British record label Young Turks has changed its name after acknowledging the term’s connections to the genocide of Armenians and Assyrians carried out in the early 20th century. Many of the real life “Young Turks” worked with the Committee of Union and Progress as it gained power in the Ottoman Empire and carried out policies including genocide and expulsion.
Label founder Caius Pawson says that he did not intend that meaning or connection when he adopted the name. The label was named after a club night he had launched as a teenager, which was itself named after the Rod Stewart song from 1981.
“It seemed to perfectly sum up what we were: teenagers, wanting and waiting to do something, anything. However, we were unaware of the deeper history of the term,” Pawson told The Guardian.“Through ongoing conversations and messages that have developed our own knowledge around the subject, it’s become apparent that the name is a source of hurt and confusion for people.”
Going forward, the label, which has released music by FKA twigs, the xx, Kamasi Washington, Sampha, and others, will be known simply as Young. Along with the announcement of the new name, the company made a financial donation to the Armenian Institute honoring victims of the genocide.
Not everyone who uses the term “Young Turks” has been as receptive to calls to abandon the name. Armenian community organizers have called on L.A.-based webcast network the Young Turks to rebrand for several years.
Razmig Sarkissian, an activist and the grandson of an Armenian genocide survivor, recently told Vice that he thinks of his grandfather’s narrow escape when he hears about TYT.
“It is exactly that traumatic history that is evoked in our minds every time we see [the show’s] name,” he said. “For a show to signal so many progressive values yet fail to apply those very principles to themselves, to me, is unconscionable.”
The network’s website states that “the selection of the name does not refer to any specific, historical incarnation of the Young Turks,” and rather intends the term in a sense that “reflects the definition provided in American Heritage Dictionary.”
The most current entry in that dictionary, the Fifth Edition published in 2020, lists “A member of a Turkish reformist and nationalist political party active in the early 1900s” as the first definition of the term.
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