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Turkey and Holland, two countries more than 2000 km apart but which have always been linked by an ancient friendship, dating back to the 80 Years War. A journey to discover what the relationship between these two states has been and what is today.
“Rather turkish than popish”
The relationship that binds Holland to the Islamic world has very ancient origins and can be traced back to the 16th century. In fact, the arrival in the Orange Land of the first Turkish and Persian merchants (including Evliya Çelebi, the Turkish Herodotus) dates back to that time, but it will be the Eighty Years’ War to lay the most solid foundations of this age-old friendship. This historical event in fact sees the Netherlands, a large part of them Protestants, rebelling against Catholic Spain, which at the time held the dominion of these places.
At that moment a growing anti-Catholic sentiment begins to develop among the Dutch, which will lead them to look at the Turks and Muslims in general with ever better eyes. In fact, sayings such as “Liever turks dan paaps” or “better Turks than papists” were coined and many inhabitants began to take the crescent as their symbol. This pro-Turkish sentiment then exploded with the outbreak of the war, so much so that, after the liberation of Leiden, Turkish flags were also displayed and all Muslim slaves were freed. Not only that, Maurice of Nassau, Prince of Orange, to pay homage to the Turks for their support for the revolt, in 1604 founded the city of Turkeye in Zeeland. In addition, in the 17th century, dozens of Dutch, Zeelanders and Frisians converted to Islam, enlisted in the Ottoman navy and, in some cases, even became admirals of the Sublime Porte.
Turkey and Holland today
The relationship between the Netherlands and Turkey regained vitality in the 20th century, with the former needing cheap labor and therefore falling back on their ancient allies. The new Turkey, due to the fall of the Ottoman Empire, actually had the opposite problem and this created very favorable conditions for the two states to cooperate. It is very interesting to note how, precisely because of this succession of events, large communities of Bulgarian Turks and Thracian Turks exist in Holland and Germany, still very proud of their Altaic origins. Furthermore, 18% of Turks in the Netherlands follow Alevism, a particular Islamic doctrine linked to both Shiites and Yazidis, another trace of the Turkish Diaspora.
The relationship that today binds the Turks to the country is really interesting, in which they have assumed an absolutely not indifferent political role. In fact, in the country there is the DENK, a real “Turkish party” which represents the community in the institutions. The relationship that binds this people to their country of origin is in fact, still today, strong and rooted in the heads and souls of the inhabitants, thanks also to the large presence in the area of Millî Görüş. Over the years, the association has in fact been a very strong bond for the Turks of the diaspora, both in Germany and in the Netherlands; author of both the Rumi mosque in Rotterdam and the “Great mosque of Amsterdam”.
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