From Karaman to Cyprus

From Karaman to Cyprus

There was a story in the news Sunday. An 86-year-old man, Kemal Bayat, was yelling at a group of “wise persons” from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) who gathered him and his townspeople at a conference hall to brief them about the Kurdish opening of the government and the presidential basic instinct of the head of the government.

“We shed our blood to liberate our land and to establish our republic. I am against the presidential system and I shall stand against it. Such a thing cannot happen. Fed up with your presidential system, Kurdish opening, and federation talks… Presidential system means compromising from our republic. No way!”

Obviously, there is a need to enlighten Bayat and other Turkish citizens (AKP prosecutors, mind you I am not using the word “Turk”). But, unfortunately the 86-year-old Bayat is not alone in misunderstanding the intentions of the AKP and its new enforced life-term convict coalition partner. Baskın Oran, one of the “wise men” of the prime minister, was screaming in İzmir Saturday: “I hate this republic. We will get it down and build a new state.” Such outbursts of course are not conducive to the project of the “wise persons,” the task of whom is apparently to sell a Kurdish deal and presidential Turkey to the masses. The 86-year-old Bayat of Karaman is a clever man and cannot be fooled on such existential issues.

Reading Bayat’s story, I remembered something else totally different… Was it indeed so different? Karaman was the heartland of the Ottoman conquests. After the conquest of a place, Karaman was supplying the bulk of the Turkish element dispatched to Turkify the “new territories.” Karaman of the Ottoman period was of course far bigger than the geographic boundaries of today’s Karaman. While it was a town in the Konya province for the most part of the republican period – indeed until 1989 when it was made a province – Karaman had a very long and dominant role in the history of Turks in Anatolia. Indeed, even before Turks arrived in Anatolia it was the legendary Laranda of the ancient times until it was destroyed by Perdiccas and relegated to become a hideout of the Isaurian pirates…

The Karaman chiefdom was the first state in Anatolia to declare Turkish as official language. It was the last of the Anatolian Turkish chiefdoms Ottomans conquered to establish integrity of Turkish presence and to grow to become the successor of the Seljuks in this geography.

Most Turks in the Balkans and other fatherland places may find their background in Karaman. As a Turkish Cypriot, Karaman is indeed my hometown in Turkey as well. Population record books of the Ottoman times – thanks to the dedicated efforts of the staff of the Foundation Authority – clearly established that my family belonged to the Karakeçili Turcoman Tribe who settled first in Bursa eventually divided and forced to settle at Aydın, Karaman and Diyarbakır. After the conquest of Cyprus a section of the Karaman group – among them my great grandfather Uzun Mehmet – was dispatched to Cyprus.

Interesting enough, the Karakeçili tribesmen forced to settle in Diyarbakır now live in a territory going down as Erbil and have long believed they are the perfect Kurds while those living in Aydın and Aegean Turkey have no idea about their background. Those who were left in Karaman still cherish their tribal connections while Turkish Cypriots have started to rediscover their roots.