Women's Rights in TurkeyTurkey is located in the Mediterranean between Europe and the Middle East. Once part of the Ottoman Empire, this transcontinental country became autonomous in 1923 and is formally named the Republic of Turkey. After achieving sovereignty, the Turkish government immediately enacted legislation to ensure equality for men and women within politics and society. Despite these reforms, women’s rights in Turkey could still see improvement.

A Brief History of Women’s Rights in Turkey

Women’s rights in Turkey have come a long way since initial equality legislation in 1923. By the 1980s, women’s rights movements had gained more momentum when the Turkish government responded to protests regarding violence against women. In 1985, Turkey ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), thus giving women’s rights issues the political focus they deserve. Through the 1990s, the passage of laws to protect domestic violence survivors granted more fundamental rights to women. However, the Turkish government did not stop there in their fight for women’s rights.

In 2011, the Republic of Turkey—along with many other European countries—drafted and signed a resolution known as the Istanbul Convention to further solidify and protect women’s rights. This resolution provided strict legal action against those who committed violence towards women.  The status of women’s rights in Turkey has improved significantly since 1923, but the existence of said rights are currently at stake.

Women’s Rights Today

On August 13, 2019, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan stated the government’s plans to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention altogether. Erdoğan explained that the convention’s resolution, “puts a dynamite on the foundation of the family” and is “not legitimate”. His decision has sparked outrage among women’s rights supporters in Turkey as this convention was a major milestone for women’s equality not only in Europe but across the world. Many have taken to the streets to protest Erdoğan’s declaration, but this has not reversed his proposal.

Turkey’s femicide rates have also increased in recent years. Femicide is known broadly as the murder of women and girls, and more specifically is the intentional killing of women simply because they are women. In 2019, 417 women were killed in domestic violence incidents and in 2020, 207 women were killed in homicides. This rise in femicide rates is attributable to both domestic violence and “honor killings”. Honor killings are when relatives or partners kill a loved one if they feel they’ve dishonored them in some way. Turkey has seen an increased rise in honor killings since 2018.

Won’t Back Down

Worldwide domestic violence against women has increased significantly amidst the COVID-19 pandemic—and Turkey is no exception. The recent femicide of 27-year-old college student Pınar Gültekin sparked outrage among women’s rights advocates in Turkey. Many have taken to the streets to call attention to rising femicide rates and domestic violence against women. Protests against President Erdoğan’s decision to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention have also reignited in the aftermath of Gültekin’s murder.

Today, activists in Turkey are continuing to support organizations and campaigns working to strengthen and protect women’s rights. There is still much work to do to ensure to protect women’s rights in Turkey.

– Sadat Tashin
Photo: Flickr

soccer players practicing philanthropy
Soccer, or football players to most of the world, are most often recognized for their impressive work on the field. However, professional soccer players have a lot of potential for impactful good off the field. This, due to their status, influence and financial capabilities. Listed here are five soccer players (part of FIFA) who have a powerful impact on the lives of impoverished peoples. Importantly, their reach extends throughout the world. These are great examples of professional soccer players practicing philanthropy.

5 FIFA Soccer Players Practicing Philanthropy

  1. Lionel Messi is an Argentine footballer who plays forward and captains La Liga club, Barcelona and the Argentinian national team. In response to COVID-19, Messi has made a wide variety of contributions through his organization, The Leo Messi Foundation. He began his foundation in 2007. Its mission focuses on helping kids and teenagers using health, education and sports initiatives. Messi has donated €1 million, split between Hospital Clinic in Catalunya and a health center in Argentina. Additionally, he gave €200,000 to UNICEF projects in Kenya. As a result, more than 2,000 citizens gained access to clean water.
  2. Mohammed Salah is a winger for the English Premier League club, Liverpool and the Egyptian national team. Salah has donated thousands of tons of food and fresh meat to his hometown in Egypt, to help families who have been impacted by COVID-19. Also, Salah donated to the Bassioun General Hospital. Moreover, he (along with his father) gave land to establish a sewage treatment plant in his hometown. With this effort, he hopes to provide a stable source of clean water to the region. Furthermore, Salah has been selected as the first ambassador for the U.N. Instant Network Schools, which connects refugees and host countries’ students with online education opportunities.
  3. Sadio Mane is a forward for the English Premier League club, Liverpool. Mane is funding the construction of a hospital for the village of Bambali, Senegal, where he was born. He took inspiration to do so after losing his father to a stomach illness, with no hospital in the village available to help him. Considering Senegal’s inhabitants, 33% are below the poverty line and Mane’s contributions to schools, hospitals and mosques in his home village are helping improve the quality of life for individuals living there.
  4. Mesut Ozil is a German footballer who plays as a midfielder for the English Premier League club, Arsenal. It is reported that he has paid for more than 1,000 operations for children across the world, food for 100,000 refugees in Turkey and Syria and is an ambassador for the children’s charity — Rays of Sunshine, in England.
  5. Jermain Defoe is currently a striker for the Scottish Premiership club, Rangers. He created the Jermain Defoe Foundation in 2013 to support at-risk youth in his family’s hometown, Caribbean, St. Lucia. His foundation’s mission is to help kids who are vulnerable and in need in the U.K., the Caribbean Islands and Northern Island. His grandparents grew up in St. Lucia and his foundation has worked on several projects in St. Lucia. The foundation’s work includes the refurbishment of the Soufriere Primary School after a hurricane,  donation of shoes to the Daigen School and the financial backing of The Rainbow Children’s Home.

