By Sermen Erdogan….
(Melbourne, Australia) ….
I remember the very first time my father sent me to the Vatan Eczanesi (Pharmacy) at Sarayönü in Nicosia to get a Lokmanhekim cream for his backache in 1962. I was intrigued as a 10 year old by the cartoon character on the box of Lokmanhekim cream . I was entertained by the hodja figure in colour and remember it vividly almost 60 years ago.
So when I read the book by Ahmet Cavit An on the Valued People Cyprus Raised and I came across the Lokmanhekim story, I learned that he was a Cypriot which I was compelled to investigate further to see who this man was.
Lokmanhekim was synonymous with a lot of herbal remedies, healing or soothing creams and natural biotherapy treatments in Cyprus and Turkey at one stage. There are large health clinics and Lokmanhekim Hospitals in Istanbul and the major cities of Turkey. Not many Cypriots know much about Lokmanhekim and his achievements. So, who was Lokmanhekim?
Dr. Hafiz Cemal nicknamed Lokmanhekim (Doctor Lokman ) was born in 1878 in Paphos. His Father Nuh Taci came from Bor, Konya in Turkey and his mother was Emine Molla of Ktima Paphos. They had a girl Aliye and a boy Cemal. The only reference to his sister was in a thank-you notice that Cemal placed in Hür Söz newspaper for a doctor Şefket in Limassol for saving his sister Aliye from the typhoid epidemic. In another article, his sister was mentioned by a retired teacher Sıtkı Dersev, the sister as a midwife Leman which is a bit contradictory.
Cemal started primary school in the Lower mosque in Ktima. He continued his education in the Paphos middle School and at Limassol Medrese (Comparable to High School) at Bridge Mosque still standing today. He was sent to Beirut for further education at a high school by his father. After his father’s death, he ended in İstanbul and graduated from the Military Medical Faculty as a Doctor. After his education, he settled in Istanbul and joined the Young Turks movement who were opposing the Sultan’s rule. He found out that he would be deported to Yemen because of his liaison with Young Turks by the Ottoman Sultan. He escaped to Europe and then moved back to Cyprus in 1905.
At that time the Cypriot Turks were living a miserable life politically and economically due to the circumstances of the government of the time. As you might remember Cyprus was a British colony in those times. Hafız Cemal kept himself busy by writing books on politics and health. Initially, he set up a school where he was teaching Arabic, English, French, Greek and Turkish so that students could extend their language capacity to help them gain entrance to universities in other countries as there were no universities in Cyprus. He was keen on Turkish students to go to Turkey and be trained in becoming doctors and ancillary health workers like nursing. He also set up a technical school to encourage trade and production in the Cypriot Turkish community between 1907-1912.
He organized teachers from Europe and Turkey to teach in the school he set up in the Kuru Çeşme area in Nicosia. He was successful with the school in that in a short time the school graduated 500 tradesmen in many professions such as shoemaking, carpet weaving, metalwork, hat making, carpentry, farming, etc… He used to help students produce handmade items such as umbrellas, tin containers, buckets and sell them in the Friday market. However, he had people opposing his activities that stressed him out and caused his health to suffer.
Dr. Fazil Küçük in an article in his Newspaper Halkin Sesi described Dr. Hafız Cemal as a very admirable and an exemplary doctor. Dr. Küçük wrote ‘He travelled around villages and talked to the villagers in the language they understood, healing their ailments’. Dr. Cemal Hafız quickly figured out that the Cypriot Turkish community was lacking skilled tradesmen and very poor in the production of goods and services. So he set up the technical school putting all his wealth into the school for the benefit of the Cypriot community’. It was not easy for Dr. Hafız Cemal to convince the parents due to the agrarian nature of the society and the need of parents to use their young children in the daily tasks of the villages in their fields and gardens. There was also opposition from some sections of the Nicosia society from his adversaries. However, he did not give up and struggled on, to the extent where he put most of his time into his school and was teaching some classes himself as a teacher. In the end, the opposition and their cronies succeeded in beating his eagerness which resulted in him closing down his school. He became so stressed he was hospitalised for some time.
An interesting anecdote also mentioned about this period relates to Canon Darvel Newham. A renowned poet and writer Özker Yaşın in his Book Nevzat ve Ben Volume 1, wrote about an interview that took place between Yaşın’s friend Nevzat Karagil and Dr. Hafiz Cemal. Cemal explains in this interview in 1947 that he had a very close relationship with Canon Newham who worked in Cyprus for 46 years and was an education inspector and the Director of the Department of Education. Newham was also the key person who set up the English School of Cyprus.
