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Anti-Turkism (Turkish: Türk düşmanlığı or Türkofobi), also known as Turkophobia or anti-Turkish sentiment, is hostility, intolerance, or racism against Turkish or Turkic people, Turkish culture, Turkic countries, or Turkey itself.[1][2]

The term refers to intolerance not only against the Turks across all regions, but also against Turkic groups as a whole, including Azerbaijanis, Crimean Tatars and Turkmens. It is also applied on groups who developed in part under the influence of Turkish culture and traditions while converting to Islam, especially during Ottoman times, such as Albanians, Bosniaks and other smaller ethnic groups around Balkans during the period of Ottoman rule.[3][4][5] It can also refer to racism against Turkish people living outside of Turkey following the Turkish diaspora.[6][7][8][9]

Early history[edit]

In the Late Middle Ages, the fall of Constantinople and the Ottoman wars in Europe—part of European Christians' effort to stem the expansion of the Ottoman Empire, the predecessor to Turkey—helped fuel the development of anti-Turkism. By the middle of the 15th century, special masses called missa contra Turcos (Latin for "mass against Turks") were held in various places in Europe[10][11] to spread the message that victory over the Ottomans was only possible with the help of God and that a Christian community was therefore necessary to withstand the cruelty of the Turks.[10][12][13]

16th century[edit]

Original prints from the 16th century at the Hungarian National Museum depict a Turkish warrior butchering infants.

As the Ottomans expanded their empire west, Western Europe came into more frequent contact with the Turks, often militarily.

During the Fourth Ottoman–Venetian War, the Ottomans conquered Cyprus.

In the 16th century, around 2,500 publications about the Turks—including more than 1,000 in German—were released in Europe, spreading the image of the "bloodthirsty Turk". From 1480 to 1610, twice as many books were published about the Turkish threat to Europe than about the discovery of the New World. Bishop Johann Faber of Vienna claimed, "There are no crueler and more audacious villains under the heavens than the Turks, who spare no age or sex and mercilessly cut down young and old alike and pluck unripe fruit from the wombs of mothers."[11]

The dying, half-naked 'Turk' slips down along with his weapons. The body of the vanquished serves as a stepping stone for the transfigured Christian to ascend toward heaven. The baroque apotheosis (1738) above the Capistrano pulpit on the north side of St Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna shows John of Capistrano, canonized in 1690, as the vanquisher of the 'Turks'. Moreover, until after 1945 the inscription '1683 -schau Mahomet, du Hunt' (1683 -Look Muhammad, You Dog) hung resplendent above the main entrance of the cathedral. It was only removed by order of Cardinal Franz König.
"The dying, half-naked 'Turk' slips down along with his weapons. The body of the vanquished serves as a stepping stone for the transfigured Christian to ascend toward heaven. The baroque apotheosis (1738) above the Capistrano pulpit on the north side of St Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna shows John of Capistrano, canonized in 1690, as the vanquisher of the 'Turks'. Moreover, until after 1945 the inscription "1683 -schau Mahomet, du Hunt" (1683 -Look Muhammad, You Dog) hung resplendent above the main entrance of the cathedral. It was only removed by order of Cardinal Franz König."[14]

During this time, the Ottoman Empire also invaded the Balkans and besieged Vienna, sparking widespread fear in Europe, and especially in Germany.[15] Martin Luther, the German leader of the Protestant Reformation, took advantage of these fears by asserting that the Turks were "the agents of the Devil who, along with the Antichrist located in the heart of the Catholic Church, Rome, would usher in the Last Days and the Apocalypse".[16]

Luther believed that the Ottoman invasion was God's punishment of Christians for allowing corruption in the Holy See and the Catholic Church.[17] In 1518, when he defended his 95 Theses, Luther claimed that God had sent the Turks to punish Christians just as he had sent war, plague, and earthquakes. (In response, Pope Leo X issued a papal bull in which he threatened Luther with excommunication and portrayed him as a troublemaker who advocated capitulation to the Turks.)[11] In his writings On War Against the Turk and Military Sermon Against the Turks, Luther was "consistent in his theological conception of the Turks as a manifestation of God's chastising rod". He and his followers also espoused the view that the Ottoman–Habsburg Wars were a conflict "between Christ and Antichrist" or "between God and the devil".[18]

Spurred by this argument, the Portuguese Empire, seeking to capture more land in East Africa and other parts of the world, used any encounter with the "Terrible Turk" as "a prime opportunity to establish credentials as champions of the faith on par with other Europeans".[19]

Stories of the "Wolf-Turk" reinforced the negative image. The Wolf-Turk was claimed to be a man-eating being, half animal and half human, with a wolf's head and tail. Military power and cruelty were the recurring attributes in each portrayal of the Turks.[11]

17th–18th centuries[edit]

According to some sympathetic Orientalist authors, negative accounts of Turkish customs and people written during the 17th and 18th centuries "served as an 'ideological weapon' during the Enlightenment's arguments about the nature of government",[20] creating an image of the Turks that was "inaccurate but accepted".[21] However, some contemporary reports documented brutality and corrupt governance against subjugated Christians, including a law that forced all Christian families to relinquish at least one child to the Janissaries in order to fulfill the Quranic requirement of jizya.[citation needed]

