Heidi Trautmann

943: In memoriam Harid Fedai, Literary Researcher and Writer


Literary Researcher and Writer

Born in 1930 in Lefka


In the Name of Turkish Literature


The old Saray Hotel was just the place for Harid Fedai and I to meet, a place where stories and destinies of the last 50 years sit in all corners and niches, happenings which no paint can cover up, they are there, locked into the atmosphere of the place.

When I entered the hotel coming in from the glare of the streets of old Nicosia I could just make out a long figure rising from an old-fashioned armchair in the entrance hall. “Are you the lady I am supposed to meet?”

Together with Nazif Bozatli, our mutual friend and confidant, we moved up to the top floor of the hotel where in the days before the opening of the thoroughfares in the dividing border wall, people came to catch a glimpse of a neighbour and brother in the South.

Harid Fedai carried with him an suitcase on wheels and we asked him if he intended to travel after our meeting. He answered with a twinkle in his eyes: “Oh, I thought I would stay overnight here, should our talks take longer than expected.” In it, as I correctly guessed, he had a collection of his 26 published books and material as back-up to our interview.




It is very natural that the jokes of ‘Hodja Nasreddin or Nasreddin Hodja’ are alive among Turkish Cypriots who are an extension of the people of Anatolia. These anecdotes encourage people to laugh, to learn lessons from events by mixing them with the humour of Hodja and with the purpose of making little of the obstacle you are facing. Hodja’s  ownership of the jokes is not strictly necessary; it is enough just to give his name.

Because, as Alpay Kabacalı claims, they are not Jokes by Nasreddin Hodja’ , but they are ‘Nasreddin Hodja jokes’.

Although a researcher can meet very few Nasreddin Hodja jokes when he or she scans the Turkish Cypriot press, it is obvious that they are very often used in the daily exchanges between the native folk.  Our Nasreddin Hodja is the self-invited guest at coffee house chats, private conversations and family reunions. When well-educated people expose contradictory attitudes, we use to define them as ‘men like Nasreddin Hodja’ and this proves his wisdom in addition to his bizarre manners.

Is our Hodja a joke-character of our own, a type belonging solely to Turks? No, he was also adapted amongst the Greeks who fully accepted him, without taking his roots into consideration.

However, there is only one difference; they know him as ‘Aslani Hodja’ with the letter (i) added to the adjective, because this is what they do to the words they take from Turkish. Additionally, the joke type Aslani Hodja is interpreted as ‘Priest’ instead of Hodja’ (the colloquial meaning of which is ‘teacher’) as the Turks view him. As it is obvious with this example, the Turk still needs the lessons of his or her Hodja and the same goes for the Greek with his or her Priest and this means that the humour and the weirdness continue to be relevant for both of them. So in general, different people like to amuse themselves by making fun of the personifications of each other with ‘Nasreddin Hodja’  and the Priest’.


He is a thoughtful and professional gentleman, in the true sense of meaning; a man who has witnessed the destiny of his generation and his people and has – since his early days – gone far beyond the existing and available evidence in the form of documents to find out about Cyprus’ roots. He is an archaeologist of literature, a digger, a detective, a Sherlock Holmes investigating the Ottoman background; this is what he has been named by colleagues in the literary world.

Harid Fedai comes from Lefke, a place which is imbued for me with a very special sweet and fruitful air and atmosphere, and where special people have lived among the orchards ,where the cool waters have a different taste and where I saw high royal palm trees and fruit-bearing citrus trees  in the winter months standing against the backdrop of the snow covered Troodos mountains. Harid Fedai told me, that “while one of my ancestors, Haci Pasa, the grandfather of my mother’s father, a Commander during the reign of Mahmut II (1808 – 1839) who had fought under Cezzar Ahmet Pasa in the Ottoman army against Napoleon in Egypt and won the battle of Akka, was on his return journey on his ship to Istanbul,  he passed Cyprus near Lefke and smelt the scent of orange blossoms and learnt that it came from Lefke. He ordered the captain to anchor and he disembarked in Gemikonaği. Once on land, he was immediately seduced by the charm of the area. Going back onboard and getting all his belongings unloaded, was the first step; buying a big piece of land and settling in the Lefke area was the next. ”  How easy it was in those days!

