Why Did Turkey Rename A U.S. Embassy Street ‘Malcolm X Avenue’?

Why Did Turkey Rename A U.S. Embassy Street ‘Malcolm X Avenue’?

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Turkey is renaming the Ankara street leading to a new U.S. Embassy “Malcolm X Avenue” after the U.S. civil rights leader who was assassinated in 1965. It won’t be the first time the country’s government used symbolism to make a political statement.

Malcolm X’s legacy has huge support and also has critics in the U.S. who think his views, which focused on Black nationalism, were radical and anti-U.S., The Independent reported.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met Malcolm X’s daughters in September during a visit to New York. He said, “We will make his name live on in Ankara,” the Ankara municipality said in a statement released on Saturday.

Ilyasah Shabazz, daughter of the late Muslim leader Malcolm X, said after meeting with Erdogan that the Turkish leader represents the legacy of her father, Daily Sabah reported:

“Shabazz praised Turkey’s humanitarian efforts, particularly the welcoming of millions of Syrian refugees, as an example to the rest of the world. ‘The country has opened its doors to 3.5 million refugees, leaving no room to say anything else, because there are people talking about building walls around the world and those who do not understand mercy.'”

The name change was announced a day after U.S. Pastor Andrew Brunson, who was at the center of a diplomatic row, was released from Turkish custody after two years. Brusnon got caught up in the mass purges that followed Turkey’s failed coup. His arrest was described as a form of “hostage diplomacy” used to leverage bilateral negotiations.

Malcolm X Shabazz is shown in 1963. (AP Photo)


This summer, the U.S. and Turkey imposed sanctions on each another and exchanged unfriendly barbs across the Atlantic. Brunson’s release won’t resolve the problems between the two countries, The Atlantic reported.

Problems between the longtime NATO allies have multiplied over conflicting strategic interests in Syria and the greater Middle East. The U.S. and Turkey have cooperated in Syria since 2016 despite Turkey’s support for Syrian opposition groups and Russian backing of Syrian President Bashar Assad, Middle East Eye reported.

When the U.S. imposed financial sanctions on the Turkish justice minister and interior minister, it sent the already ailing Turkish markets downward. A few days later, Trump tweeted that the U.S. would double tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Turkey. The lira plummeted against the U.S. dollar, losing about 40 percent of its value since the beginning of 2018, The Atlantic reported. This destabilized Turkey’s economy, which relies on foreign-denominated debt,, muddying President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s image as an economic reformer.

The current U.S. embassy’s street name was changed to “Olive Branch Road” in February, a reference to the Turkish military operation in Syria against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), a group allied with the U.S. that Turkey identifies as a terrorist organization, Bloomberg reported. When the United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Fahreddin Pasa appeared to criticize an Ottoman Turkish military commander in a tweet, Turkey renamed the UAE embassy’s street after him.

When Trump proposed a Muslim immigration ban while on the campaign trail, Erdogan had the Trump name removed from signs around Trump Towers in Istanbul.

Malcolm X was influenced by Nation of Islam while serving a prison sentence in the 1940s. He changed his name from Malcolm Little to Malcolm X and later went on a pilgrimage to Mecca, converted to Sunni Islam, and adopted “an egalitarian perspective that empowered him for the rest of his life,” according to the Turkish pro-government Daily Sabah newspaper.