In Sweden, the Turks were portrayed as the archenemies of Christianity. A book by the parish priest Erland Dryselius of Jönköping, published in 1694, was titled Luna Turcica eller Turkeske måne, anwissjandes lika som uti en spegel det mahometiske vanskelige regementet, fördelter uti fyra qvarter eller böcker ("Turkish moon showing as in a mirror the dangerous Mohammedan rule, divided into four quarters or books"). In sermons, the Swedish clergy preached about the Turks' cruelty and bloodthirstiness, and how they systematically burned and plundered the areas they conquered. In a Swedish schoolbook published in 1795, Islam was described as "the false religion that had been fabricated by the great deceiver Muhammad, to which the Turks to this day universally confess".[11]

In 1718, James Puckle demonstrated two version of his new invention, the Puckle gun: a tripod-mounted, single-barreled flintlock weapon fitted with a revolving cylinder, designed to prevent intruders from boarding a ship. The first version, intended for use against Christian enemies, fired conventional round bullets. The second, intended for use against the Muslim Turks, fired square bullets, designed by Kyle Tunis, which were believed to be more damaging and would, according to Puckle's patent, convince the Turks of the "benefits of Christian civilization".[22]

Voltaire and other European writers described the Turks as tyrants who destroyed Europe's heritage.[23] In his book Orientalism, Edward Said noted, "Until the end of the seventeenth century the 'Ottoman peril' lurked alongside Europe to represent for the whole of Christian civilization a constant danger, and in time European civilization incorporated that peril and its lore, its great events, figures, virtues, and vices, as something woven into the fabric of life."[24]

Even within the Ottoman Empire, the term "Turk" was sometimes used to denote the Yörük backwoodsmen, bumpkins, or illiterate peasants in Anatolia. "Etrak-i bi-idrak", an Ottoman play on words, meant "the ignorant Turk".[25]

Özay Mehmet wrote in his book Islamic Identity and Development: Studies of the Islamic Periphery:[26]

The ordinary Turks [Turkmen, or Yörüks] did not have a sense of belonging to a ruling ethnic group. In particular, they had a confused sense of self-image. Who were they: Turks, Muslims or Ottomans? Their literature was sometimes Persian, sometimes Arabic, but always courtly and elitist. There was always a huge social and cultural distance between the Imperial centre and the Anatolian periphery. As Bernard Lewis expressed it: "In the Imperial society of the Ottomans the ethnic term Turk was little used, and then chiefly in a rather derogatory sense, to designate the Turcoman nomads or, later, the ignorant and uncouth Turkish-speaking peasants of the Anatolian villages." (Lewis 1968: 1) In the words of a British observer of the Ottoman values and institutions at the start of the twentieth century: "The surest way to insult an Ottoman gentleman is to call him a 'Turk'. His face will straightway wear the expression a Londoner's assumes, when he hears himself frankly styled a Cockney. He is no Turk, no savage, he will assure you, but an Ottoman subject of the Sultan, by no means to be confounded with certain barbarians styled Turcomans, and from whom indeed, on the male side, he may possibly be descended." (Davey 1907: 209)

Anti-Turkism by Ottomans[edit]

The Ottomans discriminated against the Turkish peasantry, and used ethnic slurs such as Eşek Turk (donkey Turk) and Kaba Turk (rude Turk) to describe them. Other expressions used were "Turk-head" and "Turk-person".[27][28][29]

Modern history[edit]

Before the 1960s, Turkey had relatively low emigration.[30] However, after the adoption of a new constitution in 1961, Turkish citizens began to migrate elsewhere.[31] Gradually, Turks became a "prominent ethnic minority group" in some Western countries.[32][33] But from the beginning, they were subject to discrimination. At times, when host countries adopted more immigrant-friendly policies, "only the Turkish workers were excluded" from them.[34]

In various European languages, the word "Turk" has acquired a meaning similar to "barbarian" or "heathen",[11][35][36][37][38] or is used as a slur or curse.[11][39] As a result, the word also has some negative connotations in the United States.[40]

Arab World[edit]

The Arab World has a long historical mixup relations with the Turks back from the Ottoman Empire. In the past, the Ottoman conquest had absorbed a large number of Arab countries into its map, ultimately opened a chapter of complicated relationship between Turks and Arabs. While both are Muslim majority, subsequent conflict of interests and the growing Turkification and nationalist movement had led to growing anti-Arabism among Turks, especially following the Arab Revolt in World War I.[41] Due to growing Arabophobia among Turks,[citation needed] a growing number of Arabs have developed a resentment against anything Turkic and Turkish in general.[citation needed] Recently, many Syrians have feared the return of the Ottoman Empire due to growing ottomanist policies of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.[42] However, Arab opinions of Turkey remain deeply divided between region, while Arabs from the Middle East has increasingly hostile to Turkey, Arabs from North Africa has a friendlier opinion of Turkey due to little conflicts between two.[citation needed]


Since independence in 1956, Egypt has always had a mixed view of Turkey, in particular due to Turkey's relationship with Israel and had once allied with Syria leaving to tensions between Turkey and Egypt.[43]

