An online petition has been launched asking the Cypriot parliament to recognise the work of Mehmed Aziz and his team who were widely credited with eradicating malaria in Cyprus during the colonial years.
Aziz was the chief health inspector for the British colonial government of Cyprus in the 1930s and 1940s and together with a select team of Greek and Turkish Cypriot inspectors they managed to eradicate the disease that had plagued the country for centuries.
For his work, Aziz was made a CBE by the British crown in 1950.
The Times newspaper wrote at the time that it was a three-year project “largely carried out by the Cypriots themselves under the skilful organisation of Mr Mehmed Aziz, the island’s chief health inspector, who studied with Sir Ronald Ross.”
Aziz was the originator of the idea and methodology to eradicate malaria, having studied similar attempts to control the disease in Egypt.
The American Medical Association said that Aziz was honoured for his achievement in Cyprus, called the great liberator and likened to Ireland’s St Patrick for ridding the island of a pest far more insidious than snakes.
Aziz was quoted as saying: “I was brought up in a village where sanitary conditions were bad. Many young people died who probably would have lived had conditions been better. If in the course of my service I have done something for the improvement and welfare of my country, that is the greatest pleasure I feel.”
The petition on Avaaz was started by Constantinos Psillides who wants to raise awareness for a man who saved thousands but was essentially forgotten by history.
“Both him and his team did something that was extraordinary, even by today’s standards,” he told the Cyprus Mail. “He deserves to be recognised and his contribution to society remembered. He is one of many unsung heroes that did not get the credit he deserves.”
Psillides said he was petitioning parliament to commission an independent study on Aziz and his work and if he is found worthy, grant him the recognition he deserved.
A Greek language podcast on Aziz can be found here