Decolonized names are not for colonized minds

To the french-worshipping brother in Istanbul; Yes, I do love my name.

Every trip to Istanbul does something to me. No matter if for 9 months or 9 days. Because I find myself absorbing every interaction and carrying them arround for months.

Turkey for me is an indescribable thing. People told me my whole life how I should feel about Germany. How I should feel about Turkey. Which place I should consider my home, or how nonsense it is to consider one of these or even both of these places home.

People seem to feel insecure whenever things that seem to be so clearly defined in their world happen to be more open and fluent in someone elses.

One of the things I always experience in Turkey are people who are mostly unaware of their own history. Unaware of colonial crimes. Unaware of the immense psychological and material impacts of cultural assimilation that did mostly not happen voluntarily.

I found myself sitting in a hipsterish Café in Istanbul. Having a conversation with the owner who started to share his admiration for the french language with me. (My friends know I hate no language more than french. I sincerely do. Sorry, not sorry for hurting patrioric and fetishizing feelings here). While he was talking I stopped listening at some point and just pretended to listen (best defence mechanism for ignorant conversations). In my thoughts I was trying to figure out whether it would make any sense to bring up a debate on how we are socially trained to love the sound of some colonial languages and make fun of other languages. Then I decided not to because a) did I not really get a vibe where I would like to carry on a conversation and b) did I get the ‘oh a hijabi, here?’ vibe pretty much with entering the Café. This second vibe is something Hijabis and other racialised people know to well. I bet my non hijabi friends who were with me did not recognize it at all.

After a while this Café owner started an even more embarassing debate about ‘turkish’ names. Giving an example with my name, on how sad it is for children to be given so ‘old school’ names that stigmatize them. And he asked me if I really loved my name (he asked this question in a rhetoric way).

I responded with a yes and added that I don’t believe in letting others define the meaning of our names and whether or not they can be loved or not. But again I did not even feel like explaining where this ‘being ashamed of certain names’ comes from. I would have met nothing but self-defense anyways.

But yes. I love my name because it comes from al-amin, which can be translated as the trustworthy. Because I carry this name with me like a goal everyday. Like my very own “what I wanna become”.

It also reminds me of my grandmother who passed away while giving birth to my youngest uncle. My grandmother I never got the chance to meet but I only heard good things about. I love my name because I freed myself long ago from internalised racism when it comes to our names that are being misspelled, mispronounced and maken fun of in Germany. I don’t allow others to re-define my name that has such a beautiful and strong meaning already. And I don’t even think about giving my children names that sound more ‘western’.




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