William Armstrong - email@example.com
HURRIYET DAILY - Tuesday,May 12 2015
In Turkey and elsewhere, identity politics have defined the last 30
years. Across the spectrum - from Islamist to secularist politics, from
Kurdish nationalism to Turkish nationalism - cultural identity has
become the key conduit for political expression.
Circassians, who migrated to the Ottoman Empire after being driven from their homeland in the North Caucasus by the advancing Russian
Empire in the 19th century, have typically had a fairly low public
profile in Turkey. But as Turkish scholar Zeynel Abidin Besleney
describes in a new book (reviewed here),
Circassian political activism in Turkey actually has a lively heritage
stretching back to the Ottoman Empire. While their identity is still
largely seen as a private concern, today Circassians have a rising
“consciousness” and activism has become increasingly sophisticated.
Hürriyet Daily News spoke to Besleney to explore this little-known “hidden germ” in Turkish politics.
What made you want to research this subject? What piqued your interest?
was born in Turkey, though I’ve been living in the U.K. for 18 years. I
myself am Circassian from Turkey, and I had first-hand experience of
the issue in the 1990s. I always thought that this was a kind of “hidden
germ” in Turkish political history. There is a lively platform for
Circassian diaspora activism, which goes back almost a century, but most
people who study Turkish political history don’t have much of an idea
what this platform actually is. Every now and then Circassians pop up in
the news: Sometimes they hijack a ferry or an airplane, sometimes they
come out onto the street demanding linguistic rights, which is usually
thought of as an exclusively Kurdish domain. I wanted to explore the
roots of this activism.