Meet the Afro-Turks

Mustafa Olpak Image © Afro-Turk Association

are Turkish people who are the descendants of slaves from Africa. They were brought into Turkey during the Ottoman Empire or Turkish Empire (1299–1923) . Afro-Turkish writer Mustafa Olpak (56) gives the "Afro-Turks" a voice. "I am the first person who dares to say that my grandparents were slaves" 

In his book Olpak discusses how his African grandfather was purchased as a household slave by an Turkish family, and later moved to Istanbul after the Turkish Revolution in 1922.

In 2006, Olpak founded the first officially recognised organisation of Afro-Turks, the Africans' Culture and Solidarity Society (Afrikalılar Kültür ve Dayanışma Derneği) in Ayvalık. A principal aim of the association is to promote studies of oral history of Afro-Turks, a community history of whom was usually ignored by official historiography in Turkey. Olpak's legacy and the organisation will continue. 

The Turkish film Arap Kızı Camdan Bakıyor ("The Arab Girl Looks from the Window," released with the English title of Baa Baa Black Girl)  discusses how his grandfather was purchased as a household slave by a Turkish family, but later moved to Istanbul after the Turkish Revolution.


Mustafa Olpak, the founder of the AfroTurk organisation, died in October 2016.

Mustafa Olpak is the initiator of the African Organization for Solidarity and Cooperation, the organization has succeeded in organizing the old sacrificial feast of Afro-Turks, the Dana Bayrami, revitalization . That party had its peak between 1880 and 1920

Gülay Kayacan, who works for the History Foundation, an institute that researches and publishes articles on Turkish history, says that some of the Afro-Turks are descendents of slaves who used to work on farms or in houses. Slaves working in agriculture were concentrated in areas where cotton production was high. It is for this reason that most Afro-Turks today live on the Aegean coast and some in the Mediterranean region.

“Some 10,000 slaves, black and white, were brought into the Ottoman Empire every year. During the constitutional monarchy period (1876-1878), slavery was abolished and former slaves settled in areas where they used to work. Some of them were even given land by the government,” Kayacan says.

Some famous Afro-Turks

Hadi Türkmen, the former Turkish football federation manager

Tuğçe Güder a Turkish model who was chosen as the Best Model of the World - an international annual competition - in 2005

Read: Afrotürkler-Afroturcs

Afro-Turks on the legacy of the Ottoman Empire's slave trade | Focus on Europe | Focus on Europe

Updated Dec 22th, 2022


  1. How can I get in contact with Mr. Olpak? I am looking to interview Afro Turks for a documentary about the culture there. If anyone has any information please send an email to

  2. perhaps you can contact Mustafa Olpak through the publisher of his book:

  3. Thanks for the information. I'm also interested in doing a documentary.

  4. Wow, this is an amazing story. This is one reason why I regard so much!

  5. Im as white as a person can be ie: fair skin/blue eyes but I found out my great grandmother was half afro-turk. It is all new to me but I love reading about where I come from and when I tell people I have "afro-Turk" ancestors they do not understand nor have they ever heard of them. Its great to be able to show them articles like this so they learn some more about history. Thanks for the article.

  6. Interesting article very interesting.
    However, I find myself agreeing with the Cuban Heel Wearing French President when he stated that Turkish people ARE NOT EUROPEAN.
    As much they want to be considered European they are not 'in Europe'.
    I must say I get a certain somewhat warped satisfaction at the debate about Turkish people's aspiration to be offered a seat at the metaphorical table.

    Not sure why this article is in a Euroblog.

    1. Hi Black Jacobin,

      Well, Turkey participates at the European Song contest, the UEFA Champions League and other pan-European events. I think we both know why the former French president doesn't consider them European.

  7. Hi Afro-European,

    I agree with you about the deposed French President.
    However, Israel is Euro Vision and Champions League but is again NOT in Europe so that in itself is not the criteria which they should be judged.
    Only 20% of Turkey Geographically is in Europe the rest is firmly in Asia.
    I don't consider them European but for different reasons, which have nothing to do with there Religion.
    More to do with there Racist attitude something they like Jewish people should know better.

    1. Yes you're right, but Israel isn't in a negotiation process of entering the European Union. And you're right about the Asian aspect.

  8. Dear all,

    I have been in contact with Afro-Turks for about three years and met them several times, recently an article was published by qantara on the issue, the Calf Fest, the Afro-Der Association, recent exhibitions and panels ...

    best, Ekrem

  9. Mustafa Olpak, the founder of the AfroTurk organisation, died in October 2016

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