Turks.us Daily World EU News

Who's Online

Guest Users: 34

Events

There are no upcoming events
   

Pure Turkishness...

   
OpinionsBy Burak Bekdil

The paranoia is both unjustified and justified: It is unjustified because of demographic reasons. Few Turks who consider themselves as \'majority Turks\' -- pure, Sunni Muslim Turks -- are probably what they believe they are. Intercultural marriages both during the Ottoman and Republican times, plus the fact that Anatolia has always been a mosaic of scores of ethnicities suggest that it is silly to talk of \'pure Turks\' and \'pure non-Turks.\'





When French President Jacques Chirac said that both Turks and Europeans were the “children of Byzantium,” he probably did not know his words would anger a Turkish Cabinet minister. “We are the children of the Ottomans,” said Kursat Tuzmen, the foreign trade minister. “I don’t know whose sons the Europeans are.”

The not-so-veiled insult in the rather embarrassing statement reflects the divergence of opinion on ethnic matters between multicultural Europe and the former Islamists who are, ironically, pushing Turkey towards this same multicultural Europe.
No doubt multiculturalism is still an explosive concept in Turkey. For example, an unwritten rule, the product of a paranoia based on a remote history of ethnic strife, prohibits Turkey’s 130,000 non-Muslim minorities -- Greeks, Armenians, Christian and Jews -- from joining government service, most notably the police force, state schools, the foreign ministry and military officers’ corps. There are also other snags, such as property rights.

“I don’t see why I should not join the government service when, at the same time, as a Turkish citizen, I pay my taxes in full,” inquires an Istanbul Greek. Similarly, Hrant Dink, an Armenian Christian who edits an Armenian-language daily in Istanbul, says he, as a child, dreamed of becoming a homicide detective but he was barred from joining the police force because, he says, “in this country I am seen as a security concern.”

In its annual progress report on Turkey on Oct. 6 the European Commission urged Ankara to grant more rights to ethnic Kurds and recognize Alawites, a religious sect rooted in Islam, as a minority. But Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said last week that Turkey had no intention of devising a new definition of minority other than that recognized by the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne -- which defines Turkey’s minorities as non-Muslims only.

There are other signs that the issue of minorities will come to new blows especially if/when the European Union opens accession talks with Turkey. Recently, the chairman of a semi-official (now a non-governmental organization) human rights committee announced at a news conference that the findings of quite a liberal report suggested Turkey must expand its minority rights. The man did not know that one member of the committee would jump onto the stage, grab the sheets of paper from his hands and rip them up because “the report aimed at dividing Turkey.” Other -- and more civilized -- critics of the report filed treason charges against the committee’s chairman.

There is “establishment” resistance too. President Ahmet Necdet Sezer says the debate over minority rights is “destructive.” The military spelled out its distaste for the idea of broader minority rights in a statement read to a news conference by Gen. Ilker Basbug: “The nation is as one. It cannot be seen as made up of pieces. Otherwise, this would pave the way to the break up of the state.”
The paranoia is both unjustified and justified: It is unjustified because of demographic reasons. Few Turks who consider themselves as “majority Turks” -- pure, Sunni Muslim Turks -- are probably what they believe they are. Intercultural marriages both during the Ottoman and Republican times, plus the fact that Anatolia has always been a mosaic of scores of ethnicities suggest that it is silly to talk of “pure Turks” and “pure non-Turks.”
For example, in present day Turkey, there are, in addition to non-Muslims, Kurds, Bosnians, Circassians, Chechens, Uighurs, the Abkhaz, the Turkmen, Arabs, Montenegrins, the Gagauz (Christian Turks), Gypsies, Albanians, Bulgarian Turks, Macedonian Turks, Georgians, the Azeri, Mongolians, Central Asian Turks and several other ethnic groups.

Also, the Ottomans not only formed their best armies from Christian converts, but also appointed Christians from various ethnic backgrounds to top state positions. All Ottoman vezirs (prime ministers), with the exception of a few, were non-Muslims.
The sultans themselves were a mixed blood. Here is a list: Sultan Orhan married Horofira, Asporce and Theodora; Sultan Murad I, born of Horofira; Sultan Beyazid, born of Marya; Sultan Murad II, born of Veronica; Sultan Fatih (the Conqueror), born of Mara Despina; Sultan Beyazid II, born of Cornelia; Sultan Suleiman, born of Helga; Sultan Selim II, born of Roxalan; Sultan Murad II, born of Rachel; Sultan Mehmet II, born of Baffo; Sultan Ahmed I, born of Helen; Sultan Mustafa I, born of Cinderella Violeta; Sultan Murad IV, born of Anastasia; Sultan Mehmet IV, born of Nadia; Sultan Suleiman II, born from Katrin; Sultan Ahmed II, born of Eva; Sultan Mustafa II, born of Evemina; Sultan Mahmud I, born of Alexandra; Sultan Mustafa II, born of Janet; Sultan Mustafa IV, born from Sonia; Sultan Mahmud II, born of Aimee. The list goes on and on…
The paranoia is at the same time justified because of various ethnic/sectarian clashes. The Kurds rose up twice; once in the 1930s and again in the violent 1984-1999 war which left 35,000 dead. Sectarian violence broke out between Alawites and the Sunni Muslim majority in the late 1970s and again in the 1990s.
There is every indication that the definition of “Turkishness” will be a volatile challenge to both Turkey’s national-self and its aspirations to join the EU.
  

What's Related

Story Options