, Turkish Cypriot leaders such as Rauf Denktaş would visit and work, and crucial news on events back home, including about Turkish Cypriots killed or missing, could be learned from its newsletters and noticeboards.
Derviş was elected the Cemiyet’s chairman in 1963, remaining in this role until 1968. During these critical years, he worked closely with the Turkish Embassy, which for a time was headed by Ambassador Zeki Kuneralp – Boris Johnson’s uncle – as well as the first Turkish Cypriot Ambassador to London, Ahmet Ahmet Gazioğlu, and the Turkish Cypriot Aid Committee, formed in 1964 and initially headed by Oktay Hamit.
Even when his time as Cemiyet head came to an end, Derviş remained an ardent supporter of Turkish Cypriot civil society in Britain, spending much of his adult life involved in key community organisations.
He worked as a full-time Coordinator at the Cyprus Turkish Cultural Association in Hackney and was responsible for education projects at the Turkish Youth Association (TYA) in Haringey.
He was also part of the management of the Turkish Football Federation in its early years, helping to reconcile the body, which had essentially split into two factions after becoming polarised over the responses to events back in Cyprus.
Derviş also played a unifying force in Council of Turkish Cypriot Associations UK (CTCA), where he served as the fifth President from September 1992 to September 1996. His committee included Arif Tahir Erişen (Secretary), Ertan Hürer (Treasurer), İbrahim Cemal, Türker Çakıcı, Kerim Kağan and Mehmet Salih Öksüzoğlu.
The UK’s largest umbrella body for Turkish Cypriots, CTCA had been formed in 1983 to champion the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus (TRNC), yet this core part of its mission had alienated many on the Turkish Cypriot Left, who yearned to reunite Cyprus under a federal umbrella.
Derviş sought to heal these cracks, by formally trying to secure membership to the CTCA of groups associated with the Turkish Cypriot Left. While he was unsuccessful in changing the CTCA constitution to become more inclusive of those with different views on a future Cyprus solution, Derviş did manage to forge co-operation with groups outside of CTCA, and progress issues of common interest, such as improvements to the law on compulsory military service in the TRNC for Turkish Cypriots who lived abroad.
“I have always advocated unity. I suggested that it is possible for us to act together both around our problems here [in the UK] and the Cyprus problem. We established the ‘Turkish Cypriot Forum for the EU’ together with leftist associations, which I believe has done a very successful job during my presidency, and we visited Brussels and talked about our Cyprus case,” Derviş said in 2017, as reported on the CTCA website.
“The July 20 celebration committee, which also includes leftist organisations, was established for the first time during my presidency. Ahmet Kaşif, one of the [TRNC] ministers of the time, also attended the joint event held at the Regency Banqueting Suite within the framework of the 20 July celebration activities,” Derviş added.
For years after his term as CTCA President, Derviş lamented how the umbrella body slid back into its partisan ways, advocating a form of nationalism about the TRNC that alienated Turkish Cypriot Leftists instead of acting as a unifier for the entire estimated 300,000 strong UK community.
“‘We need to provide a real unity and solidarity and be embracing without excluding anyone. Otherwise, we will not be able to make progress and reach the desired good points as a society,” Derviş said in the same CTCA interview.
He was also critical of those who took aim at CTCA with the intention of pulling the body down instead of helping it up, and then that CTCA had failed to purchase a building and secure a permanent home for itself.
Derviş remained politically active after his CTCA years as a volunteer activist, lobbying British officials on behalf of the TRNC. He helped to raise tens of thousands of pounds towards the reforestation of the Five Finger Mountains after the devasting fire of 1996.
In 2017, Derviş attended the CTCA Gala Awards to collect an award on behalf of his niece, best-selling author Sibel Hodge.
Derviş was married Nurten Hanım in 1967, who survives him. The couple had a son, Atila, who is married and lives in London with his family.