yrian teenage ‘piano genius’ granted Turkish citizenship overnight

ISTANBUL: Turkey has granted fast-track citizenship to a teenaged Syrian pianist who had fled the neighboring country due to the ongoing violence there.

Tambi Asaad, who arrived in the western province of Bursa with his family after taking refuge, became a Turkish citizen overnight after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan signed a decree granting him citizenship rights. Erdogan personally phoned the pianist and gave him the news.

The pianist was given a Turkish identity card around 1 a.m. after the Bursa Registry Office and relevant passport offices were opened at Erdogan’s orders.

The 16-year-old, who was given a new Turkish surname — Cimuk –, will reportedly represent Turkey in an international music contest in Russia on Dec. 10-14.

The young pianist, who used to live in Damascus, was playing the accordion at Caucasian Cultural nights organized in Bursa. When he applied to a musical center to take piano courses, people realized his great talent.

According to media reports, he was ranked first in a Russian music competition he had entered via video. Pianist Tamara Poddubnaya, who is the chair of the piano department at the Long Island Conservatory, reportedly saw the video and was impressed with Assad’s talent. She wanted him to enroll at the conservatory and advised him to keep participating in international competitions.

However, the young pianist was having visa issues as a result of his Syrian citizenship. When Justice and Development Party (AK Party) Sanlıurfa deputy Zeynep Karahan Uslu was informed about the teen’s situation, she brought the issue up at a recent Cabinet meeting. The Cabinet approved a decree granting citizenship to Assad and he became a Turkish citizen after Erdogan approved the document.

Assad said he was very excited when Erdogan called him on Monday night. “It’s not every day that a president calls you. He told me that he signed the decree on my Turkish citizenship. He congratulated me and said Turkey is now my homeland. He also told me that I have to work more from now on. I did not know what to say. I am very happy. I will work hard to bring international success to Turkey,” he said.

He said he will continue his education in the US but that he will never give up representing Turkey.