Meeting the Meskhetian Turks

Halit Eyibov's family has been on the move for many years, each generation moving from country to country

His father was in the Soviet army when Joseph Stalin decided to expel more than 100,000 ethnic Turks from their homes in what is now Georgia.

He was contemplating an offensive to try to seize parts of northeastern Turkey, and didn't want any of the locals near the border to obstruct his plans.

So the Meskhetian Turks - including Halit's mother - were loaded onto trains and sent off to other parts of the Soviet Union.

Filming with Halit and his family and friends near Erzincan. [TRTWorld]

They ended up in what became Uzbekistan, and after the Second World War ended, his father joined his mother there.

Halit was born in Uzbekistan and speaks Turkish. The language is handed down through the family - but never learnt in schools.

Halit probably expected to live the rest of his life in Uzbekistan, but riots broke out in 1989.

Uzbeks started attacking Meskhetian Turks. Halit and his family were on the move again, this time to Ukraine.

Halit’s family home in a village near Donetsk in Ukraine. [TRTWorld]

He doesn't blame the people there for the problems that have made him come to Turkey - and says that discrimination started only after the war began there.

He says it has always been governments that have created problems for the Meskhetian Turks - never the local people.

'Until the conflict in Ukraine, we didn't have any problems with the Russian or Ukrainian authorities. 

'But after that we never knew when we were safe. There were bombs coming over the house all of the time.'

Many Meskhetian Turks can trace their ancestry to ethnic Turks who conquered the Meskheti region in what is now modern Georgia.

More than 500 years ago it was taken over by the Ottoman Empire. Now in Turkey, Halit believes he has reached his homeland at last.

Author: Andrew Hopkins