Afro-Turkish candidate takes aim at idealising Ottoman era

An Afro-Turkish parliamentary candidate in Turkey’s June 24 election for the pro-minorities Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) has taken aim at the idea that neo-Ottomanism is a good future for Turkey.

Leaders of Turkey Islamist ruling party often harken back to the times of the Ottoman Empire, which collapsed in 1923, as a time when Islamic justice ruled the land and there was harmony amongst its peoples.

“What do those who say the Ottoman order was just, that there was no slavery and who miss those days want to achieve?” Yalçın Yanık asked in a series of tweets.

“I have some things to say on this topic as someone whose ancestors were brought to the Ottoman Empire as slaves.”

Afro-Turks, who number in the tens of thousands and are concentrated around villages in Turkey's Aegean region, are largely the descendants of slaves brought to the Ottoman Empire from Africa in a trade that was officially ended in 1857.

Many of those who thought that Ottoman times were better knew very little on the subject, Yanık said, while others, such as presidential advisor İbrahim Kalın, used the idea that democracy and class struggle were Western inventions to serve their own ends.

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) could not use historical fantasies to mask the universal nature of capital and oppression, he said.