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Was Boris Johnson’s great grandfather an Ottoman traitor or a hero?

Boris Johnson ascending to power in the United Kingdom has triggered a debate on the role and views of his great grandfather, Ali Kemal, in Turkish history.

When conservative politician and former London mayor Boris Johnson became prime minister of the United Kingdom, a jubilant mood spread through the small Turkish village of Kalfat, where residents consider Johnson a “local son.” They are proud that distant relatives of the polarizing politician still live among them. Johnson’s great-great-grandfather Haci Ahmet Riza Efendi was born in Kalfat, and the house he lived in still stands.

One local man, Adem Karaagac, told Al-Monitor, “We were honored that someone who has Ottoman genes, who comes from these lands, has become the prime minister of the UK, [which is] a [player] at the international level.” Karaagac, like many other Kalfat residents, has been eagerly talking to the local and international press, offering up details that might attract the attention of tabloids around the world. They often volunteer that members of Johnson’s family are today known as the Sarioglangiller, which roughly translates as the “family of the blond boy.”

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