Türkiye'nin en iyi köşe yazarları en güzel köşe yazıları ile Hürriyet'te! Usta yazarlar ve gündemi değerlendiren köşe yazılarını takip edin.

How Turkish are the Turks?

To turn the current global financial crisis into an opportunity any wise company should launch a DNA testing business in Turkey. The Turks will definitely queue up; but they may possibly be disappointed by the results

George Orwell once wrote that the English are not happy unless they are miserable, the Irish are not at peace unless they are at war, and the Scots are not at home unless they are abroad. The Turks probably do not feel Muslim and Turkish enough unless they are "accused" of being non-Muslim and non-Turkish.

The Turkish jargon for insults, curses and argot is very rich in ethnic discrimination. You might hear someone telling you that "even Damascus’s sweets would not be worth seeing an Arab’s face," or that "when the gypsy plays the Kurd dances," or that "someone had chickened out like a Jew," or that "the woman has facial hair like an Armenian."

In the 1970s you could hear someone complaining that "s/he is being treated like a Greek." In the ideological sphere, one can always be heard of complaining that "s/he is being treated like a communist" too.

More recently we have seen corporate and/or media wars in which rivals "accused" each other of coming from "Greek descent." In politics we have seen rivals accusing each other of coming from Jewish descent, or of belonging to families that had converted from Judaism to Islam. The "Jewish convert" theme is particularly common when the Islamists launch a campaign to discredit the top brass.

Most recently, the Republican People’s Party, or CHP’s DNA detective, the lady member of Parliament, or MP, "accused" President Abdullah Gul for having "maternal Armenian ancestors." And President Gul has sued her for "insulting him." In the personality of Canan Aritman we see a common Turkish thinking, an ethnic mix-up with "the other" is something to be ashamed of. Carrying "the other’s blood" is something to discredit someone. And the person "accused" of carrying a non-purely Turkish blood reflexively "defends" that s/he is purely Muslim and Turkish. The honorable MP and the president are no exception.

The unpleasant facts about Turkish perceptions of "the other" are just too visible. An MP publicly "accuses" the president of having Armenian ancestors, I see faces around curiously thinking "could it be true," and the president publicly "defends" himself with a family tree and proudly declares his family has been "Muslim and Turkish for several generations."

The president will now have to prove in court that he is not maternally Armenian. And the MP will try to prove he is. Could the word "sick" be fairly describing the situation?

But this is more of a religious thing than ethnic. Despite several discriminative colloquial references to other Muslim nations like Arabs and Kurds, the accusations invariably point to religious otherness.

Can it be a coincidence that we have seen one-half, one-third, one-quarter or fully Kurdish or Arab or Bosnian figures as politicians, senior bureaucrats, generals, diplomats in this country, but for some reason never a Jew, or Armenian or a Greek. Not even a senior police officer. Not even a colonel. Not even a deputy undersecretary. Despite the fact that non-Muslim Turks are full citizens paying their taxes, being drafted into the army and voting. ’Turkishness’ has a covertly religious connotation in these lands.

For example, I have never seen any corporate or political figure being "accused" of coming from Albanian, Bosnian, Chechen, Uighur or Circassian descent. Sadly, this cannot be a coincidence. "Turkish news" on the other hand is full of prominent figures being accused of having Armenian, Greek or Ñ overtly or covertly Ñ Jewish blood.

This must be a lapse of collective thinking. For example, the "Greeks and Turks" during the exchange of populations in 1923 were simply handpicked as "Muslims and Orthodox Christians." Some "Turks" who were "exchanged" did not even speak Turkish, and some "Greeks" did not speak Greek.

Ironically, neither the Turks nor the Greeks were welcomed in their new homelands, and in later generations they became fiercely nationalistic in order to prove to the locals that they are really "pure."

In the Turkish case, the collective attention about Turkishness is especially bizarre when one thinks of the numerous non-Muslim mothers who gave birth to Ottoman sultans.

The truth is, in these lands it would probably be too difficult to find a pure Turk at DNA standards. Anyone in the land of the crescent and star can be carrying one or a mix of the bloods of at least 50 ethnicities. The best is never to be interested in DNA search as most all-too-Muslim-Turkish-Turks could be sorrowfully disappointed by the results.
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