By Chris Elliott…
Of all of the people we have met in Northern Cyprus we have been so impressed by Mr John Aziz Kent a TRNC Patriot, Father of North Cyprus Tourism and for his quest that the TRUTH of Cyprus be told so the world understands the whole issue.
For this reason we presented him with the CyprusScene.com award for his lifelong quest to achieve his aims.
John Aziz Kent was born in the Dillirga area of Cyprus on 15th May 1934 and was the son of Mehmet Zeybek and Fatma Muslu who had six children in all, three boys and three girls.
The area of Cyprus known as Dillirga is the poorest and least fertile part of Cyprus and the inhabitants were all looked down on as the poor inferior cousins of Cypriot Greeks and Turks alike.
John was named Cevdet but as he was a sickly child it was decided to change his name to Aziz Mehmet. He lived in a house provided by CMC mines in the village of Skouridissa before being moved with his family by the company to Karadag (Lefke).
As the years rolled by John helped support his family by working in any way that he could and when his father was disabled in an accident at the CMC mines this had a lasting effect on him and he became very strong and ambitious.
In 1951 after forging his birth certificate to show he was nineteen he was recruited for training in Famagusta before being shipped to Egypt to help the British Forces with the defence of the Suez Canal.
Whilst there he fancied myself as a boxer and joined the Army boxing club and with hardly any training he learned the hard way and was put up against a top amateur heavyweight boxer who he was hardly able to hit. After losing the bout with a severe beating from his opponent, who was one of the best boxers in the army, he said to John “’My God you are a hard man to knock out”.
On his return to Cyprus there was very little work except in the Mines so he obtained a job with the Limni Mines Corporation in Polis where he worked underground in conditions which were terrible. As he spoke Turkish, Greek and English he was then given a job as an interpreter in the mining area.
The Cyprus mines John in the early 50s
From here he moved to CMC mines, in Karadağ, but following a layoff of many of the workforce John was able to go back to his old job as interpreter at Limni Mines Corporation in Polis where he was trained to use explosives and put in charge of the dynamite stock and was promoted to Foreman.
By now the Cyprus troubles started by the Greek Cypriots had accelerated and Turkish Cypriots felt very vulnerable and he joined a defence group called Volkan. He managed to persuade a bunch of young men to join with him and he became their leader in that part of Cyprus in the town of Polis.
He also met Captain Lionel Savery in Lefke who was the British Chief of the Intelligence Service in Cyprus and was asked to help them.
With the passage of time John became known as a leading representative in defending the Turkish Cypriots and with threats being made to kill him and a number of his friends being killed he left for the UK.
On arrival in the UK after looking for work John got a job in a laundry loading the huge laundry machines and after a series of other jobs, needing to earn more money, he worked for a while at weekends washing dishes at Lyons Corner House in the Strand.
After working hard and earning money and investing in buying properties, John was introduced to Soho and wanted to be a part of it. His opportunity came when he was able to buy “Au Refuge” (“Sanctuary” – registered as a members’ drinking club). As his business developed he changed this club into a discotheque and now opportunities arose and he opened a number of other clubs and eventually owned The Celebrity in Clifford Street.
Then it was time to think about returning to his homeland and the idea of him building a hotel in Lapta seemed incredible to his friends. Hotel business was not a Turk’s business and not in Lapta itself. On a day John and his friends went to the Baspinar ancient spring to entertain themselves, the Greeks did not behave well towards them. The grocers in the village and then at the restaurant by the spring had all shown their dislike towards them as Turkish Cypriots.
All Turkish villages in the countryside were besieged by the Greeks. Thousands of Turks had left their homes and taken refuge in other areas. Many Turks were kidnapped and nothing more was heard of them. As a result of the prevailing situation, only a few jobs were allocated to Turks.
But John Aziz Kent was determined to put his aspirations into practice. He felt himself compelled to do so by his love for his homeland. He was going to restore the glories of ancient days which had once enlightened these lovely shores.
After many difficulties he eventually managed to move his construction of the Celebrity Hotel forward in 1974 and this was followed by Chateau Lambousa Hotel and its Bungalows and he then started marketing holidays through his own travel agency and as the years rolled forward he started the TRNC Hoteliers Association and is still their Honorary Founding President.
Valerie and John Aziz Kent Time to celebrate
As the founding father of Turkish Cypriot Tourism it’s no surprise that he has remained an outspoken critic of what needs to be done to improve tourism despite the unfair embargo placed on his country and he says if the TRUTH of Cyprus is told and accepted, then the TRNC will be recognised and with the world it can move in peace and harmony.
John has never forgotten his Cypriot roots in the Dillirga area of Cyprus and is the founder of the International Cyprus Turkish Dillirga Association which was founded in 2018 and has around 25,000 members.
Perhaps it’s appropriate that John Aziz Kent summarises his life’s work as follows.
“On reflection, if I had concentrated my efforts on my businesses in London I would have been extremely wealthy now, instead of in debt, but I had this crazy notion of wanting to do something for the Turkish Cypriot community and I am still doing it.”