Since 2014 when Abdel Fattah el-Sisi came to power, a growing anti-Turkism spread in Egypt, as retribution for growing hostility from Erdoğan against the Egyptian administration.[44] The Egyptian Government has targeted in sensitive issues of the Turkish state, such as Armenian Genocide,[45] Turkish military invasion in Syria as el-Sisi allied with Bashar al-Assad.[46] There's a growing fear of Turkish interference in Egyptian affairs, which contributed to the growth of Turkophobia in Egypt.[47]


The fear of Turkish influence has always dominated Iraq and as such, relationship between Iraq and Turkey has always been tense.[48]

Another negative influence is stemmed from the past when the Turks, formed part of the Mongol Empire's conquest to Arab World, had ransacked the city of Baghdad in 1258, had left a great stain and fear that Turkey will never stop abandoning its desire to conquer Iraq like its Mongol ancestors did.[49][50]


The memory of the Great Famine of Mount Lebanon in 1915 has played a great role on the attitude of the Lebanese people towards Turkey. The Turkish Government was found to have taken 1 million Lebanese lives during the time span of the famine.[citation needed] Kahlil Gibran, a Lebanese poet and writer claimed the famine was a deliberate act of genocide. This began a long process of Turkophobia among the Lebanese people.[51] The Lebanese Armenians have developed hostility against anything Turkish because of the Armenian Genocide, comparing Turkey to Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.[52] Many Lebanese sympathize with the large minority of Lebanese Armenians (about 5-6%) and have developed negative views of Turkey.


As for the result of the current Libyan conflict since 2014, Libya was divided into two, where the Government of National Accord in Tripoli enjoys support from Turkey. This has fueled tensions between Ankara and the Tobruk-based government, and anti-Turkish policies have been persuaded. In 2019, the Tobruk-based army had shot down Turkish drones and arrested Turkish nationals, accusing them of sponsoring terrorism.[53] In 2020, over 15 Turkish nationals have been taken into custody for the same reason.[54] Haftar had also ordered shooting down any Turkish ships and interests, banning flights to Turkey.[55] Furthermore, Haftar's government had also voiced its recognition to the Armenian Genocide, which was aimed directly against Turkish meddling.[56]

Saudi Arabia[edit]

Saudi Arabia has a very tense relationship with Turkey, owning by the old, previous Wahhabi War when the Saudis were defeated by the Ottomans, which contributed to the Turkish rule for another century before the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, and its alliance with the Al-Rashid family against the Al-Saud.[57][58] The tensions eventually rekindled in the 21st century with the desire to revive the Ottoman Empire by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, which draws Saudi Arabia to be more antagonistic to Turkey.[59][60] Saudi Arabia has since then made numerous changes, such as accusing the Ottomans as the occupants in Arabia, to financing movies that is deemed anti-Turkism.[61][62] Recently, Saudi Arabia has banned Turkish websites and led boycotts against Turkey.[63][64]


Syria has long and deep tensions with Turkey.

Since the Turkish annexation of Sanjak of Alexandretta, there is a strong anti-Turkish sentiment among the Syrian population.[65] For the Syrians, the annexation of Alexandretta became a national wound and a symbol of increasing Turkish meddling of Syrian affairs. This had led to the beginning of anti-Turkish discrimination, intensified under the government of Hafez al-Assad and the Arabization process. Its minority Syrian Turkmen, which have deep links to Turkey, were affected greatly and a ban of Turkish schools, Turkish education and anything Turkish became a norm, in contrast to Syrian regime's generous treatment toward Armenians, the arch-enemy of the Turks.[66]

With the begin of Syrian Civil War, Syrian Turkmen had sided with the Syrian opposition,[67] fed the growth of anti-Turkism in Syria and Bashar al-Assad. The Syrian Armed Forces, with Russian support, often bombing Syrian Turkmen positions and increased xenophobic attacks against Turkmen, accusing them of being Ankara's stooge.[68]

United Arab Emirates[edit]

In May 2017, the UAE's Ambassador to the United States, Yousef Al Otaiba described Turkey under Erdoğan as a "long-term threat" to both the UAE and the United States.[69]

In December 2017, the UAE's foreign minister, Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, shared a tweet that claimed an Ottoman general had robbed Medina during Ottoman rule. Emirati diplomat Anwar Gargash then added, "The sectarian and partisan view is not an acceptable alternative, and the Arab world will not be led by Tehran or Ankara."[70]

Further anti-Turkish policies led by the Emirates, such as arming the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces,[71][72] clashing of influence during the Syrian Civil War,[73] the issue of Qatar crisis and Egypt,[74][75] and aftermath of the failed 2016 Turkish coup, led to further deterioration of relations and facilitate stronger anti-Turkish tones in the Emirates.[76][77][78]


The Yemenis had a long history of resisting Ottoman and Turkish influence, and have rebelled against the Turks in a number of times, causing tensions between Yemenis and the Turks.[79]



Albanian nationalists have long accused the Turks for Albania's backwardness under the Ottomans and Islamization as the cause for making Albania a primitive country in Europe. For this reason, there is a strong anti-Turkish sentiment in Albania, believing the Turks brought only calamities and national shame for Albania and its people.[80][81] The Ottoman rule was depicted very negative in modern Albanian historiography and Skanderbeg, the Christian hero of Muslim-dominated Albania, is often praised for protecting Albanian identity from the "barbaric Turks".[82]

Albanians became very furious toward growing Turkish desire to restore its influence in the Balkans and Turkish meddling on Albanian affairs, including the Gülen movement, thus increases the number of anti-Turkish Albanians.[83]


Turkish refugees from the Veliko Tarnovo district coming into Shumen (1877).
The Bulgarian Martyresses, by Konstantin Makovsky (1877). A painting from the April Uprising, it sparked outrage in the West against Turkish atrocities in Bulgaria.

