Erdogan orders Turkish Airlines to change its name – because he doesn’t like it

Expert: Turkey will eventually lift NATO 'blockade'

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The national airline has until now been known abroad under its English name but that will change. As part of President Erdoğan’s drive for his country to be named “Türkiye” instead of “Turkey”, the carrier is going from “Turkish Airlines” to “Türkiye Hava Yolları” to match its native spelling and pronunciation.

Mr Erdoğan’s government said the name “Türkiye” better represents Turkish culture and values. “Hava Yolları” is airlines in Turkish.

The President said: “Turkey no longer exists. It is Türkiye.”

Speaking at a ceremony to mark the launch of a new communications satellite on Tuesday, he added: “Türkiye Hava Yolları will be inscribed on the bodies of our planes instead of Turkish Airlines.”

The country called itself “Türkiye” in 1923 after its declaration of independence.

READ MORE: New holiday advice issued for Turkey as country changes entry rules

Earlier this month, Ankara sent a letter to the United Nations, formally registering the country’s name as such.

The move is seen as part of an effort by officials to rebrand the nation and dissociate it from the bird of the same name.

In a bid to explain the shift, national broadcaster TRT World said looking up “Turkey” online brings up “a muddled set of images, articles, and dictionary definitions that conflate the country with Meleagris — otherwise known as the turkey, a large bird native to North America — which is famous for being served on Christmas menus or Thanksgiving dinners.”

The network added: “Flip through the Cambridge Dictionary and ‘turkey’ is defined as ‘something that fails badly’ or ‘a stupid or silly person’.”

TRT World argued that in “keeping with the country’s aims of determining how others should identify it”, Turks prefer their country to be referred to in Turkish.

In December 2021, President Erdoğan ordered the use of “Türkiye” including on labels such as the commonly seen “Made in Türkiye” stuck on exported products.

The country tried it once before in the late eighties but its attempt did not succeed. Chances today are better.

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The UN and NATO have formally begun using “Türkiye” and some high-ranking foreign officials visiting Ankara have already made the switch.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg referred to the country as “Türkiye” during visits to Helsinki and Stockholm this week, as did Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson.

The two Nordic nations are battling against a Turkish objection to their bid to join the military alliance, which they want to become members of in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The enlargement of NATO must be approved by all 30 members and then ratified by their parliaments, and Ankara — part of the organisation since 1952 — is so far all but welcoming Helsinki and Stockholm into the Alliance.

President Erdoğan’s reservations, which call into question whether plans to redraw the geopolitical map of northern Europe will materialise, are linked to the government’s allegation that Finland and Sweden harbour members of Kurdish militant groups it considers terrorist organisations.

Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg

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