|Afro-Turks during the Sixth festival of the Calf (photo: Ekrem Eddy Güzeldere)|
The Association of Afro-Turks was founded in 2006 by Mustafa Olpak in Ayvalik, in the North Aegean region. His family came to Turkey from Crete in 1924 as part of an exchange of populations between Greece and Turkey. Because they were Muslims, they were categorised as Turks. Olpak himself suffered bullying at school and dropped out for a year as a result, but he finished his education in the end.
He had been married to a "white" Turk for 25 years when her family suddenly announced, "The Arab isn't going to get any of the inheritance." Black people are often called Arabs in Turkish. Olpak divorced his wife. It wasn't the only racist comment or example of discrimination which he'd experienced in his life.
Alev Karakartal, is an Afro-Turk woman who now lives in Istanbul. Speaking at a conference there in early June 2012, she described the strategy with which many Afro-Turks confront discrimination. "By entering into mixed marriages," she said, "Afro-Turks try to have lighter-skinned children, so that eventually their colour will disappear altogether." But Olpak responds, "We have nothing else left aside from the colour. There's nothing left culturally any more."
When Karakartal, who is herself of mixed descent, asked her parents about her origins, the answer was always, "We are Turks and Muslims," and that roots weren't important.
"Our ancestors didn't come voluntarily to Anatolia," she notes. "They were sold as slaves, exploited, abused and excluded." But it's not just the families themselves who remain silent. Olpak points out. "Nobody speaks about us, otherwise, if they were to tell our story, they would find themselves in conflict with the official version of history. One would have to speak about slavery." Read full story at Quantara
Video of the Sixth Festival of the Calf in the Turkish city of Bayindir in 2012, with a special performance of a Congo and Sierra Leonean music group. The festival is the traditional celebration of the Afro-Turks.