The Circassians and Diaspora

The Circassians and Diaspora

17, August, 2012

Translated by: Adel Bashqawi

27, August, 2012

After starting with the Russia Today’s same preamble (In this episode, the program’s guest, the historian and creative Mohiuddin Quandour speaks about the curve at which the Circassian People’s cause stands at.) presented at the previous interview ( on August, 3, 2012, to present the interviewer and the interviewee to the viewers, questions begin:

R.T.: Where are the Circassians at our present time, and at which curve does the Circassian cause stand today?

M.Q.: The Circassians as I mentioned earlier, most of them are in Turkey, the Turkish Republic, in some Arab countries, for example in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, there is Circassian minorities in Europe, all parts of Europe, in America USA, and there are some Circassian families in Australia; it is possible to say, I read that Circassians are present in 50 countries, distributed in 50 countries, but it must be said that majority of Circassians are located in Turkey.

R.T.: Do you face any cultural, civilizational or ethnic problems in the countries of presence?

M.Q.: I don’t believe so, there was of course, the history of the Circassians in Jordan differs from the history of Circassians in other countries, in Turkey for example,  there was no persecution but there was Ataturk’s policy, was “creating a Turkish human being”, and did not “accept any another nationality”, so he forced them to change their names and all the Circassian family names had changed and became Turkish names; but at the present time a development and change have occurred, and more freedoms have befall for Circassians. In Jordan, “we were of the founders of the state, and we had freedoms as any Jordanian “human being”, citizen, and the composition of Jordan is different of course, I personally think it’s different from the rest of the countries in the region, I don’t know how to say it in Arabic “multi ethnic, multi culture” (then the interviewer intervened to pronounce them in Arabic, the interviewee consented), this fact is real, “because” as you can see today the turmoil occur “around us” in almost all Arab countries. That will not occur in Jordan, Jordan, of course got a kind of advanced democracy in the Arabic sense, and they know exactly that there must be a reform, but disorders will never exist as they “happened” in Egypt, Libya and now in Syria. Circassians in Jordan are of the founders of the state, on the arrival of Prince Abdullah in the year 1921, Circassians went to Ma’an and met him, and Prince Abdullah had known about the Circassians “in his relations with Turkey, he had known Circassians”, so he preferred to come to the village of Amman, which was a Circassian village and “establishes his residence in Amman instead of the official capital of the region, which was Salt, and Circassians remained mutually supportive and loyal to the Hashemite throne, and not only to the Hashemite throne, but to the Jordanian State and Circassians are hundred percent loyal to the Jordanian State. I cannot comment on the Circassian existence in Syria, I know and I met great personalities that reached high ranks in the Syrian army for example, and in the Syrian government and they had presence, but “I don’t know much” how was their freedoms in Syria, “How was their presence”, I know that they follow traditions and the “Circassian Folklore”.

R.T.: What are the positions reached by Circassians in Jordan, for example?

M.Q.: In Jordan, the first mayor of the capital city of Amman was a Circassian, the Speaker of the Parliament was Circassian”, “for example, Sa’id Al Mufti, of the great Circassian leaders, he was a Prime Minister several times in the country, my father was Chief of Staff of the Jordanian army, there was also another general named Fawaz Maher, he was also of the well-known generals, that “means” Circassians had reached very high positions in Jordan. Beginning with Mirza Basha, the “times” of the arrival of Prince Abdullah, therefore it “means” we can say that we are pure Jordanians, but we maintain the Circassian nationalism, the Circassian culture.

R.T.: I beg your pardon; there are those who say that Circassian nationalism has begun to melt in its surroundings, in the countries they arrived to, to what degree that is true?

M.Q.: It is true to a large extent, because really the Circassian youths began to lose the language, and when you lose the language you lose the Circassian identity, but at the present time, in the era of the present technology, important and huge activity began to appear for Circassian youths to learn the language anew, learning habits anew, interest in  the Circassian history and Circassian culture, so there is an important movement in the emerging Circassian surroundings in Jordan and in other countries as well. That means, contact by Face Book and Internet has become very easy.

R.T.: There are those who say that the Circassian youths are now content with raising slogans such as a flag in the car, logo in the car, but it is far away; even the Circassian history, as you have said, “you said” in the previous episode, they are not aware of. How do you confront this reality?