Before 1878, Turks accounted for an estimated one-third of the population of Bulgaria.[84] In 1876, approximately 70% of the country's arable land belonged to Turks. This number declined from 1923–49, when an estimated 220,000 Turks moved from Bulgaria to Turkey, a migration encouraged by the Turkish government. Another wave of about 155,000 left Bulgaria from 1949–51, many of them forcibly expelled.[85][86]

In 1984, the government implemented Bulgarisation policies to limit the cultural and ethnic influence of Bulgarian Turks. Approximately 800,000 Turks were forced to adopt Bulgarian names. Furthermore, Turks were not allowed to attend Muslim ceremonies,[87] speak Turkish in public places, or wear traditional Turkish clothing.[88] This led, a few years later, to the biggest exodus in Europe since World War II: After the Bulgaria–Turkey border was opened in June 1989, approximately 350,000 Turks left Bulgaria on tourist visas in the span of three months.[89] Eventually, more than 150,000 Turks returned to Bulgaria—especially after the removal of Todor Zhivkov from power—but more than 200,000 chose to remain in Turkey permanently.[90]

Former Bulgarian prime minister, Boyko Borisov, has been accused of having anti-Turkish tendencies.[91] In December 2009, he backed a referendum, proposed by the nationalist party Attack (Bulgarian: Атака), on whether to allow daily Turkish-language news broadcasts on Bulgarian National Television, although he later withdrew his support.[92] Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, then the Turkish prime minister, "expressed his concern of rising anti-Turkish sentiments in Bulgaria"[93] to the Bulgarian prime minister. The Turkish Foreign Ministry also "expressed its concern over the rising heated rhetoric in Bulgaria".[94] According to a report by Ivan Dikov, "not just Атака but a large number of Bulgarians have resented the news in Turkish".[92]

Borisov also referred to Turks (and Romani) as "bad human material" in 2009.[95][96][97][98] The vice president of the Party of European Socialists, Jan Marinus Wiersma, said Borisov had "crossed the invisible line between right wing populism and extremism".[99]

Former Yugoslavia[edit]

Iconostasis in the Church of the Ascension of Jesus, Skopje from 1867, Northern Macedonia. The Beheading of John the Baptist is carried out by figures stylized like Ottoman Turks.

After the Ottoman Empire fell in the early 20th century, many Turks fled as Muhacirs (refugees). Others intermarried or simply identified themselves as Yugoslavs or Albanians to avoid stigma and persecution.[100]

Historically, from the Ottoman conquest through the 19th century, many ethnically non-Turkish groups—especially the Slavic Muslims of the Balkans—were referred to in local languages as Turks. This usage is common in literature, including in the works of Ivan Mažuranić and Petar II Petrović-Njegoš. The religious ideology of Christoslavism, coined by Michael Sells, holds that "Slavs are Christian by nature and that any conversion from Christianity is a betrayal of the Slavic race".[101] Under this ideology, as seen in Croatian and Serbian nationalism, South Slavic Muslims are not regarded as part of their ethnic kin; by virtue of their Muslim faith, they become "Turks".[102]


Turks have lived in Western Thrace, an area of northeastern Greece, since the Ottoman conquest of the region in the 15th century. In 1922, Turks owned 84% of the land in Western Thrace. Today, however, estimates range from 20–40%, largely because of policies under which ethnic Greeks were encouraged to purchase Turkish land with soft loans granted by the state.[103][104]

The Turkish government estimates that the Turks of Western Thrace number between 120,000 and 130,000.[105][106] However, the Greeks claim that the Muslim population there includes people of various ethnic and religious backgrounds—primarily the Pomaks (a Slavic people, ethnically and linguistically related closest to Bulgarians), Muslim Roma and ethnic Greek Muslims—and that Sunni Muslims who identify ethnically as Turks are the minority. Thus, the Greek government refers to the Muslims of Western Thrace—whom Turkey sees as the "Turkish community"—as Greek Muslims or Hellenic Muslims, and does not recognise any specific Turkish minority.[105] Greek courts have outlawed the use of the word "Turkish" to describe the community. In 1987, the Supreme Court of Greece affirmed a 1986 decision in which the Union of Turkish Associations of Western Thrace was ordered closed for illegally using it.[107] The court held that the word "Turkish" referred specifically to citizens of Turkey and could not be used to describe citizens of Greece.[107]

Anti-Turkish rhetoric within the lawmakers and administrators of Greece have been encountered in the modern times as well. A Greek lawmaker Ioannis Lagos, deputy of the Greek far-right Golden Dawn party, tore up the Turkish flag in the European Parliament during a debate at the parliament over a large number of refugees on Greek islands when he blamed Turkey for the situation.[108]

Another member of the European parliament, of the Greek far-right Golden Dawn party, and a former army lieutenant general Eleftherios Synadinos has been expelled from a European Parliament plenary session after violating rules against racist speech, stating that "As it has been expressed in scientific literature, the Turks are dirty and polluted. Turks are like wild dogs when they play but when they have to fight against their enemies they run away. The only effective way to deal with the Turks is with decisive and resolute attitudes." [109]


China has a long standing tensions toward Turkic people.

