Turks in Algeria
|600,000 to 2,000,000
(2008 Turkish Embassy in Algeria estimate)
other estimates: 1,740,000 3,300,000
Estimated ~5% of Algeria's population are of Turkish origin
|Regions with significant populations|
The Turks in Algeria, also known as Turco-Algerians and Algerian Turks, (Arabic: أتراك الجزائر French: Turcs d'Algérie; Turkish: Cezayir Türkleri) are the ethnic Turks who constitute a minority group in Algeria. During the Ottoman rule, the Turks colonized and dominated the political life of the region; as a result, the ethnic mix of Algeria changed with the migration of Turks from Anatolia and the evolvement of the "Kouloughlis" who are people of mixed Turkish and central Maghrebis blood.
The foundation of Ottoman Algeria was directly linked to the establishment of the Ottoman province (beylerbeylik) of the Maghreb at the beginning of the 16th century. At the time, fearing that their city would fall into Spanish hands, the inhabitants of Algiers called upon Ottoman corsairs for help. Headed by Oruç Reis and his brother Hayreddin Barbarossa, they took over the rule of the city and started to expand their territory into the surrounding areas. Sultan Selim I (r. 1512-20) agreed to assume control of the Maghreb regions ruled by Hayreddin as a province, granting the rank of governor-general (beylerbey) to Hayreddin. In addition, the Sultan sent 2,000 janissaries, accompanied by about 4,000 volunteers to the newly established Ottoman province of the Maghreb, whose capital was to be the city of Algiers. These colonizers, mainly from Anatolia, called each other "yoldaş" (a Turkish word meaning "comrade") and called their sons born of unions with local women "Kuloğlu’s", implying that they considered their children's status as that of the Sultan's servants. Likewise, to indicate in the registers that a certain person is an offspring of a Turk and a local woman, the note "ibn al-turki" (or "kuloglu") was added to his name.
The exceptionally high number of colonizers greatly affected the character of the city of Algiers, and that of the province at large. In 1587, the province was divided into three different provinces, which were established where the modern states of Algeria, Libya and Tunisia, were to emerge. Each of these provinces was headed by a Pasha sent from Constantinople for a three-year term. The division of the Maghreb launched the process that led eventually to the janissary corps' rule over the province. From the end of the 16th century, Algiers's Ottoman elite chose to emphasize its Turkish identity and nurture its Turkish character to a point at which it became an ideology. By so doing, the Algerian province took a different path from that of its neighboring provinces, where local-Ottoman elites were to emerge. The aim of nurturing the elite's Turkishness was twofold: it limited the number of the privileged group (the ocak) while demonstrating the group's loyalty to the Sultan. By the 18th century there was 50,000 janissaries concentrated in the city of Algiers alone.
The lifestyle, language, religion, and area of origin of the Ottoman elite's members created remarkable differences between the Algerian Ottoman elite and the indigenous population. For example, members of the elite adhered to Hanafi law while the rest of the population subscribed to the Maliki school. Most of the elites originated from non-Arab regions of the Empire. Furthermore, most members of the elite spoke Ottoman Turkish while the local population spoke Algerian Arabic and even differed from the rest of the population in their dress.
Recruiting the military-administrative elite
From its establishment, the military-administrative elite worked to reinvigorate itself by enlisting volunteers from non-Arab regions of the Ottoman Empire, mainly from Anatolia. Hence, local recruiting of Arabs was almost unheard of and during the 18th century a more or less permanent network of recruiting officers was kept in some coastal Anatolian cities and on some of the islands of the Aegean Sea. The recruitment policy was therefore one of the means employed to perpetuate the Turkishness of the Ottoman elite and was practiced until the fall of the province in 1830.
Marriages to local women and the Kuloğlus
During the 18th century, the militia practiced a restrictive policy on marriages between its members and local women. A married soldier would lose his right of residence in one of the city's eight barracks and the daily ration of bread to which he was entitled. He would also lose his right to purchase a variety of products at a preferential price. Nonetheless, the militia's marriage policy made clear distinctions among holders of different ranks: the higher the rank, the more acceptable the marriage of its holder. This policy can be understood as part of the Ottoman elite's effort to perpetuate its Turkishness and to maintain its segregation from the rest of the population. Furthermore, the militia's marriage policy, in part, emerged from fear of an increase in the number of the kuloğlus.