He continues: “Another root of my family is from the Bodamyalizade family. There are three noble and old families in Cyprus: the Menteşizadeler, the Kaytazzadeler and the Bodamyalizadeler. My grandfather’s father, Hasan Fedai, known by the nickname of Battal Ağa, was an Ottoman clerk in the times of Abdul Hamid II.   Hasan Hilmi Efendi (first half of 19th century) who was given the title ‘Greatest Poet of the Ottoman Empire’ during the reign of Sultan Mahmud II, was from the Menteşziade family.  Necmi Sagib (1897 – 1964) the owner and director of the Shakespeare School which contributed to Turkish Cypriot education for many years was from the Bodamyalizade family. The Shakespeare School was active from the end of the 1920s to the beginning of the 1950s. The members of these three families are still notables of the Turkish community.


There were big citrus farms, but wheat and barley were also grown; the workers were brought in from the Sudan together with their families. Many traditions surfaced and got mixed with the local ones “For example, it was believed that if a noble lady, having given birth to a child, considered breastfeeding not only her own baby but also the baby of the servant of the house, this one would also become noble. When my father’s elder brother was born, my grandmother breastfed the servant’s son and thus the children became milk brothers. Unfortunately, this young boy became greedy with money and eventually killed his milk brother in 1917. He was convicted and hanged.  Many descendants of these black workers still live in Cyprus, having  intermingled with the native population. My grandparents were very unhappy to have lost their son, so they left Lefke and settled in Nicosia. After the death of my grandparents (1926 and 1929) the large estates were left to two inexperienced members of the family, my father and my other uncle.”

During the global economic crisis in 1930, the wealth of Harid Fedai’s family could not be maintained and they suffered great losses.

Those were difficult times when Harid grew up, between two wars, but still, he was a boy and played boy’s games, football and other games with the boys in the street and his schoolmates.  There was a typically Cypriot game with sticks – çelik çomak or lingiri.  How is it played, I ask. “It is a game with two sticks, a short one placed on two stones and the other longer one is used to tip it and flip it into the air for the others to catch and one shouted “Maza-Göza-Andariza”.

“Nazif Bozatli interrupts and adds: “There is a similar game in Great Britain, it is called Tip-Cat, it dates back to the 17th century and was played at the beginning of the last century and later in America, too.”

Harid Fedai continues: “My primary school was near our house and I remember that I loved to get cookies from the school usher. Images pop up when I think back to those days in Lefke. You know, our houses had front gardens where we played, visiting each other”

In 1943 Harid Fedai finished primary school and out of 300 students, 60 were allowed to go to lycée in Nicosia after they had passed their exams, and he was among the 60. There was just only one lycée for Turkish Cypriots in Nicosia and in the whole of Cyprus. “Our school was near the Saint Sophia / Selemiye Mosque and I was able to stay with my aunt who lived in Nicosia. Our school headmaster was British, Mr John George Harold Wood, a very just and fair man, although he was married to an Armenian wife from Istanbul who hated us Turks. Our teachers were mostly Turkish. My favourite subject was the Turkish language and I knew early enough that I would make it the subject of my future studies.”


There was great poverty in Cyprus between the wars, and when World War II broke out and reached all corners of the Mediterranean, there were no jobs to be had and the only way for the men to support their families was to join the British army. The island population had been dwindling for a long time and the causes were many and varied.  There were 50 years of drought; there was malaria; there was syphilis brought in by the seamen and there was the constant threat of pirates from all sides. And, not to forget the events in October 1931 when the Greek Cypriots led by nationalists and church leaders declared enosis. Read the comments by David Carter on the internet if you want to learn more about it.


Harid Fedai remembers: “One day, near the village of Kırnı where I stayed as a boy during the summer holidays, I saw a German airplane shot down who had tried to bomb the British. The pilots had come down by parachute and were taken prisoner. There is a story that they saved a man’s life there in prison who had been taken ill. They asked to be allowed to collect herbs in the mountains and from that they brewed a concoction which saved him. Isn’t that a very special story?”

Anything was possible in those times. One asks oneself: how do people survive under such conditions?  People do, they just continue existing, reducing their demands. From my own childhood experience I know that those who owned a piece of land used every bit of it to plant the basics for their families to survive, exchanging what they had with what they lacked and people drew closer and tried to help each other.


