Londra Gazete poses a question to everyone in Britain’s Turkish-speaking communities: are we bound together by culture and heritage, or are we just a common language?
Mr Love’s decision to step down was a surprise. It also triggered excitement amongst leaders of our communities who have long yearned for a Turkish speaker to represent them in the House of Commons. Edmonton, a Labour safe seat with the largest proportion of Turkish speakers in the country, was seen as the communities’ best opportunity yet.
There were many nominees from our communities. They included Labour fundraiser İbrahim Doğuş, a former leader in the Kurdish Halk Evi Community Centre who current heads of the Centre for Turkey Studies think-tank, and prominent Alevi community member Savaş Hürman.
Also running were Enfield cabinet members Ayfer Orhan and Ahmet Öykener, both of Turkish Cypriot background, and Feryal Demirci, a cabinet member in Hackney.
APPEALS IN ALL NEWSPAPERS
Labour announced an all-woman, all-ethnic minority shortlist that included Kate Osamor, a trade unionist and member of the party’s National Executive Committee, and former Enfield mayor Kate Anolue. The only Turkish-speaking candidate to make the cut was Ayfer Orhan.
In the week since Ms Orhan’s candidacy was confirmed, her appeals for support have appeared in Londra Gazete and other community newspapers.
She told us last week: “We all come from the same cultural root. We all made the same journeys from Cyprus or Turkey, desperate to improve our lives.”
It is a powerful view expressed by many Turkish, Kurdish and Turkish Cypriot community leaders, including Mutallip Ünlüer, leader of the UETD, which represents Turkish citizens overseas.
But İsrafil Erbil, the leader of the British Alevi Federation, told us this week that “just being Turkish is not enough” and a candidate must appeal to every community.
SPEAK TURKISH, OR SPEAK FOR EVERYONE?
His view was echoed by Haringey councillor Peray Ahmet, who has endorsed Ms Orhan’s rival Kate Osamor for the nomination. She backed the idea of a Turkish speaker in parliament and insisted she was not “anti-anybody”, but added some people in our communities did not recognise they needed to represent everyone in a constituency.
Londra Gazete is not endorsing any candidate for the Edmonton Labour nomination. We will not back Ms Orhan simply because she is a Turkish Cypriot, nor will we support one of her rivals simply to oppose her.
But the decision to shortlist one Turkish speaker in Edmonton has revealed some stark divisions in the Turkish-speaking communities.
Mr Erbil’s view carries weight because a significant number of 380 Labour Party members in Edmonton who will decide the constituency nominee on 21 February are known to be Alevis.
Meanwhile, Ms Ahmet’s words suggest the Turkish, Kurdish and Turkish Cypriot communities in London have not integrated into British society as much as they would believe.
LONDRA GAZETE’S CALL
As a newspaper for Turkish speakers and their followers, we feel duty-bound to challenge everyone in our communities – Turkish or Kurdish, Cypriot or Anatolian, Alevi or Sunni, AK Party or CHP – to consider what unites us. Are bonded together by a common Eastern Mediterranean heritage and a shared musical and culinary culture? Or do we all just happen to speak the same language?
The answer to that question will determine not just the outcome of the Edmonton Labour selection but how we all identify ourselves in today’s Britain.