Local Resident Endeavors to Educate Others on His Native Turkey – Hikmet Kutlu
Writer / Renee Larr
Longtime Geist resident Hikmet Kutlu calls himself Turkish by birth but American by choice. Kutlu has lived in Geist for 33 years and came to the United States to obtain his master’s degree at Indiana University. He loves sharing his Turkish heritage with friends and neighbors in hopes of proving we’re all more alike than different.
On October 29, Kutlu hosted a dinner for 26 of his friends to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Turkish Republic Day. The holiday celebrates Turkey declaring itself an independent republic on October 29, 1923. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk is widely credited for the victory and many other political, economic and cultural reforms. Kutlu says the centennial anniversary is a huge celebration in Turkey.
“Atatürk is responsible for changing our alphabet from the Arabic script to the Latin alphabet, with a few exceptions,” Kutlu says. “That alone made it much easier for Turkey to open up to the Western world. He also gave equal rights to women.”
Kutlu says he cooks but doesn’t dare try his hand at cooking traditional Turkish food, as it’s very time consuming and elaborate. For the dinner, he enlisted the help of a friend, Sultan Lockwood. She served kebabs, rice pilaf, potato salad, tzatziki, spinach and feta cheese borek, shakshuka, stuffed grape leaves, baklava, ashure (Noah’s pudding), and kadayif.
Kutlu is an Indy Wine member, and learned about the group through the Meetup application. The group meets monthly for dinner, so he felt hosting the celebratory dinner would be a great way to share his culture with the group. Kutlu says the event wouldn’t have been possible without a group of his friends, including Elif Alptekin, Kim Lane, Dilay Benoziyo, Hizir Yimaz, and Lockwood.
“I grew up very pro-American, and in fact some of my best memories from growing up are going to see American movies with my dad,” Kutlu says. “I also learned a lot about America in high school. We largely learned about this country, including its history and geography. When I arrived in the United States I was surprised to learn that not many Americans know much about Turkey, so I felt I needed to share its history.”
In fact, Kutlu traveled to high schools, universities, social clubs and churches, teaching others about Turkey and its rich culture and history. He says he also likes to discuss Turkey’s relationship with the United States. He calls it a never-ending desire.
“I feel like with all that’s going on in the world right now, we sometimes focus on our differences,” Kutlu says. “I think if we all stopped to learn and focus on personal experiences, we would see we have much more in common than we realize.”
Kutlu is currently writing a book and hopes to continue sharing his positivity and culture with friends, neighbors and even strangers.