The kuloğlu’s refers to the male offspring of members of the Ottoman elite and the local Algerian women. Due to their link to the local Algerian population via his maternal family, the kuloğlus' loyalty to the Ottoman elite was suspected because of the fear that they might develop another loyalty; they were therefore considered a potential danger to the elite. However, the son of a non-local woman, herself an "outsider" in the local population, represented no such danger to the Ottoman elite. Therefore, the Algerian Ottoman elite had a clear policy dictating the perpetuation of its character as a special social group separated from the local population. In the neighbouring province of Tunisia, the maintenance of the Turkishness of the ruling group was not insisted upon, and the kuloğlus could reach the highest ranks of government. However, the janissary corps had lost its supremacy first to the Muradid dynasty (Murad Bey's son was appointed bey), and then to the Husainid Dynasty. The Tunisian situation partly explains the continuation of the Algerian janissary corps' recruitment policy and the manifest will to distance the kuloğlus from the real centres of power. Nonetheless, high-ranking kuloğlus were in the service of the ocak, in military and in administrative capacities, occupying posts explicitly considered out of bounds for them; although there were no kuloğlus who was dey during the 18th century, this seems to be the only exception.
The Algerian Turks generally take pride in their Ottoman-Turkish heritage but also have integrated successfully into Algerian society. Their identity is based on their ethnic Turkish roots and links to mainland Turkey but also to the customs, language, and local culture of Algeria. Due to the three centuries of Turkish rule in Algeria, today many cultural, architectural, as well as musical elements of Algeria are of Turkish origin or influence, though their Turkish heritage is most notably present in their cuisine which they have introduced to Algeria (such as Turkish coffee, Lahmacun, Börek's, desserts and pastries). Furthermore, the Turkish language has influenced many words and vocabulary, family surnames such as Barbaros, Hayreddin, Osmanî, Stambouli, Torki, Turki, and Uluçali are very common; job titles or functions have also become family names within the Algerian-Turkish community (such as Hazneci, Demirci, Başterzi, Silahtar).
According to the Turkish Embassy in Algeria there is between 600,000-700,000 people of Turkish origin living in Algeria, however, according to the French Embassy the Turkish population is about 2 million. In 1953, Sabri Hizmetli suggested that people of Turkish origin make up 25% of Algeria's total population. However, a report by the Oxford Business Group in 2008 stated a more prudent estimate, suggesting that people of Turkish descent make up 5% of Algeria's total population; according to the report, in 2006, Algeria's population was 34.8 million which would place the population of the Turkish minority at about 1,740,000. An article by the Zaman newspaper in 2007 stated that Turks formed 10% of Algeria's 33.3 million inhabitants, accounting to 3,300,000 people of Turkish origin. As of 2012, Algeria's National Office of Statistics has placed the country's total population at 37.1 million.
Areas of settlement
The Turkish minority mainly live in the big cities, they have traditionally had a strong presence, and were alongside the native Moors, a significant part of Tlemcen's population. Due to the long presence and ruling by the Turks, there are also remains of the old Turkish cities, such as the Casbah in Algiers. The community also has notable populations in cities such as Biskra, Zammora in Kabylie, Mostaganem and Mazagran-Arzew, Oued Zitoun and Médéa and Constantine. During the French conquest , Kouloughli land owners in Mazagran, Arzew and Mostaganem, joined by many others from Tlemcen and soldiers from Oran would have parked themselves in Mostaganem turning it into a fortress in the premice to get protect from French and local Arab-Berber armies.
There are many Algerian Turks who have emigrated to other countries and hence make up part of Algeria's diaspora; for example, there is a noticeable Algerian community of Turkish descent living in England. Many Algerians attend the Suleymaniye Mosque which is owned by the British-Turkish community. France, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Canada, and Spain are also top receiving countries of Algerian citizens.
Organizations and associations
- The Association of Algerian Turks (Association des Turcs algériens)
- Isabelle Adjani, actress
- Mahieddine Bachtarzi, actor and singer
- Mohamed Bencheneb, writer
- Larbi Bensari,Musician
- Ahmed Bey ben Mohamed Chérif, the last Bey of Constantine
- Abdelkrim Dali,Musician
- Mustapha Haciane, poet
- Messali Hadj, politician
- Salim Halali, singer
- Hamdan Khodja, scholar and merchant
- Mohammed Racim, artist
- Ahmed Tewfik El Madani, politician
- Omar Racim, artist and writer
- Benjamin Stambouli, football player
- Henri Stambouli, football player
- Mustapha Stambouli, politician
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