M.Q.: Actually the question is in order, and “I can” answer your question with a simple example which has come about with me, let us leave the Arab countries; “I” was in Lyon, France, about a year ago, I met young Circassians, they have a Circassian association, and I was really amazed, “presence” the Circassian presence in Lyon, I met a Circassian youth, he looked French, his culture is purely European French, but proud of being Circassian, although he does not speak “Circassian” and he doesn’t know Circassian customs, so how this young man boasts his Circassianism? He told me he knows how to dance “Circassian”; when he dances Circassian dance he feels he is Circassian, so we have almost a Circassian dancing culture, this actually happened, now we have in Jordan and in every place, people know us that we have “dance culture”, only. This is wrong, of course, we have much culture that exists in Motherland; but it is not known here, in “Diaspora”, in the Diaspora “we are” a dancing culture, then assimilation, actually there was assimilation over a period of many years, and probably will happen what has happened before, that there will be complete assimilation like what had happened in the Mamluk era, in Egypt, ancient Circassian families, very old, they claim they were Circassians; the Abaza  “families”,  for example, all of them of Circassian origin. “I” met a professor in London, from Sudan, from the University of Khartoum, “black”, but he claims that he is of Circassian “origins”, and he proved to me that he is from Circassian origins, from Mamluks; I provide you with an example, which is continuously in the news, “Misrata” in Libya, Misrata means, “who” came from Egypt, and most of them are of Circassian origins, descendants of the Mamluks, but a complete assimilation had taken place, they became Libyan Arabs; but they know that they are of Circassian origins and they are proud of these “Circassian” origins. Will there be assimilation for the Circassian nationalism? That will not happen as long as there is presence of Circassian cultural structure in the Russian Federation, and perhaps movements “now”, which began in Turkey, to organize all associations, and have gotten a significant presence, “political”, maybe this “also”, maintain Circassian nationalism in Turkey, in the Arab countries “I” believe there will be assimilation.

R.T.: Dr. Mohiuddin, you have talked about Russia, how would you describe the relationship today between the Circassians and Motherland?

M.Q.: “Look”, it is the relationship between the people with Motherland; I am concerned to talk about culture. “We are” the Circassians in Motherland, we have tremendous culture of music, literature, poetry and all kinds of world culture, which are available “with us” in the Russian Federation and the Circassian republics, but limited, and its presence is limited “to Russia”, which are not perceived, known or read by Diaspora Circassians, because they are either written in Russian language or they were written in Circassian language but with Cyrillic letters, which cannot be easily read in Diaspora. There is an interest for example in Jordan, “here”, we have a Circassian school, “Hamza school”, which they teach the Circassian language and where they teach “mother tongue” as they teach it in …

R.T.: There is an academy for Circassian dance?

M.Q.: There is an academy for Circassian dance, which means there is really interest in Jordan, “here”, we have a wide space to preserve Circassian nationalism and culture.

R.T.: I have a question, the bodyguard of the king of Jordan, or the Circassian guard of honor; how did this happen?

M.Q.: This started as I mentioned with the arrival of the late Prince, King Abdullah, the first, when he arrived to Ma’an, the Circassians had met him and they accompanied him to Amman, and since the beginning, the Circassians had protected Prince Abdullah, which means they became the special guard for the Prince, and this tradition has continued until day. Of course our King Abdullah II, “may God protect him”, has gotten his own special guards, but Circassian Guards exist in the palace, as genre they have a historical role,  which is no doubt, a “historical role” proves the Circassian presence, I can’t tell you more than that. This is a continuation of traditions that started in 1921-1922.

R.T.: When we talk about the Circassians in Jordan, do you have cultural privileges, economic privileges or social privileges? In the “political” we talked about your father.

M.Q.: No, in Jordan there is no “official party”, there is no “ethnic party” that got privileges, we have no privileges, which means of course that the Jordanian constitution allocates seats for the Circassians, for Christians, etc… this is the constitution, and may that will change; but as a Circassian I have no privilege over any other Jordanian person, and the other Jordanian got no advantage over me, we are all Jordanian citizens.

R.T.: You are an author, historian, film director and composer, what degree of success have you accomplished to let the Arab community, the Jordanian society knows about the Circassian culture?

M.Q.: Firstly, “I”, of course, wrote 6 books, historical Circassian novels about the history of the Circassians, and “these” were published in Beirut and sold in all Arab countries, and I guess, they helped clarify Circassian history to a certain extent, but not all. I hope that I had a role in introducing the Circassian culture; not only in Arab countries, but around the world, because my writings were unfortunately in English language, and all my books have been translated into Arabic, “because I write in English”, my books were published in the world in many languages, which ​​contributed as much as possible.

