The following article by G. Lincoln McCurdy, President of the Turkish Coalition of America, appeared on the website The Hill on 8 July. I’ve written on this subject myself, but I’m always happy when someone agrees with me 😉 so I’m sharing this with you:
While the term “nation of immigrants” is most readily associated with the United States, an American strategic ally on the other side of the globe can claim the same distinction dating back centuries.
For Turkey, the term takes on new meaning today while the country shelters nearly two million Syrian refugees who have fled civil war. This Turkish practice of incorporating diverse ethnic groups precedes modern day Turkey. During the Ottoman Empire, the ethnic makeup of Anatolia evolved thanks to generous government policies towards immigrants and refugees during regional and global conflicts that shifted large population groups. As a result, modern Turks exhibit a cultural mosaic of ethnicities and religions, with ancestral roots tracing throughout Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.
In 1492, while Columbus voyaged across the Atlantic, Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of Spain expelled their Jewish citizens. Nationless, Jews in the region were desperate for safe haven until the Ottoman Empire financed their immigration to Asia Minor in 1497. Nearly 250,000 Jews would ultimately settle in Ottoman lands. This Jewish population has remained an integrated part of Turkey, and vibrant Jewish communities continue to thrive in the cities of Istanbul and Izmir.
Leading up to and in the years following the Russian Empire’s annexation of Crimea in 1783, more than 100,000 Crimean Muslims would enter Anatolia. After the Crimean War ended in 1856, another 100,000 Crimean Muslims again escaped persecution by becoming Ottoman, and then Turkish, citizens. Additionally, the Ottoman Empire opened its doors to up to one and a half million Circassians, the indigenous people of the northwestern Caucasus, when they were massacred and exiled from their villages by the Russian army in 1864.