Did you know? Former London Mayor Boris Johnson has Middle Eastern roots

Published June 30th, 2016 - 06:41 GMT
Former Mayor of London Boris Johnson (AFP/File)
Former Mayor of London Boris Johnson (AFP/File)

Boris Johnson-the Mayor of London before the current Sadiq Khan-was one of the leading campaigners for the ‘Leave’ crowd in the Brexit referendum, and naturally celebrated the results as 52% of the voters opted to leave the EU last week, more than one million votes than those who voted to remain. Although the conservative recently announced he will not run for prime minister to replace the outgoing David Cameron, Johnson is bound to be an oft-heard name in UK politics for some time.

Amidst accusations that the #Leave crowd was fearful of Syrian refugees coming to the UK, did you know Johnson himself is of partial Middle Eastern origins? Al Bawaba takes you back.

The information is nothing knew, and has been covered by British tabloids and Wikipedia, among others. Johnson’s paternal great-grandfather was Ali Kemal Bey, a Turkish journalist of Turkish and Circassian origins. In fact, Johnson’s grandfather-and Kemal’s son-was born Osman Kemal, but changed his name to Wilfred Johnson. Wilfred begot Stanley, who then begot Boris.

Johnson’s last name thus could have easily been ‘Kemal’, instead of the ever so English ‘Johnson.’

Despite the name change, perhaps there’s some of ol’ Ali Kemal Bey running through Johnson’s veins. Kemal was a liberal journalist, and a staunch critic of dominant Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) faction of the nationalist Young Turks movement. He prefered the breakaway Freedom and Accord Party, and opposed the Young Turks support for the Ottoman Empire’s participation in World War I.

Following the Turkish War of Independence, Kemal was killed by his political opponents.

Johnson too fought for what he believes in-the UK’s withdrawal from the EU-amidst opposition from Labour, most of Scotland, other EU members states, etc. The stakes weren’t as high for Johnson as they were for Kemal, as Kemal was ultimately pulled from a train and lynched to death for his beliefs (can’t see Jeremy Corbyn doing that to Johnson), but Kemal’s legacy lives on through his lively Torie great-grandson.


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