R.T.: Aren’t you afraid of the multiplicity of the concept of Circassian nationalism for Circassians living abroad? Meaning that the Jordanian Circassian means differs from Syrian Circassian differs from British Circassian, the American or Australian?

M.Q.: “No”, look, “meaning”, you can match with the Arab position, the “Arab-Russian” when he is in Jordan, he is an Arab,  Arab nationalism, and if that in the Gulf, the same thing, Circassians as nationalism, one nationality, but our history was, as I previously said, the Kabarday differs from the history of Western Circassians. As for the nationality and language, it is undivided. Dialects vary as Arabic dialects vary between Egypt, the Gulf, or Syria; nationalism, customs, the original Circassian culture are one and they don’t change.

R.T.: What have you achieved in terms of preserving this nation, you have established (JAST), else, what are the efforts being made ​​on the unity of the people?

M.Q.: Look, there is, of course, in every country that there is a Circassian presence, always there are Circassian associations and these associations are usually…

R.T.: Are these associations effective, are they enough?

M.Q.: Actually not enough, because the associations are usually benevolent associations, just like the Jordanian Circassian association in “Jordan”, it is a charity association, and interested of course in maintaining the Circassian culture but it is limited, Circassians must find ways and institutions to preserve the Circassian culture and the Circassian language. And we in the role of development in this area, until now what you are talking about did not take place.

R.T.: On the international level, do you meet with Circassians from other countries?

M.Q.: Of course.

R.T.: Do you have coordination contacts, in the way to raise the issue, in the way of maintaining the identity? Establishment of international institutions, children schools, is there such coordination?

M.Q.: Of course, we have a large establishment called the International Circassian Association, and it is located in the Russian Federation, then in Europe, there is big association also called the “Circassian Federation” (probably the interviewee meant “Federation of European Circassians”), and “this”  got great efforts, because the European Parliament  for example has allocated a day of the year to meet in the Parliament in Brussels, a meeting of the “Circassian Federation”, and that takes place usually in 15, October with a Circassian presence in Brussels,  “in the same idea”, it is to introduce our culture, to talk about our problems, produce solutions to the language problem, the language is a serious problem for us.

R.T.: Regardless of the language which is considered of the most important problems facing the Circassians? What are the other problems that you face in Diaspora countries?

M.Q.: Look, in the Diaspora countries, there were attempts by great powers “sides”, the use of Circassians as a tool for different interests, but they did not succeed. They succeeded in the Russian Federation, they succeeded in the Caucasus, as we know big problems in the Caucasus, “their origin are claims”, it means support comes from outside; that is well known, I mean it is not something as I “pronounce” a secret, there is a presence of an organization, a “well-known foundation” in Washington, which sustains these parties, it invites Circassians, the Circassian youths are reckless, they go and present lectures, and so on… what the Americans like to hear, and they return and they create problems, this means, I mean it’s not only America that makes this, Russia makes that, it means these are great powers serving their interests, and we Circassians unfortunately, we were used as a tool in the past to serve foreign interests. But I say for the truth, “100%”, this didn’t occur in Jordan, they tried and they failed, “in Jordan”, Circassians are loyal 100% to the Jordanian state, and I cannot say so in regard to the Caucasus, because you read the problems of the Caucasus every day, explosions…

R.T.: But you have said, they are artificial problems and the Circassian people “are” used as a tool by foreign powers?

M.Q.: True, this is “true”. I mean, in the past week, I read about the bombing in Nalchik by parties, by vandals, what a Circassian would benefit out of destroying a Circassian institution? Or kill a great Circassian author or a Circassian intellectual, what is the profit to him as a Circassian? Unless, he is used as a tool by outside –

R.T.: How do you assess the relationship between you as Circassians in Diaspora and the Motherland? Which is located in Russia?

M.Q.: Very good relations, means that we, “Circassians of Jordan” visit the Caucasus, they visit the republics, and vice versa, and “they come” here on visits, there is close relations. Of course, these relationships help, “help” the relations at the political level between Jordan and the Russian Federation, it has effect because we, as Circassians we can say that we have the political depth in the Caucasus, but Circassians of Jordan do not think “politically”, they think of Motherland only culturally, there is families connection, meaning that there are Circassian families in Jordan which got relatives in Nalchik.. And so on … These relations are important, “important” by the relationship of the two states, I mean, how I want to say it, “very positive”.

R.T.: It is very positive thing.

M.Q.: Positive.

R.T.: At this point we will stop with you, and we will continue our conversation in the next episode, we will talk about the relationship between the Circassians in the Diaspora and Russia.

Published by: Circassian Genocide Survivors on Face Book

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