Persisted Turkophobia among Chinese have been dated back from ancient era, when the Chinese Empire fought against various Turkic rulers since antiquity, and often the Turks assisted the Koreans against Chinese further led the Chinese to campaign against the Turks.[110] Further hostility increased when the Uyghur Turks joined the Mongol conquest of China and its atrocities toward Chinese.[111]

From 19th century onward, tensions between Turks and Chinese revived with the establishment of Kashgaria and subsequent Turko-Chinese wars to control the region.[112] This had led to the weakening of the Qing dynasty and paved way for its future collapse. The Republic of China however, failed to address the increasing tensions between Turks and Han Chinese, and conflict between two continued, known as Xinjiang Wars, when the Turkic Uyghurs raised arms to fight Chinese Army. In response, China imposed heavy military repression against the Uyghurs and other Turkic rebels, many were supported by the Soviet Union.[113] This conflict would continue until the fall of the Republic and establishment of Communist China, known as People's Republic of China.

Since 1990s with Chinese economic reform, China had grown to become a new major superpower, but this has led to the increase of tensions among Turks and Chinese. Due to growing pan-Turkist separatism against China, the Chinese Government had deployed the military, increased surveillance on Uyghurs and operating re-education camps.[114] Meanwhile, in China, growing anti-Turkism ranges from the felonious act accusing the Turkish Government's support for Uyghur separatism, to later call for extermination of Uyghur Turks.[115] The Turks were also held directly for being the source of national turmoil in China, notably throughout the story of An Lushan, a Turkic-born Chinese General who caused the An Lushan rebellion that led to the collapse of Tang dynasty and weakening of China.[116]

A growing sense of anti-Turkist among Chinese nationalists have been reinforced further when Chinese nationalist websites with tie to Chinese government sohu and tuotiao published news claiming that Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan (two Turkic countries in Central Asia) should not be independent nations but rather it was part of China since antiquity.[117]


The island of Cyprus became an independent state in 1960, with power shared between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots under the London–Zürich Agreements. But in December 1963, in events that became known as Bloody Christmas,[118] Turkish Cypriots were ousted from the republic and Greek Cypriots began a military campaign against them, leading to 11 years of ethnic clashes.[119] Turkish Cypriots bore the heavier cost in terms of casualties, and some 25,000—about a fifth of the population of Turkish Cypriots—were internally displaced.[120] They lived as refugees for at least ten years, until the 1974 Turkish invasion.[120] By the late 1960s, approximately 60,000 Turkish Cypriots had left their homes and moved into enclaves.[121] This resulted in an exodus of Turkish Cypriots, with the majority migrating to the United Kingdom and others to Turkey, North America, and Australia.[122]

Anti-Turkish rhetoric in Cyprus has been exemplified within the administrative bodies of Cyprus. For example, the primate of the Church of Cyprus, Archbishop Chrysostomos has expressed his opinions regarding the reversion of the Hagia Sophia museum to a mosque stating that "The Turks have remained uncivilized, they are rude, and they will remain [this way]." [123] He added that "Turkey has learned to destroy, it has learned to appropriate the cultures of others and sometimes, when it does not benefit it, it destroys them and falsely presents cultures as its own." [123]


The Solingen arson attack of 1993, in which neo-Nazis set fire to a Turkish family's home, was one of the most severe instances of xenophobic violence in modern Germany.

Turks are "the most prominent ethnic minority group in contemporary Germany",[124] and discrimination and violence against them are common.[125][126] In public discourse and popular jokes, they are often portrayed as "ludicrously different in their food tastes, dress, names, and even in their ability to develop survival techniques".[127]

The number of violent acts by right-wing extremists in Germany increased dramatically between 1990 and 1992.[128] On November 25, 1992, three Turkish residents were killed in a firebombing in Mölln, a town in northern Germany.[129][130] And on May 29, 1993, in an arson attack in Solingen, five members of a Turkish family that had resided in Germany for 23 years were burnt to death.[131] Several neighbours heard someone shout "Heil Hitler!" before dousing the front porch and door with gasoline and setting fire to the home.[132] Most Germans condemned these attacks, and many marched in candlelight processions.[133]

According to Greg Nees, "because Turks are both darker-skinned and Muslim, conservative Germans are largely against granting them citizenship".[134]

Some critics accuse the news media of bias against German Turks, particularly in contrast to German Kurds. For example, many German news outlets and politicians have warned against demonstrations by Turks in support of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the Turkish president, but remained silent about demonstrations by Kurds in support of the Kurdistan Workers' Party.[135]


