The parliamentarian said her Armenian-Turkish family was saved in 1915 by their Muslim neighbors
She is not that French actually
ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News
The European parliamentarian the Turkish prime minister accused of being “foreign” to Turkey is actually of Armenian-Turkish origin and her mother is from Istanbul, the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review learned Thursday.
French parliamentarian Muriel Marland-Militello drew a sharp response from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan when she asked him a question about the protection of minorities in Turkey during his appearance before the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, or PACE, in Strasbourg.
Erdoğan said he would like to invite Marland-Militello to visit Turkey, since she had perhaps not been closely following developments in the country and was speaking based on hearsay.
“In Turkish, when somebody does not know something or speaks out of context, it is said that they are from France. Mrs. Marland-Militello is clearly from France,” Erdoğan said.
“The prime minister did not know my family was from Kadıköy, Istanbul. My mother was born in Turkey. She was an Orthodox Christian,” Marland-Militello told the Daily News in a telephone interview Thursday.
“I just think his answer to me was not a correct one. He just said I was French and I know that expression and what it means in Turkish. I know that it was not very nice expression,” she said. “The prime minister did not know my mother and my grandfather were both from Kadıköy.”
Family saved by Muslim neighbors
The parliamentarian said her Armenian-Turkish family was saved in 1915 by their Muslim neighbors, who helped them escape from Turkey by boat to France during a time when widespread civil strife in Turkey resulted in thousand of deaths.
“My family was saved by Turkish Muslims who liked my grandparents. They saved my family from death. I’ll never forget that. They helped my family get away from Istanbul,” she told the Daily News, adding that she learned Turkish culture very well from her mother and grandparents.
“My grandfather was called Sselean. And I always listened to my grandmother call him ‘Sselean Efendi.’ He was a Turkish man,” said Marland-Militello.
When the family escaped from Istanbul, the parliamentarian’s mother was 5 years old. Her grandfather, who owned a carpet factory, fled to Nice along with his two daughters. Her mother later married a man of Sicilian origin and Marland-Militello was born in Nice.
“I like Turkish culture. My grandmother spoke to me a lot about the Ottoman culture. She loved Turkish people. It was a pity that the prime minister spoke to me without knowing who I was and spoke to me as if I have never been to Turkey,” she said.
She said her grandmother told her that before 1915 it was not a problem to be a Christian or a Muslim in the Ottoman Empire. “They felt they were Turkish people. That was all for them. The problem came later,” she said.
Erdoğan did not present a good image of Turkey in his response to questions from European lawmakers at PACE, according to Marland-Militello.
“Turkish people are not like that. They say the truth. Turkish people are a very great people, a very deep culture. The way the prime minister spoke is very shameful on him,” she said, adding that her question for Erdoğan was not a bad question.
“I asked, ‘Mr. Prime Minister, give us the proof that there is an equality of every religion in Turkey,” she said. “I wanted him to say ‘Yes we do, we do have equality for every religion.’”
Erdoğan’s ‘One Minute’ to Europe
The prime minister’s tough response to questions at the PACE session sent shockwaves through the European body and was reflected in the Turkish media as a second “one minute,” in reference to Erdoğan’s outburst toward Israeli President Shimon Peres at the 2009 World Economic Forum.
Tiny Kox, a Dutch parliamentarian, was another PACE member who was reprimanded by the Turkish prime minister.
“I asked Mr. Erdoğan [why] he did not live up to his promise to lower the 10 percent election threshold. That was the question and his answer was not good,” Kox told the Daily News. “He said that I should not be the one to tell him what to do. The fact that he did not answer disappointed me.”
Kox said he listened to Erdoğan’s earlier addresses and found him “aggressive” and “too assertive” in his remarks to PACE. “I think the election campaign has already started in Turkey,” Kox said.
The parliamentarian said he later approached the Turkish prime minister during lunch. “He did not respond; he smiled, but he did not answer. That is not good,” he said.
“We are not teaching a lesson to Turkey and of course we should not, but my question was on why he did not keep the promises that he gave himself. The translation was excellent, I think, but the prime minister did not want to give an answer because it is a bit problematic,” Kox said. “Of course it is not easy to lower the threshold but I did not invent it. He promised this.”