KALFAT, TURKEY – A village in central Turkey where Boris Johnson traces his Turkish ancestry to is abuzz with excitement and pride over the news that a man they see as one of their own has become the new prime minister of Britain.
Residents of the mainly farming village of Kalfat, in Cankiri province, 100 kilometers (62 miles) north of the Turkish capital Ankara, gathered at its main assembly place on Tuesday to celebrate after Johnson won a Conservative Party leadership contest triggered by the resignation of Theresa May, according to town administrator, Bayram Tavukcu. Johnson took office as British prime minister on Wednesday.
Residents here dismiss as “political rhetoric” past comments by Johnson that were sometimes deemed to be anti-Muslim or anti-Turkish and said they hope that he will visit Kalfat while in office.
“We were honored that someone who has Ottoman genes, who comes from these lands, has become the prime minister of a prodigious country,” said Adem Karaagac, the former administrator of the village of 1,300.
When Johnson visited Turkey in 2016, he was given a warm welcome despite basing his Brexit campaign on the possibility that millions of Turks could enter Britain if Turkey joined the European Union and despite the fact that he had composed an offensive poem about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Erdogan was among the first leaders to congratulate Johnson this week and expressed hope the Turkish-British ties would flourish under Johnson’s government.
Like Johnson a journalist-turned-politician, Kemal served as the interior minister under Turkey’s last sultan in the early 20th century. His fatal mistake was advocating turning Turkey into a British colony in the waning days of the Ottoman empire, when the modern republic’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, was fighting to defeat invading troops of Britain, France, Italy and Greece.
In November 1922, Kemal was kidnapped by nationalists in Istanbul and taken by boat to the nearby town of Izmit, where he was killed and then hanged from a tree.
Johnson has challenged the narrative of Kemal as traitor, his father wrote in his book.