In Iran, ethnic Persians use the word "Torke khar" (donkey Turk) in reference to Turks of Iranian Azerbaijan.[136] In the Iranian media, Turks are often depicted as 'stupid,' 'uneducated,' and 'illiterate' individuals who speak Persian with heavy Turkish accents.[137] In spring of 2006 the government newspaper Iran Daily published a cartoon that depicted Turks as cockroaches and suggested various methods of exterminating them. Dozens were killed and scores were arrested after ethnic Turks took to the streets of cities in Iranian Azerbaijan to protest the racist cartoon.[138] In 2010, a group of scholars and human rights activists from Iran, mostly from its Turkish community, wrote an open letter to Sepp Blatter, the president of FIFA at the time, and complained about the issue of racism in Iran’s football stadiums directed against Turkish citizens of the country.[139] The same year, UN urged Iran to tackle racism against its ethnic minorities including Turks.[140] In November 2015, Turks in Iranian Azerbaijan took to the streets after IRIB-2, a state-run TV channel, aired an episode of a children's show, Fitilehha (Candle Wicks), in which a Turkish boy was shown brushing his teeth with a toilet brush. Dozens of protesters were detained by Iranian authorities in the protests.[141][142] In June 2017, FARE (Football Against Racism in Europe), an organization working under the auspices of the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) and the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), published a report called “Global Guide to Discriminatory Practices in Football,” which examines “discriminatory practices displayed inside football stadiums around the world”. In its Iran section, the report pointed out to anti-Turkish, racist, and dehumanizing chants that directed at Turkish fans in Iranian stadiums.[143]


Historically, relationship between Turkey and Israel, as well as Israel with the Turkic world has been majority friendly, one of the few rare exceptions of Israel's harmonious relationship with Muslim world since most Turkic countries are Muslims. However, as for the result of increasing anti-Semitic sentiment by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan,[144] increasing anti-Turkism can be shown in Israel.

In 2019, Benjamin Netanyahu's son, Yair Netanyahu, published his tweet criticizing Turkey and warned that Istanbul shall be renamed Constantinople, sparking a political crisis between Turkey and Israel.[145]

In 2020, Israel was accused for secretly aiding the Arab countries against Turkey in the Libyan conflict,[146] Israeli nationalist groups have recently burned Turkish flag in response to Erdoğan's decision converting Hagia Sophia back to a mosque further deepens growing anti-Turkish enmity among Israelis.[147]


The Maltese have a colourful vocabulary stemming from their fight against the Ottoman Empire during the Great Siege of Malta in 1565. For example, the expression tghammed tork is used when the sun is visible during rainfall; it means "a Turk has been baptised", which was considered a rare event. The phrase twieled tork ("a Turk was born") is also used. Another expression is haqq ghat-torok ("curse on the Turks"), used when something goes wrong.[148]


Turks are the second-largest ethnic minority group in the Netherlands.[149] Although policies toward Turks in the Netherlands are more progressive than those in many other European countries, such as Germany,[150] Human Rights Watch criticized Dutch legislation that it said violated Turks' rights.[151] In a report on the Netherlands in 2008, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance wrote that the Turkish minority had been particularly affected by "stigmatisation of and discrimination against members of minority groups".[152] The report also noted that "the tone of Dutch political and public debate around integration and other issues relevant to ethnic minorities has experienced a dramatic deterioration".[152]

According to the European Network Against Racism, an international organisation supported by the European Commission, half of all Turks in the Netherlands report having experienced racial discrimination.[153] The network also noted "dramatic growth" of Islamophobia and antisemitism. In 2001, another international organisation, the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia, highlighted a negative trend in Dutch attitudes towards minorities, compared with average European Union results.[154] That analysis also noted that, compared to other Europeans, the Dutch were "more in favour of cultural assimilation of minorities" rather than "cultural enrichment by minority groups".

New Zealand[edit]

The perpetrator of the Christchurch Mosque Shootings was motivated by strong anti-Turkish sentiments,[155] characterizing the Ottoman Turks as an enemy of what he sees to be the European culture,[156] having painted his rifle with historical references symbolic to popular historical debates, political arguments and internet memes often used to ridicule the Turkish history, such as Skanderberg (an Albanian officer who lead an uprising against the Ottoman Empire), Antonio Bragadin (a Venetian officer who broke an agreement and killed Turkish captives), 1683 (which is the date of the Second Siege of Vienna), Milos Obilic (who is said to have killed the Ottoman Emperor Murat I in Battle of Kosovo in 1389), János Hunyadi (who has blocked Ottoman attempts to take Belgrade), Ernst Rudiger von Starhemberg (who lead the defeat of Ottomans in 1683), the Kahlenberg Battle (which marked the beginning of the Ottoman withdrawal from the Siege of Vienna) and ‘Turkofagos’ (Turk-eater, a nickname used by Greek forces fighting the Ottomans[157]) which he used to shoot 91 people with, 51 fatal (one Turkish[158]) and 40 wounded.[159]

His 'manifesto' has a whole section about Turks, dictating Turkish people to stay in Asia Minor, that Istanbul will be destroyed and Hagia Sophia will be christianized, threatening the 5 million Turkish people living in Europe.[160] This declaration references to the ethnic cleansing of the European Turks from the Balkans in which 5.5 Muslim Turks have been exterminated between 1821-1922.[161]

The attacker had previously toured Asia, Europe, and the Middle East, visiting Turkey,[162][163] France,[164] Bulgaria,[165] Greece, Hungary,[166] North Korea[167] and Pakistan,[citation needed] where he has made contacts with far-right groups with same ideology as his, indicating the wide spread of hate-based extremist cells, especially nested in the Balkans.[155]

He also identifies himself as a "kebab removalist", referencing to the famous racist 'remove kebab' internet meme often used by the far-right ultranationists and racists to mock the extermination of the Turks and Muslims in the Balkans, especially the Srebrenica massacre.[168] He was also playing the 'remove kebab' song in his car before the shooting.[169]

Former Soviet Union[edit]

A World War I Russian propaganda poster depicting an imagined Turk running away from a Russian.