Dr. Hafiz Cemal met Newham in 1905. Newham taught him English as Cemal wanted to improve his English. The success of many Cypriots of both Greek and Turkish background in Cyprus and foreign countries was made possible by the English School set up by Newham. (I believe Canon Newham’s grave is in Kyrenia English Cemetery).
After one year of opening his Technical School, Dr. Hafiz Cemal invited Canon Newham to an exhibition of products of his students. Cemal said “Newham came and went around studying the exhibits carefully. He was very impressed by the work of my students and congratulated me on a firm handshake”. Newham said “these sorts of institutions are started by kings and governments who have a lot of means and limitless money. You have spent from your wealth and succeeded in an excellent result that will be very beneficial to the businessmen of Cyprus”.
Later on in Ramadan celebrations, Newham, on Cemals invitation, came to another exhibition and bought a fair few items and again he positively congratulated him by a handshake and said “I am very impressed by your efforts. I encourage you to continue your efforts”. Cemal said to Nevzat” I was having a hard time by my countrymen who were opposing my efforts to the extent, where they would hire people to follow me around on my way to my school and chant ‘here comes the mad Doctor’. There was no support from any of the businesses or the rich in the society for my school’s activities. In the end, I was forced to close down the school in the fifth year of operation, as I got very stressed and exasperated, I ended up in the hospital. Canon Newham came to visit me at Nicosia hospital. He was accompanied by the Nicosia Hospital Manager, Dr. Klevelen. The doctor examined me and said that I have to change my life circumstances if I wanted to live on and I should go away to rest. Newham comforted me and said “I feel very sorry for you as I followed your impressive activities since you returned to Cyprus. But I feel very sorry for the Moslem people of Cyprus more, as they do not know what they are missing out for their future. In that, they have not appreciated that you single-handedly set up a school that would have been very beneficial for their future lives. They did not understand that what you did was an opportunity that they will never have again and it will be too late when they realise it. Dr. Hafiz Cemal said that his heart still aches when he remembers when Newham said those words to him.
When Dr. Hafız Cemal recovered enough he sold up whatever he had in Cyprus and left for Istanbul. His life in Istanbul after the WW1 was very busy with his clinic work. However, he returned to Cyprus from time to time to see his family and satisfy his longing for Cyprus. He continued following the Cypriot news and kept up to date with news of Cyprus through newspapers. On his visitations to Cyprus, he would travel from village to village treating the sick villagers as a doctor and listening to their problems.
When Cemal returned to Istanbul he had further treatment for his ailment until he was fully recovered. He joined the Red Crescent (Comparable to Red Cross). Later on WW1 started, so he joined the Ottoman Army and was sent as a doctor to the Egyptian border and then on to Jerusalem by the military. There is no other information about his war effort that I could glean and talk about, unfortunately. Once the war finished he returned to İstanbul.
Dr. Fazıl Küçük also mentions Dr. Hafız Cemal’s literature contributions to Cyprus and Turkey. Küçük attributes the starting of the Doğru Yol (The right Way) and Hür Söz (The Free Word) newspapers of Remzi Okan to the encouragement of Dr. Hafız Cemal in 1936. Also, Dr. Hafız Cemal started producing a magazine by the name Lokmanhekim in Istanbul in 1936 which was handling many community health issues. The magazine was read widely by health professionals and the community in Turkey and Cyprus and was produced for 25 years. Due to his magazine, he started to be known as Lokmanhekim and adopted this name as a surname.
