'Our blacks are happy,' claims Turkish Hurriyet

Blacks in Turkey do not experience racism, one of the country’s leading newspapers, Hürriyet, reported on Saturday amid protests that began in the U.S. and spread parts of the world over the police killing of African American George Floyd.

“Our blacks are happy in Turkey,” the print version’s headline read, while the online version of the article asked whether the country’s black demographic experience racism.

“First of all, they are not ‘your’ blacks, comprehend that and we can talk about the rest after,” Armenian sociologist and columnist for the Agos newspaper Ohannes Kılıçdağı said in a tweet sharing the print version.

Ghanaian immigrant Bono Fencens, who has lived in Turkey for 26 years, told Hürriyet that in the past, all the black people in a neighbourhood would get arrested whenever one of them committed a crime.

“But that is over now,” he said. “We would not protest like that here, because we are not treated badly.”

Africans were received warmly by Turkish people, “but my Syrian friends have had problems occasionally,” Nigerian textile worker Romeo Tilson told Hürriyet.

“They love black people in Turkey. Maybe that could change one day, I don’t know, but for now we’re good,” South African textile worker Eddie Younus said, expressing support for the U.S. protests, “because there is great discrimination there.”

Turkey treats black people equally before the law, but occasional racism can be seen among the people, Cameroonian Joseph Teta said. “Some people gesture to me, thinking that I smell.” Teta plays football, has “many close Turkish friends,” and plans to bring his whole family over to live his whole life in Turkey.

Cameroonian Rachel Ati, who used to work in a textile workshop, but now runs an African restaurant, told Hürriyet, “Sometimes people are afraid of us, which makes us sad.”

“I love Turkey but it is a bit tiring to renew your residency permit every year,” Ati added.

“If you have your legal work permit, you can do anything in Turkey,” Romeo Tilson said.

Turkey, with its young population of more than 80 million people, is not a major destination for immigrants, although it is host to more than four million refugees. As a result, it can be very difficult to obtain a work permit, especially for non-European migrants.

The country has a very small native black population, mostly in the western coastal regions, whose ancestors had come to Anatolia from north and east African Ottoman territories in the 19th century, or earlier.

This population of about 100,000 according to some estimates identify as Turks. “It is a bad thing that we have forgotten the language of our grandfathers,” BBC Turkish quoted Afro-Turk Orhan, no last name cited, as saying. “Everybody else has their own language, but we only speak Turkish and know nothing of our ancestors.”

Some people confuse them with Arabs, another Afro-Turk Ahmet told the BBC. “We call ourselves Arab, too. It’s better than to say African. People think of cannibals and backwardness when they hear Africa.”