Turkey renames new US Embassy street in Ankara ‘Malcolm X Avenue’

The street in Turkey’s capital city of Ankara where the new US Embassy is to be located will bear the name of Malcolm X, the metropolitan municipality announced on Saturday, according to the state-run Anadolu news agency.

The city council on Friday unanimously approved the name change.

The name of the street in the Çukurambar neighborhood of Çankaya will be changed to Malcolm X, an American Muslim minister and human rights activist who is known for advocating the rights of blacks and Muslims in the US and was assassinated in 1965.

The move coincides with a period of fraught relations between Turkey and the United States and comes after other politically charged name changes to streets in Ankara.

The administration of US President Donald Trump has been accused by critics of a lack of diversity, with no black Americans serving in key White House positions, and the president himself has been quoted as making racially insensitive comments targeting people of color and Muslims.

Ankara’s move will likely be received negatively by critics who say he stirred racist and anti-U.S. sentiment.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had met the daughters of Malcolm X, Qubilah and Ilyasah Shabazz, during his visit to New York for the United Nations General Assembly.

“He has invited me to Turkey. Mr. Erdoğan said they have planned to give my father’s name to a street in Ankara, and he invited us to the opening ceremony. That will probably happen this year,” said Ilyasah Shabazz after the meeting on Sept. 24. Erdoğan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin shared the story about the name change on his Twitter account on Sunday.

The Ankara Metropolitan Municipality on Feb. 19 changed the name of the street on which the US Embassy is currently located to “Olive Branch,” the name of a Turkish military operation in northern Syria, in protest of US support for a Kurdish militia group in the country.

Ankara is at odds with Washington over its backing of forces led by the Kurdish YPG militia, which Turkey views as a terrorist group.

“The street was given the name of US Muslim politician and human rights defender Malcolm X, about whom President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said, ‘We will make his name live on in Ankara,” the Ankara municipality said in a statement published by Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency on Saturday.

A major row between Washington and Ankara appeared to have ended on Friday when American pastor Andrew Brunson was released after two years in Turkish custody, a move that President Donald Trump said was a “tremendous step” toward improved relations.

Construction of the new US embassy in Ankara is scheduled for completion in 2020. Last December, the mayor of Ankara ordered the street of the United Arab Emirates mission to be renamed after the former Ottoman governor of Medina following a row between the two countries about the state of the holy city under Ottoman rule.

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