“When I finished lycée in 1949 I wanted to go to Turkey to study Turkish language and literature but my family refused as my mother’s brother who had studied medicine in Istanbul in those days had become ill with lung disease and had had to return home. There were no antibiotics so lung infections usually ended with death. They also had heard that tuberculosis was raging among the people of Ankara who were also very poor then. The only thing I could do was to take up a job locally. I began working as a clerk in the Jetty Office of the CMC in Xeros, a small office at the edge of the harbour.  First I worked on the jetty but took courses to train in technical drawing. I was transferred to the Main Office in Skouriotissa and later to Mavrovouni and worked there as a tracer until 1951. I bought myself a BSA motorbike, so getting to and from work was easier.”

How was life in general, was there a change of atmosphere in the mixed society, I asked.

“Beneath the surface of society we all noticed a change to idealism among the Greek Cypriots, young people were brainwashed and often got into trouble, some of my close friends, too, and I am still sorry today that I did not fully recognize the entanglement.”


Thanks to a scholarship, Harid Fedai was able to enroll at the Gazi Educational Institute to become a teacher of Turkish language.

“All those years I had been seeking books and documents to find traces of the history of my nation. There was nothing mentioned in the newly written literature. When Atatürk introduced the Latin alphabet to use for our language, documents in the Ottoman language slowly disappeared into the background and from our life.” 

I had heard too, for example, that many of the old documents were used in grocery shops to wrap up goods.

“I was desperate”, Harid Fedai continues, “to find evidence and I went to Istanbul to continue my studies (1956 – 1960) and I learnt the Ottoman language in order to be able to read and understand the old documents. This decision of mine proved the turning point in my life. From that time on I never stopped digging for new documents and old manuscripts.”


Nazif Bozatli threw in a comment on this passion of Harid Fedai: “My friend here is known over the places to buy rare finds.  And not only documents, but also coins!

I remembered my visit to the National Archive in Kyrenia, where I had talked to the Director not so long ago; it was on the occasion of an exhibition of old documents discovered just recently. I was taken to see the old treasures in the archive, beautifully hand-painted Ottoman documents and I can understand the interest of wanting to understand them properly.


In 1952 Harid Fedai published a first translation of a book by Anthony Hope ‘The Prisoner of Zenda’, but because of the inter-communal troubles, he only started further publications of his concentrated research work over all those years in the 80s.

But let us continue following the thread of Harid Fedai’s life because all experiences lived add to the intellectual capital one works with later in life.


“I graduated from the university in Ankara in 1953 and worked as a secondary school teacher in Ktima (Paphos) for three years. During that period we had a severe earthquake in the Paphos area in September 1951 and I will not forget the time when we had to hold our classes in tents in the Efkav Park. Also, the days when the British would leave the island were approaching. Teachers and state officials were offered scholarships for further education abroad while payment of salaries continued, but on the condition that they passed the entrance exams. I was one of the winners and now my higher education began at Istanbul University, in the Faculty of Science and Literature, at the Department of Turkish Language and Literature.


After I graduated in 1960 I came back to Cyprus with my heart full of ideas. I was refused my first job as a teacher because of a speech I made in public.  The refusal came from a Mr Lightbody from the MI 5 Intelligence Service who had very strict ideas, but thanks to the intervention of friends and colleagues I started working as an Inspector of Turkish language and literature in the Turkish Educational Directorate. I was also teaching at the Turkish Teachers’ College seven hours a week. One day I heard of a vacancy for a deputy director in the Cyprus Broadcasting Services.

My application was accepted and I left the Turkish Educational Directorate with unpaid leave and started working for the radio department in February 1963 until December 1963, when all cooperation between Greek and Turkish Cypriots was ceased. I was the last one to leave the building.”

It was a time of desperate struggle that followed. The Turkish Cypriot community had no mechanical means of communicating amongst themselves and efforts were undertaken to establish radio stations and to distribute radios to the villages.

“In January 1964, taking advantage of a week-long ceasefire, I and my family went back to Lefke, my hometown, where I was offered a job as Director at the newly founded local broadcasting station. I stayed with them until 1968. BRT in Nicosia had started service at the same time.* In addition to this job I was assigned by the Administration of Lefke to some other organizational missions such as the irrigation of the gardens***, and representing the property owners in the mine prospecting processes of the CMC.