Cemal wrote a book called “Bandit in Cyprus under British Rule”. His long poem about Hasan Bulliler (one of the renowned murderers’ gangs around the 1930s) that were shot by police in an ambush is well known as a folk story till today. The poem was recited by a well-known poet around Nicosia by an old guy named Aynalı who was also a narrator of poems. I remember as a child listening to Aynalı with wide-open eyes when he recited this epic story to a group of men on the side of Mecidiye street off Sarayönü Nicosia
Özker Yaşın who wrote 3 volumes on his friendship with Nevzat Karagil called Nevzat ve Ben (Nevzat and me) describes Nevzat Karagils visiting Dr. Hafiz Cemal Lokmanhekim at his clinic in İstanbul. Upon Dr. Derviş Manizade the chairmen of Cypriots from Cyprus Schools Association recommendation Nevzat Karagil goes to see and enroll Dr. Cemal Hafız Lokmanhekim as a member to the said organisation. Nevzat remembers Lokmanhekim as a very aware, tall, dark, 70-year old who looked like a 50-year-old man. He was interested in everything to do with Cyprus. Nevzat Karagil’s impressions of him were very positive. He said that ”in those years Dr. Hafiz Cemal Lokmanhekim was a very well known name around İstanbul. He was constantly written about, interviewed and he advised on different illnesses and treatments with natural herbal medicines. His clinic was in Kandilli on Divanyolu.” When Nevzat Karagil visited Lokmanhekim his recollection was how he disliked the herbal health tea offered to him by Lokmanhekim. He drank it regardless out of respect towards the doctor, without bringing up his lunch he said. But on later visitations, he says he started liking this tea.
After Nevzat Karagil introduced himself and explained why he was there they started telling each other their life stories. Nevzat’s life story and difficulties he faced as a student brought on Dr. Lokmanhekim’s sad story as well. He faced a very troubled life as a student in Beirut, Lebanon, and Turkey he said. There was a time when he had no money to eat or rent a room. He said he slept under bridges or parks some nights in İstanbul. But persevered working hard both at school and outside life as a porter to sustain himself. He managed to become a doctor from the Military Medical School in the early 1900s.
Dr. Hafız Cemal also was interested in young Cypriots and encouraged them to write poems and literary books. In an article in the Hür Söz newspaper, he wrote an editorial article on how to encourage young people of Cyprus. The next day in another article he stipulated that he aimed to encourage all aspiring young poets and writers to write and produce literary pieces for and about Cyprus. He asked one of the young aspiring young poets named Osman Turkay who is a world-renowned poet now, to type his poems and give to him and promised to publish them in his Lokman Hekim magazine.
Cemal also wrote many other poems himself and produced a poem book. Unfortunately, many of his books were sold or given out free around the 1930s. Only one copy of this book of poems remains in a library in Turkey. I am not aware if there are any copies available in Cyprus. He also wrote many health articles which he got printed with his means and distributed them to people of Cyprus free of charge. His newspaper called Islam was produced between 1907 and 1909 weekly for 95 times and monies raised through this endeavor were allocated to an organization called Cemiyet-i Hayriye İslamiye (Benevolent Islamic Society) which helped poor students in their education. He also wrote an analysis of the Cyprus community and what he observed during his stay in Cyprus for 5 years. This book was a 155-page document that was converted into today’s Turkish by Harid Fedai and was published in Istanbul in 2001 by “Dr. Hafız Cemal Lokmanhekim and his wife Sabiha Lokmanhekim Health Trust“. This book might still be available I suspect in second-hand booksellers or some libraries in Turkey.
Dr. Hafiz Lokmanhekim died on 19 April 1967 and was buried at Feriköy Cemetery in İstanbul. He is survived by his wife Sabiha Lokmanhekim and his children. Before his death, he formed the trust called Lokmanhekim Sağlık Vakfı (Lokmanhekim Health Trust) that survives him until today.
A coloured cartoon character on a box of Lokmanhekim pharmaceutical took me into a wonderland. Amazingly I feel this man still lives through his good deeds in his stories. What amazes me also is why does Cyprus keep losing her good people, such as this great man.
1. Ahmet AN, Kıbrısın Yetiştirdiği Değerler( 1782-1899) Akçağ Yayınlar ISBN975-338-8, Burak Matbaası, 2002 Ankara. PP251-258
2. Halkın Sesi (Newspaper) 8-9 Haziran 1974
3. Özker Yaşın , Nevzat ve Ben , CILT1, Yeşilada Yayınları, 1997 PP217-234
4. FEDAİ, Harid. Kıbrıs Sanayi Mektebi, KKTC Milli Eğitim, Kültür, Gençlik ve Spor Bak.
Yayın., Ankara 1997, P64 .
5.Oğuz Karakartal, Dr Hafız Cemal (Lokman Hekim) Bir Teşhis ve Reçete : Kıbrıs Osmanlılarından Mahsus Parlak İstikbal Proğramı
Kıbris Araştırmaları İncemeleri Dergisi, Mayıs 2017 PP39-52