ROME (AA) - Two candidates with Turkish roots will run in Sunday’s local election in Italy, a country which more than 30,000 Turks call home.
A 41-year-old from the Turkish city of Bingol running in Rome told Anadolu Agency that it is “an honor” to be the first Turkish candidate in the Italian capital.
Emin Ozturk, a father of three who has been living in Rome for the last 15 years, will run for alderman in the June 5 municipal elections.
"It is pleasing [to run] on behalf of Turkey. I thank all the Italians who have contributed to my candidacy," Ozturk told Anadolu Agency recently in the Eternal City.
Ozturk will compete in the polls alongside Roberto Giachetti, a Democratic Party (PD) candidate for mayor of Rome.
"Giachetti is one of the most ideal candidates to become Rome's mayor. He is supported by the ruling party. I think he is the best candidate to serve Rome," Ozturk said.
The Bingol native says he believes European nations are not racist per se, but that their policies are. "We need to overcome racism in the political sphere,” he says.
Ozturk points to the election of Sadiq Khan as the first Muslim mayor of London three weeks ago. "If there were racist nations [in Europe], they would not let Khan be mayor of a key city like London," he adds.
The restaurateur says his campaign will serve to help Muslims and Turkish people in Rome.
"We know very well the problems of Muslims living in Rome. Most of our citizens in Rome are businessmen. The city government also knows very well our citizens' troubles in trade," Ozturk says.
Among his proposals is a plan to build a dormitory for Turkish students who go to Rome to study.
A former owner of a doner restaurant in Rome itself, Ozturk also spoke out against a recent ban on so-called “ethnic restaurants” in some Italian cities.
In February, Verona banned new kebab shops or restaurants cooking ethnic fried foods. Proponents say it is a way of preserving Italian cuisine and culture, but the move has proved controversial.
"The doner kebab has become increasingly popular in Italy in recent years. After that, demand for pizza has fallen. Italians [are trying] to prevent this through the ban. If this prohibition is implemented in Rome, we will raise our voices," Ozturk says.
In addition, Ibrahim Saban, 47, from Kahramanmaras, will run as an independent candidate for alderman in the Trecate district of the Novara province, in Italy's northern Piedmont region.
Saban, who has been living in Italy for 25 years, told Anadolu Agency that his Turkish, Moroccan, and Italian friends and neighbors support his candidacy.
Saban said he hopes to halt the erosion of Turkish language and culture among transplants to Italy.
"We want our children to not lose their language. We are supported [on this issue]," Saban said.
He said he is hopeful about being elected and that most Turkish people living in Trecate are young.
"Most of our young people were born here. We have also [Turkish] students here. When they turn 18, they become Italian citizens,"
Ozturk and Saban both called on Turkish people living in Italy to acquire citizenship and take part in the elections.