The Turks constitute the third ethnic group in Macedonia. They preserve their identity and have become more organized in recent years.
Cemal Alindri, Secretary General of Youth Wing of Turkish Democratic Party, provides information on the current situation, political activities and goals of the Turkish community of Macedonia.
Huseynov: Can you first give us general information about the Turkish population living in Macedonia? What is the number of Turks? Which regions do they mostly populate?
Alindri: The majority of the Macedonian Turks were settled here in and after the 14th century, when Macedonia came under the rule of the Ottoman Empire. During the Ottoman period, Macedonia had a large Turkish population. Following the fall and subsequent division of the empire, most of the Macedonian Turks moved to the present-day Turkey. According to the 2002 census, there were 77,959 Turks living Macedonia, forming a minority of some 3.8% of the population. However, this number is probably much more than the official data as the census did not consider Macedonian Turks working in Europe.
The Turkish community forms majority in Centar Župa and Plasnica, two municipalities in southwestern Macedonia. In addition, remarkable amount of Turks resides in Gostivar, Vrapčište (Vrapçişte in Turkish), Skopje (Üsküp), Resen (Resne), Radoviš (Radoviş), Strumica (Ustrumca), Struga, Debar (Debre), Veles (Köprülü), Kičevo (Kırçova), Ohrid (Ohri), Bitola (Manastır), Tetovo (Kalkandelen), Valandovo (Valandova). Overall, the Turks are spread across all cities and settlements of Macedonia. Turks are conform to the administrative structure of the country. There are Turkish artisans in a significant number in popular tourist destinations such as Struga and Ohrid.
What is the general attitude towards the Turkish community in Macedonia? How is the relationship of the Turks with Macedonians and Albanians, another Muslim community of the country?
The Macedonian society has generally good attitude towards the Turks. Our relationship with both Macedonians and Albanians, as well as other communities is quite good. Macedonia possesses a multicultural society. It is a country, where different communities have good relations, live and work together. However, in several communities, for example, villages in north-western and eastern Macedonia, people tend to live isolated, without much interaction with outside communities.
How organized are the Turks in Macedonia?
The Turks have 3 political parties in Macedonia: Turkish Democratic Party (Türk Demokratik Partisi - TDP), Turkish Movement Party (Türk Hareket Partisi - THP) and Turkish National Unity Movement (Türk Millî Birlik Hareketi - TMBH). There is also the Union of Turkish NGOs in Republic of Macedonia (Makedonya Türk Sivil Toplum Teşkilatlar Birliği - MATÜSİTEB).
The first political party of the Turks in Macedonia is the Turkish Democratic Party (TDP). Because of political and economic changes in Macedonia, the Turks, like other communities, have decided to get organized in order to protect and develop their political rights. As a result, a political association named the Turkish Democratic Union was established on 1 July 1990. The association identified its major goal to defend national and moral interests of the Turks in Macedonia and launched activities in this direction. Such developments allowed the Turks to transform their association into a political party. The transformation was completed on 27 June 1992, when the Turkish Democratic Union was renamed the Turkish Democratic Party at the second extraordinary congress under the leadership Avni Engüllü in Skopje. Since its establishment, TDP has been protecting the rights and interests of Turks in Macedonia and achieved a lot of successes. Having won the trust of Turks in Macedonia, it has also become the sole voice of the community.
In addition, Turkish newspapers and magazines are published in Macedonia, while Turkish theater operates. There are also radio and television broadcasts in Turkish. The department of Turkish Language and Literature also exists within the Faculty of Philology at the level of higher education. In many regions with remarkable Turkish population, the Turks can receive primary and secondary education in mother tongue.
What is the weight and role of the Turkish community in Macedonia`s political life? What are the main political goals of the Turks?
Given that Macedonia is a small country with small population, that there are many political parties and governments are usually set up as coalitions, the votes of Turks also become highly valuable and important.
Moreover, several people of Turkish origin serve in high-ranking levels of Macedonian politics. Furkan Çako from the Turkish Democratic Party (TDP) serves as Minister without Portfolio in the Macedonian government. In the parliament, the Turks are represented by Kenan Hasip, TDP leader, and Enes İbrahim (THP). In addition, Salih Murat, an ethnic Turk, is a member of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Macedonia.
The main goal of the Turks in Macedonia is to protect and develop their political rights, their national and moral interests. In this context, the aim of TDP is to unite the Turks in Macedonia as a strong community, reach out to every settlement where Turks reside, to protect their rights and interests.