Armenia–Turkey relations have historically been hostile,[170] primarily because of the Armenian Genocide of 1915 and Turkey's denial that it happened. According to a 2007 survey, 78% of Armenians see Turkey as a threat.[171]


Georgians look with a wary eye to Turkey's growing Neo-Ottomanism and the rise in popularity of irredentist maps showing Turkey with borders expanded into the former Ottoman Empire, usually including Adjara.[172]

Although some Turks have since come back to Meskheti, the Georgians and Armenians who settled in their homes have vowed to take up arms against any who return. Many Georgians have also argued that the Meskhetian Turks should be sent to Turkey, "where they belong".[173]


According from Robert Crew, Russia has been historically more tolerant towards Turkic people than any other European administrations, and many Turkic people (Volga Tatars, Bashkirs, Karachays, Nogais, Kazakhs, Chuvash, for examples), most of them Muslims, were fairly treated under Tsarist Russia. However, not all Turkic peoples received such generous treatment, for instance, Crimean Tatars under Russian Tsarist administration were forced to leave their houses for Turkey due to Russian colonial politics in the Crimean peninsula. Many Muslim Turks also formed a significant part of Russian Imperial administration and a major bulk of Russian army in its expansion.[174] However, anti-Turkism is sometimes expressed under Russian rule, especially since the Soviet Union.

In the Soviet Union, the NKVD and the Red Army carried out ethnic cleansing during World War II through mass deportations of Turks.[175] In June 1945, Vyacheslav Molotov, the Soviet minister of foreign affairs, formally demanded that Turkey surrender three Armenian provinces (Kars, Ardahan, and Artvin), and Moscow was also preparing to support Armenian claims to several other provinces. War against Turkey seemed possible, and Joseph Stalin wanted to drive out Turks (especially in Meskheti, near the Turkish–Georgian border) who were likely to be hostile to Soviet intentions.[176] The campaign is relatively poorly documented, but Soviet sources suggest that 115,000 Turks were deported, mainly to Central Asia. Most of them settled in Uzbekistan,[177] but many others died along the way.[178]

More recently, some Turks in Russia, especially Meskhetian Turks in Krasnodar, have faced human rights violations, including deprivation of citizenship and prohibitions on employment and owning property.[179] Since 2004, many Turks have left the Krasnodar region for the United States as refugees. They are still barred from full repatriation to Georgia.[180]


While Turkey and Uzbekistan have a fair relations for being commonly Turkic, some tensions were witnessed.

In 1989, 103 people died and more than 1,000 were wounded in ethnic clashes between Turks and Uzbeks. Some 700 houses were destroyed, and more than 90,000 Meskhetian Turks were driven out of Uzbekistan.[181] Many Turks see these events as their "second deportation". Those who remained in Uzbekistan complained of ethnic discrimination.[182]

United States[edit]

Anti-Turkism first appeared in the United States during the World War I, when the Armenian Genocide broke out and reported by American newspapers.[183] These reports had reinforced a sense of solidarity to Armenians and increasingly anti-Turkish rhetorics in the United States, with the Turks being equally seen as a barbaric people.[184][185] For this reason, anti-Turkism has become a major issue on the problematic Turkey–United States relations, even though the two countries are parts of NATO. Another reason is since most Turks are Muslims, it is often mingled with Islamophobia, further worsened the perception of Turkish people in the United States, with Turkish mosques facing increasing attacks by American nationalist groups.[186]

Outside the Armenian genocide, anti-Turkism is also ranged by the fact the United States found bond with most of European countries, where most modern Americans traced their ancestry from.[187]

In Contemporary Media[edit]


Dracula Untold[edit]

The plot revolves around glorifying Vlad the Impaler, a historical figure that is known to have committed mass murder against the Turks,[188][189] portraying him as an honorable freedom fighter rather than the brutal figure in actual history. With the numerous usage of the word 'Turk' through out the movie, an ethnicity is constructed that wasn't present in the time, such as calling a Roman 'Italian' would have the same effect of calling an Ottoman a 'Turk'. Mehmet II is misleadingly portrayed as a spoiled and greedy young villain who easily attacks women and children, while in truth it was Vlad that used scorched earth tactics to devastate the people of Balkans.[190]

Midnight Express[edit]

Midnight Express is criticized for its unfavorable portrayal of Turkish people.

