White Turks and Black Turks

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White Turks (Turkish: Beyaz Türkler) is a term used in Turkey for the urban Republican elite. White Turks are in an imaginary contrast to the so-called Black Turks (Kara Türkler or Siyah Türkler), a name for the more Islamic among Anatolian Turks. The two terms are related to the emergence of a middle class since the end of the 20th Century, and is an expression of elite consciousness and also a contempt for a section of the population which is perceived as backward. Civilizing efforts were part of the imagination of all Turkish elites since the Tanzimat reforms.

These terms were originally coined by the journalist Ufuk Güldemir is in his 1992 book "Teksas Malatya". The term "White Turks" was meant to be analogous to the American White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, and was used to describe an old elite who opposed the then-Prime Minister Turgut Ozal because of his Kurdish origin, religiousness and lack of military service. The term was subsequently taken up by the sociologist Nilüfer Göle, popularized by Turkish columnists, journalists and political scientists by using it to refer to various social groups in Turkey.

In an ironic approach to the conceptual pair, Mümim Sekman wrote in his 2001 book "Türk Usulü Başarı" that, among other things, Black Turks listen to Arabesque music, while White Turks prefer western music; Black Turks would have arranged marriages, while White Turks chose their own partners; White Turks would meet at airports, while Black Turks used bus terminals. The chief editor of Hurriyet, Ertugrul Ozkok, considers himself part of the White Turks and describes this group as follows: "They live mainly in coastal regions, are sensitive when it comes to secularism, they drink alcohol, have a high purchasing power, a western lifestyle and the women do not wear headscarves". The President Tayyip Erdogan described himself as a Black Turk.[citation needed]

Some observers, such as Ayşe Sözen and Nilüfer Narlı, also note the emergence of a third group of "Grey Turks", who are urbanized, well-educated and enjoy western music and films, but are pious Muslims.[1]

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