After 1968 Harid Fedai was transferred to Nicosia and became BRT programme and administration manager and top executive as from 1968 until 1983; in 1976 he founded BRT Television which took him eight months to set up.

“I worked hard to achieve it. Did you know that the first voice calling out into the universe Bayrak Bayrak Bayrak was the voice of one of our best actors, Kemal Tunç.  Actors and actresses were speaking the first news and programmes, such as Ayla Haşmet, and Üner Ulutağ.


In 1983, I was appointed Director of Examinations in the Public Services Commission. I worked in Girne American University, Lefke European University and the Eastern Mediterranean University as academic and executive. I am still teaching Turkish Cypriot Literature at the EMU. In 1988 I retired to focus completely on my studies and research on Turkish Cypriot culture.

When did he start to write , I asked. “I have always been writing, he explained. “for Masum Millet**** and Kibris Newspaper. My ‘nom de plume’ was then Ahmed Peykan.  I also wrote for Turkish newspapers; from 1949 – 50 I wrote for a famous newspaper founded by Atatürk himself. I met Nazif, our friend there, and Mr. Ecevit, journalist and poet, later Prime Minister of Turkey.”


From the introduction part of the paper entitled “Mehmed Aziz Bey, The Man Who Eradicated Malaria in Cyprus” submitted at the 38th International Congress on History of Medicine held in İstanbul on 1-6 September, 2002.


Malaria, defined generally as the “blight of malaria menacing the entire world from Indonesia to Venezuela and from Haiti to Iran”,  caused huge numbers of casualties on the island of Cyprus in the East Mediterranean particularly until the years of the Second World War (1939-1945). As a matter of fact, it is possible to explain the decreasing population and the frequent migrations from the island within the historical process, as due to epidemic illnesses such as the plague and cholera also prowling around the island besides malaria, the destruction caused by plagues of locusts from North Africa and the economic depression of the drought periods. 

Malaria became a great problem for the English who set foot on the island to capitalise on the opportunity of being on the route to India with the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869. Primarily, this meant that their top executives and the military personnel would come into close contact with death. This threat was sufficient for them to take the necessary precautions. Thus, before the end of their presence on the island for a quarter of a century, Larnaca District Health Supervisor Dr. G. A. Willamson recorded in 1900 that 470 of the 503 examined patients had malaria. In 1912, High Commissioner Sir Hamilton Gould-Adams informed the Foreign Ministry of Britain that malaria was widespread on the island, emphasizing that the approaches made by the local government were inadequate and he proposed that more efficient precautions be taken. Sir Ronald Ross was sent to Cyprus upon this request. The meeting of such a renowned scientist with young Turkish Cypriot Mehmed Aziz Bey is viewed as a milestone in the eradication of malaria.


From that time on,  Harid Fedai has published 30 books and more than 300 articles and proceedings. When I go through the list I can recognize some tendencies which stand out: besides articles he has written in newspapers and proceedings of conferences, there are collections of poems for example of Aşik Kenzi in 1700, or Kibris Müftüsü Hilmi Efendi (first half of the 14th century) , Handi biographies of famous people such as Dr. Hafiz Cemal Lokmanhekim, Bashakim Zeka Bey, …Cyprus history written by Ziver Bey in (?) often supported by lists of vocabulary and old Ottoman manuscripts.  Harid Fedai writes his own poetry too of which I have a copy: “Koza” which means “Cocoon”. 


First of May

It is 1st of May... But what for being in the bed...

Astir early in the morning I am...

Only just the dawn broke.

With the hoopoes came top of the morning

With all the scents of the Mediterranean filling the garden

Still the bitter oranges necessarily...

How nice it is to respire you with the flowers!..

I washed my face with dew drops then,

iterated your name loud and loud,

to make your ears ring


Perhaps you are in sound sweet sleep

all alone, however...

No worry, if it is me in your dreams

Apartness effects much more,

İf it is spring in the mornings...


Harid Fedai, from his book “Koza”

Translated by Nazif Bozatlı

Edited by…


As we lean back at the end of our talks Harid tells me a little more of his family background: “Did you know that I have French blood in my veins? One day a high-ranking Ottoman officer came visiting a wealthy Lusignan plantation by the name of Potamia on matters of control and tax, but he forgot all about it when a beautiful young girl entered offering the usual Ceviz (walnut) preserve as welcome present. There was no longer a question of tax because he got married to her.”