In her 1991 book Turkish Reflections: A Biography of Place, Mary Lee Settle wrote: 'The Turks I saw in Lawrence of Arabia and Midnight Express were like cartoon caricatures, compared to the people I had known and lived among for three of the happiest years of my life.'[191]

Pauline Kael, in reviewing the film for The New Yorker, commented, 'This story could have happened in almost any country, but if Billy Hayes had planned to be arrested to get the maximum commercial benefit from it, where else could he get the advantages of a Turkish jail? Who wants to defend Turks? (They don’t even constitute enough of a movie market for Columbia Pictures to be concerned about how they are represented.)'[192]

One reviewer, writing for World Film Directors, wrote: "Midnight Express is 'more violent, as a national hate-film than anything I can remember', 'a cultural form that narrows horizons, confirming the audience’s meanest fears and prejudices and resentments'."[193]

David Denby of New York criticized Midnight Express as 'merely anti-Turkish, and hardly a defense of prisoners' rights or a protest against prison conditions'.[194] Denby said also that all Turks in the movie — guardian or prisoner — were portrayed as 'losers' and 'swine', and that 'without exception [all the Turks] are presented as degenerate, stupid slobs'.

Turkish Cypriot film director Derviş Zaim wrote a thesis at the University of Warwick on the representation of Turks in the film, in which he concluded that the one-dimensional portrayal of the Turks as 'terrifying' and 'brutal' served merely to reinforce the sensational outcome, and was likely influenced by such factors as Orientalism and capitalism.[195]

My Big Fat Greek Marriage[edit]

The movie bestows constant slurs against the Turks, but only in Greek language, so the English speakers are not aware of the problematic language of the movie. The lines such as "You ugly Turk, you are going to kidnap me", "Bloodthirsty Turks", "When my people were writing philosophy, your people were swinging from trees." depict a portrayal of Turks as barbarians and Greek supremacism without any clarification of an alternate view.[196] The leading actress, Nia Vardalos, later participated in a Saturday Night Live episode where Turks were portrayed as dirty, smoking, Arabic speaking, ragtag, nose picking and anti-Armenian characters, which was heavily criticized by the Turkish Forum, a network of expat Turks which protested NBC and asked for a public apology, and the received heavy criticism by the Turks on the internet.[197]

TV Shows[edit]


Monica wears a fez over an actual turkey on her head

In one of the Thanksgiving Day special episodes, one of the characters, Monica, shows a raw turkey over her head and to complete the ethnic nature of the joke, puts a fez on top of her head, which is used to depict Turks in contemporary western culture, and then starts belly dancing, something that non-Turks often associate with being Turkish. 'Cooking Turkey' (not 'Cooking a turkey') is part of the racial linguistic humor often seen in media.[198]

Anti-Turkish slurs and sentiments in various countries[edit]

It's possible to come across anti-Turkish phrases, idioms and maxims in various different countries:

  •  Austria: In rural Austria, children often say the rhyme "Es ist schon dunkel. Türken kommen. Türken kommen" ("It's getting dark, Turks are coming, Turks are coming.")[11]
  •  Germany: In German, the phrase "getürkt" ('turkified') which means that something is fraudulent or forged, is still in contemporary use. Also the exclamation words "Kruzitürken" and "Kümmeltürke" have the same meaning as "Shit!" or "Damn!" in English
  •  Armenia: In Armenian the word Turk is generally used to question the mental faculties of a person: "հո թուրք չես?!" ("Are you Turk?"). Also phrase is used to describe a dirty home: "կարծես թուրքի տուն լինի" ("This looks like the house of a Turk?")[199][200][201] Also in the Armenian community, the phrase "Dacik" is used to define Turks and Muslims.[202]
  •  Iran: In Persian "Türk-i hâr" (ترک خر: donkey Turk), is used against Azerbaijan Turks, which number up to 30 million South Azerbaijani living within the border of Iran.[203][204]
  •  France: In old French, terms such as C'est un vrai Turc ("Just like a Turk") were used to define brutish and cruel individuals.[205]
  •  Spain: Spanish people used to say "turco" when they wanted to insult another person.[11]
  •  Italy: In contemporary Italian, phrases such as "bestemmia come un Turco" ("Cursing like a Turk") ve "puzza come un Turco" ("Stinking like a Turk") are often used.[11] The most ill-reputed phrase, "Mamma li Turchi!" ("Mommy, Turks are coming!") is used to disclaim fear and upheaval, is often used in media headlines.[206] Italians also use "Fumare come un Turco" ("Smoking like a Turk") as well as Germans and Serbians.[207]
  •  Cyprus: In the Republic of Cyprus the slogan "Best Turks is a dead Turk" was being taught to soldiers during training and marching drills until 2008.[208][209]
  •  Norway: In Norwegian "Sint som en tyrker" ("Angry as a Turk") is used.
  •  Montenegro: When somebody would do unqualified work, they would be asked "Are you Turk?".
  •  Serbia: In Serbian when someone is making funny gestures, they would be asked "You have funny gestures, are you a Turk?" indicating that only a Turk is capable of stupid gestures.
  •  China: Chinese language and calligraphy provided slur against Turks by mocking as "土匪" (Tǔfěi), which mean "bandit". As "土" () also mean Turk in Chinese language (Turkey is written "土耳其" in Chinese), it is also understood as a slur against Turkic people.[210]

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