150 years passed since the greatest tragedy that has come upon the Circassian people. May 21, 1864 marks the symbolic date of the Circassian Genocide. The Russian Empire had followed a complete extermination policy during the wars in Eastern Caucasia, particularly in the Dagestan and Circassian territories. Over a million Circassians were massacred and even a greater number of them were exiled. The Abkhaz, Ubykh and the Adygean people of Black Sea were also exiled as over five hundred of them lost their lives either on the way or at where they were instructed to settle. Fifty three thousand Circassians were found dead just in Trabzon. The Ubykh language is a dead one now. The Natukhais of the Adygeans only remain in the history books nowadays.
The Circassian exile was a joint agreement between the Ottoman and the Russian empires as the Ottomans needed migrants and manpower that can fight for them. The Ottoman followed a systematic relocation policy. Circassians were relocated to the war zones of the Empire to serve as almost a buffer between the Empire’s enemies and the Muslim populations: in the Balkans, on the Syrian-Lebanese line in the Middle East, on the Samsun-Hatay line in Anatolia, around Istanbul and to the East and South of the Marmara Sea.
The Circassian people fighting for their independence against colonialism were spread out across the Ottoman Empire. The agony of these people has lived on for over a hundred years and the eulogies were passed on from one generation to another. Circassians now are spread over 40 different countries and of those, most of the Abkhaz, Ubykh and the Adygean people inhabit Turkey now. Most of the Circassian people around the world now live in Turkey. It is estimated that over five million people of Circassian origin live in Anatolia.
The Circassian people in Turkey were subjected to a great number of assimilation practices following the beginning of the Second Constitutional Era in 1908 during which Circassian foundations and schools were shut down. The relocation of the Circassian population in the western Gönen-Manyas region to the east took place as Circassian army leaders were marked as traitors on 1922. Later on, the Republican Era implemented assimilation policies such as the “pure Turkish last names” legislation, the calls for “not letting the other kids know that you are of Circassian origin” in schools and many others. Ruthless practices as such worsened the pain of the Circassians.
The AKP government still refuses to neglect the democratic claims of the Circassian people. As Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), we Support Circassian people’s democratic claims to:
– The lifting of the measures against the continuation and representation of the Circassian identity and culture,
– The right to education in Circassian and the addition of Circassian in academic fields to the higher education curriculum,
– The right to TV and radio broadcasts in Circassian,
– Renaming of the Circassian villages and Circassians’ right to name their children in Circassian names,
– The removal of the racist remarks that label Circassians as traitors in the curriculum.
Turkey still carries on a historical legacy of assimilation and state-led hatred against the minorities. We share the everlasting agony of the Circassian genocide and support the Circassians’ struggle for the recognition of their language, culture and religious beliefs for equal and democratic citizenship.
HDP Central Committee
May 20, 2014