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In Turkey, Descendants Of Slaves Seeking Their Identity!

They are Turks, but they have black skin and African features. The descendants of the Ottoman Empire’s slaves today are trying to assert their dual identity as the community is reduced to a trickle.

 

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Efeoglu the park is a large wood where families of Izmir, a large port in western Turkey, find refuge on hot days with a picnic in the shade of trees. But in recent years, the time of a Saturday, the Turkish melodies give way to the African pop, on the occasion of the Feast of the cow, the annual gathering of the Turks of African origin.

They may be up to 20,000 descendants of slaves torn from their land and subjugated to Ottoman times. Purchased by the bourgeoisie, these Africans were sent in the harems of Constantinople and fields in Izmir.

With the fall of the Sublime Porte and the abolition of privileges, these slaves have become, overnight, Turkish citizens “like the others” under the law, with the only memory of their past, the color of their skin.

Dual Turkish and African membership

It is this memory that tries to revive Mustafa Olpak. This puny little man decided there fifteen years to assert its dual membership, Turkey and Africa, and to establish a solidarity structure for the community.

It was he who organized, in 2006, the first festival of the cow, inspired by a celebration that might have been current among Africans Izmir during the Ottoman period.

Draped in his multicolored veil, Ayse lives in the village of Tulum, south of Izmir. ”  I was born in 1932, not far from here  ,” said the old lady with the ebony skin. ”  It was my father who arrived here, they sent him to the fields. But we never talked about our history. Maybe because we were many, so it was not original. But now it is no longer the case, people got married, they have children, then they left the area. It disappears …  ”

Hiring discrimination

There is a real risk that this community disappears, think Lülüfer Körükmez, sociologist specializing in Afro-Turks. Because of discrimination in everyday life, many Afro-Turks try to escape somehow the color of their skin by marrying white Turks . “They want their children to be whiter,  continues the researcher.  This is especially true in villages where, again, the economic conditions are very precarious.  ”

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Many ancestors of slaves evoke discrimination in hiring, in schools, in the street in the village and in the city … In the popular district of Basmane in Izmir Workshop Yalçin Yanik is a hive buzzing nonstop.

This man of 53, with black skin and the thin gray beard is a tireless community activist who wears a stern look on Turkish society ?: ”  I am a Turkish citizen, I was born in Turkey, but that country does me not considered a full citizen because of the color of my skin, so no, I’m not Turkish? ! ”

“I am proud to be African-Turk”

Yet there Afro-Turks who live well their dual identity. Emre Sölenoglu, a tour guide born in Izmir there are twenty-eight sports on the arm tattoo signing Ataturk, a symbol usually worn by the ultranationalist fringe. ”  Yes, I am a Turkish patriot, and I am proud to be African-Turkish ?! At school I was bullied because of the color of my skin, but as adults, now is a “look” that is appreciated. This country is so mixed anyway, who can say what looks like a real Turk ??  ”

Intermarriage and the rural exodus may well ultimately eradicate this community, the more brittle it was torn to cultures which it can now easily identify. ”  The younger ones are much less interested in their roots that the old admits Lülüfer Körükmez.  And it is feared that even more the case in ten years …”

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Turkey and the United States agree against Daech

Turkey expressed “favorable” to the idea of conducting a “joint operation” with the United States against Daech  to hunt the terrorist organization from its stronghold of Rakka, in northern Syria, on the sidelines of G20 in China.

Ankara launched August 24 an ambitious military operation in Syria,  sending tanks and special forces to support rebels of the opposition against the jihadists and Kurdish militias installed near the Turkish border.

The offensive has already helped to place 772 km2de northern territories of Syria  under the control of pro-Ankara rebel forces. The coalition against Daech now plans to regain control of the Syrian cities of Al-Bab and Rakka.

Alexander Billet

Source: La Croix

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Written by How Africa

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