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Letter: Free to protect their Lazi culture and support Galatasaray

NEAL ASCHERSON has written recently about the dangers of fascism in Britain. Now he has written enthusiastically about some people in north- east Turkey who, so he thinks, have embarked upon an odyssey to discover their identity ('Journey to the end of an alphabet', 7 November).

He is full of admiration for Wolfgang Feurstein, the German scholar who has recognised the Lazi as an 'authentic national group' and provided them with an alphabet; it would not cross Mr Ascherson's mind to link this approach to Lazi identity with the rise of the British National Party. There is much romanticising in Mr Ascherson's presentation of Feurstein and the Lazi.

He writes that those who know the Lazi must pray that they 'may never be driven to the desperation of the Kurds'. But, he goes on to suggest, now that they have their new alphabet, they may look forward to living under laws written in their own language. We too have visited the Lazi on many occasions. They do not deserve to be treated as children, or seen as brainwashed by Turkish propaganda. The few Lazi who have any awareness of European efforts to awaken them into nationhood have deep reservations about the enterprise. Most Lazi are vociferous in their condemnation of Kurdish separatism. They would like to feel that they can value their own culture, particularly their language, and be fully Turkish - and Muslim and people of the Black Sea and supporters of Galatasaray FC etc.

Chris Hann and Ildiko Beller-Hann

University of Kent