Note by the Author:

-The interview was done in 2010 and 2012.

-*see Volume I of my book about my encounter with people of the first beginnings of BRT.

-**) His nickname was Kasabanin Muallimi/Teacher of the Town;

-*** Harid Fedai is a most talented narrator; he told me that the Lefke gardens in his young days had names such as Angona, Aimama, Bunga, Barevolia, just to mention a few. The black snakes were sacred and treated well as guardians of the garden; they were fed with hellim and milk which they liked very much. The gate to these gardens were called ‘Gancelli’ obviously a term taken over from the Venetians.

-****) His second published book was a collection of articles he had written for Masum Millet (Innocent Nation) (see above).



-Zenda Mahkûmları (The Prisoner of Zenda, Anthony Hope), İstanbul 1952.

-Kıbrıs’ta Masum Millet Olayı, İstanbul, 1986

-Kıbrıslı Âşık Kenzî Divanı, I, II, III, İst. 1989, Ankara, 1993, 1993

-Rûh-i Mecrûh, (Ortak Çalışma) Kaytaz-zâde Nâzım Efendi, İst. 1993

-Fethiyye-i Cezîre-i Kıbrıs, Pîrî Efendi ve Kıbrıs Tarihçesi, Ârif Dede, Ankara 1997

-Kıbrıs Sanayi Mektebi, Ankara 1997

-Lefkoşe Mevlevihânesi, (Ortak Çalışma) Ankara 1997.

-Türkiye Dışındaki Türk Edebiyatları Antolojisi-9: Kıbrıs Türk Edebiyatı, Ankara 1997,

-Koza, Şiirleri, Harid Fedai, İstanbul, 1997

-Kıbrıs Efsâneleri, Hikmet Akif Mapolar, Lefkoşa, 1997

-Adsız Kitap (Ortak çalışma, İngilizce’siyle birlikte) : The Book Without Title, Ankara 1997

-Kıbrıs Târihi, Zîver Bey, Ankara 1999

-Hatıralar, (Ortak Çalışma) Fâdıl Niyazi Korkut, Magosa –Kıbrıs, 2000

-Kıbrıs Müftüsü Hilmi Efendi, Şiirler, İlâveli İkinci Baskı, Lefkoşa 2000

-Anı Yaşantı, Dr. Hâfız Cemal Lokmanhekim, İstanbul 2000

-Kıbrıs Türk Kültürü. Bildiriler-I, Ankara 2003

-Başhâkim Zekâ Bey, Lefkoşa 2002

-Handî Dîvanı-I Gazeller, Ankara 2003

-Kıbrıs Türk Kültürü, Bildiriler-II Ankara 2003

-Cümel-i Müntehâbe-i Kemal, Ankara 2003

-Yâdigâr-ı Muhabbet, (Ortak çalışma. İngilizce’siyle birlikte) Kaytaz-zâde Nâzım, 3 cilt, Lefkoşa 2004

-Kıbrıs Türk Kültürü, Makaleler-I, Lefkoşa 2005

-Eski Şeyler, Ahmed Rāik, Lefkoşa 2006

-Avrupa’da Seyahat Hatıraları, (Ortak Çalışma) Dr. Şerafeddin Mağmumi, İstanbul 2008

-Silik Sayfalar, Harid Fedai’nin Anıları, Sivil Savunma Teşkilât Başkanlığı Yayını:3, Lefkoşa 2009

-Dîvân-ı Şeyh Mustafa Zekâyi, (Oruç Baba), Ankara 2009

-Eyyâm-ı Girîzân, Manastırlı Behâe’d-dîn Beğ, Lefkoşa 2010

-Kuş-Hasanlar, nâm-ı diger, Hasan –Bulliler, Kıbrıs’ın Eşkıyâsı, Lefkoşa 2011

-Tesâlyâ’da Bir Cevelân ve Dört Aylık Seyâhatım, Süleyman Tevfik, 1899 (1315)-2011

-Türk Toprağında, Dr. Ignác Kúnos, Budapeşte 1911, (ortak çalışma), Ankara 2011


















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