Afro-Turks are descendants of Africans, who are Turks. A majority can be found in the Muğla, Ýzmir region of Turkey, the Aegean coast. They are referred to as “Arabs” in Turkey, because North Africa, populated by Arabs was the area affiliated with Africa in Turkish society. Afro-Turks are mixed with the Turkish population. It is difficult to estimate the population.
Most Afro-Turks are descendant of slaves brought to Turkey in the latter part of 19th century, during the Ottoman Empire. After slavery was banned from the Balkans and Caucasus, the Ottoman Empire looked to East Africa for its slave supply. Afro-Turks are descended from mostly slaves from Ethiopia, Niger, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Kenya, and Sudan. Between 1860 -1890, it is estimated 10,000 slaves were brought to the Ottoman Empire per year, totalling 250,000. Slaves worked agricultural, tobacco, and cotton fields in the Aegean coast, but some worked as domestics in homes.
Between 1516 and 1574 all of North Africa with the exception of Morocco came under Ottoman rule. The empire's hold on the region was weak. Its authority strong on the coast but weak in the hinterland.
Blacks were used as eunuchs and janissaries(Royal Guard). They guarded the royal harem and were attendants to the Valide Sultan(Sultan Mother).
Two types of eunuchs existed in Turkish society, the white eunuchs who handled the administrative side of the Turkish government. They mainly came from Caucasia, Georgia, and Armenia, Chrisitian areas.
Black eunuchs were captured from upper Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia. They were known as Sandali (clean-shaven). The process and anatomy can be described as following:
¨The parts are swept off by a single cut of a razor, a tube (tin or wooden) is set in the urethra, the wound is cauterized with boiling oil, and the patient is planted in a fresh dung-hill. His diet is milk, and if under puberty he often survives.¨
The top black eunuch was known as the Kizlar Agha and was third in line in terms of power after the Sultan, then Grand Vizier or Chief Minister. He was over the harem and over the baltaci a segment of the army. The power of the black eunuchs increased after the 1500s.
Black eunuchs in Turkish society commanded great authority, especially during and after the reign of Suleiman I (1520-66). They had ready access to the sultans. In some cases, they would determine the future sultan and wield immense political authority, especially allied with the Valide Sultan. Mustafa Agha, a black eunuch, prevented the ascension to the throne of Osman and his brothers by convincing statesmen that they were too young. Agha wanted to retain the authority he wielded under Ahmed I. Suleyman Agha another chief black eunuch allied with the Valide Sultan Turhan was able to keep Mehmet IV on the thrown by thwarting the intrigues of Kösem, the previous Valide Sultan.
In 1595, during the reign of Mehmed III, the chief black eunuch was given the administration of Medina and Mecca, and its vast public finances. Black eunuchs tended to be in charge of the vast public finance of the Ottoman Empire.
Not all Afro-Turks are descendants of slaves. Some are descendants of Greek speaking black muslims from Crete. In 1924, the Lausanne Treaty between Crete and the Turkish republic resulted in an exchange of Turkish Greek Orthodox population with muslims residing in Crete. Some among the muslim population were blacks, who settled in Ýzmir, along the Aegean coast.
Between 1876-1878, slavery ended. Some Afro-Turks, about 1,500 families received land from the government and were able to establish strong agricultural towns. With the influx of Afro-Turks into urban centers, this has resulted in the diminishing of these farm communities.
Afro Turks have contributed and achieve success in Turkish society. Afro-Turks fought in the war for for Turkish independence from Greece. In 1927, Vahap Özaltay became the first black man to play for Turkey's national football team. During the 1970s, Esmeray became one of Turkey's most popular singer.
A large percentage of Afro-Turks still engage in farming. Most are poor with very little education. Discrimination and bigotry is not a major problem in small towns, but in major urban centers it rares its head. Afro-Turks have completely assimiliated Turkish society. They are Turkish in everyway except in skin color. Since Turkey is a majority white society, some Afro-Turks try to assimiliate further and rid their color by marrying "white" Turks. Most tend to be in mix relationships.
Recently, a revival and preservation of Afro-Turk culture has been spearheaded by African Solidarity and Cooperation Association (ASCA) in 2006. The organization has revived the Dana Bayramı(Feast of the Calf), an Afro-Turk celebration going back to 1860 to the 1920s, a type of family re-union for those separated by slavery, with a sacrificial bull being offered. ASCA is engage in preserving the oral history of Afro-Turks, being the elder generation that still remember the origins of Afro-Turks are dying.
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Meet the Afro-Turk. Afro-Europe International Blog. January 18,2009, retrieved 12-Nov-2011
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Turks with African ancestors want their existence to be felt
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