Middle East

Why one village in Turkey is celebrating Boris Johnson's win

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A village in central Turkey is buzzing with excitement over the news that a man they see as one of their own has become the new prime minister of Britain.

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, 100km north of the Turkish capital Ankara, gathered at its main assembly place on Tuesday to celebrate after Mr Johnson won a Conservative Party leadership contest triggered by the resignation of Theresa May, according to town administrator, Bayram Tavukcu.

Mr Johnson took office as British prime minister on Wednesday.

The remains of an old house where the great great grandfather of Boris Johnson once lived in Kalfat.
The remains of an old house where the great great grandfather of Boris Johnson once lived in Kalfat.
AAP

Residents here dismiss as "political rhetoric" past comments by Mr 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 honoured 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 1300.

Mr Johnson's paternal great-great-grandfather, Haci Ahmet Riza Efendi, was born there in 1813 and the house he lived in is still standing.

Adem Karaagac, left, and Satilmis Karatekin pray at the grave of a distant relative of Boris Johnson.
Adem Karaagac, left, and Satilmis Karatekin pray at the grave of a distant relative of Boris Johnson.
AAP

The family members were known as the "Sarioglangiller" which roughly translate as "of the family of the blond boy," Mr Karaagac said, though it was not known if Mr Johnson inherited his blond hair from his Turkish ancestry.

Mr Johnson is usually associated with the British upper middle class because of his family's wealth and his education at the exclusive schools Eton and Oxford.

But he has been known to bring up his Turkish roots whenever challenged about his ability to understand modern Britain's multiethnic, multicultural nature.

During a Conservative Party leadership debate in June, he defended himself against accusations of Islamophobia.

"When my Muslim great-grandfather came to this country in fear of his life in 1912, he did so because he knew it was a place that was a beacon of generosity and openness and a willingness to welcome people from around the world," Mr Johnson said.

Boris Johnson poses outside the Conservative Leadership Headquarters.
Boris Johnson poses outside the Conservative Leadership Headquarters.
Getty Images Europe

"I think my Muslim great-grandfather would have been astonished to have found that his great-grandson had become foreign secretary. But he would have been very proud and I think it would be a tribute to this country."

Mr Johnson explored his Turkish roots in a 2008 episode of the BBC genealogy program Who Do You Think You Are?

When he visited Turkey as foreign minister in 2016, Mr Johnson told journalists that his family was from Kalfat.

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