Good Work: On and Off the Pitch

In addition to their work on the football pitch, these soccer players practicing philanthropy are doing excellent work for humanitarian missions and initiatives.  The contributions of these soccer players in healthcare, education and nutrition are improving the lives of the individuals affected by their initiatives worldwide.

Hannah Bratton
Photo: Flickr

Innovations in Poverty Eradication in Turkey
Turkey is a nation that sits on Europe’s gateway to the Middle East. The country is physically located between Greece and Bulgaria on the European front and Syria, Iraq and Iran in the Middle East. Concerning rates of absolute poverty in Turkey, the numbers have decreased from 36.5% to 9.3%, since 2003. Also, Turkey ranks as the 19th largest economy in the world. However, recent financial challenges are threatening that status and potentially, future progress. Before there was a need to deal with the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, Turkey tackled the Syrian refugee crisis. In this line of action, Turkey took on the responsibility of integrating and assimilating 4 million refugees. Fortunately, foreign organizations like the World Bank have made innovations in poverty eradication possible, empowering Turkey to pursue avenues of poverty eradication through domestic ventures.

Innovations in Poverty Eradication in Turkey (Rural Poor)

Policymakers in Turkey are aware of the weakest sector, namely agriculture. Both geographically and socially, workers in the agriculture sector in Eastern and Southeastern Anatolia, experience the highest poverty rate in the country. This figure is reported at 46.6%.

Development projects have been proposed by Turkey and are supported by a specialized U.N. agency called the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). The rural poor have been receiving aid for the last 30 years from the IFAD, amounting to about $189 of $661 million, spent across 10 projects. Notably, this aid has impacted 1.3 million households. Importantly, the IFAD has targeted rural infrastructure, which has been their greatest investment. The construction of roads in villages, as well as investments in irrigation, led to the improvement of markets and mobility. In a broad analysis, these elements in society help improve the quality of life for the rural poor. Moreover, it is the rural poor who are most affected by inequality and a lack of resources.

Innovations in Poverty Eradication in Turkey (Refugees)

The Emergency Social Safety Net program (ESSN) was implemented in November 2016, to provide refugees with their essential needs via monthly cash transfers. Innovations in poverty eradication in Turkey are crucial as poverty affects about 76% of ESSN refugees. The Facility for Refugees administers ESSN in Turkey and the E.U. (i.e. its member states) also have a financial stake in the program. This makes the ESSN the largest-ever humanitarian aid program financed by the E.U.

The World Bank also plays a major role in poverty eradication efforts and calculations in Turkey. The World Bank recently reported that the implementation of phone surveys is underway, to help mediate the refugee population. As a result, Turkey is now able to track levels of poverty and assimilation among refugees within five subnational regions.

Ultimately Turkey has the right programs and the right international bodies in place to continue trying to combat poverty. Yet, poverty in Turkey remains complex. In addition to the reality that COVID-19 disproportionately affects poorer communities, Turkey must be mindful of integrating millions of refugees with different backgrounds, into Turkish society. Having fewer resources to do so, the government agenda necessitates a shift to a focus on the economic crisis.

– Ilke Arkan
Photo: Flickr

Femicide in TurkeyThe recent murder of 27-year-old student, Pınar Gültekin, has sparked widespread outrage in Turkey. Gültekin was murdered at the hands of her ex-boyfriend, who beat and strangled her to death. Current anger is a response to not just this brutal slaying, but to the all-too-common occurrence of femicide and domestic violence in Turkey. In addition, the anger is a result of the willful ignorance of the government when it comes to these crimes. Here are the top five facts about femicide in Turkey.

5 Facts About Femicide in Turkey

  1. Gender-based and domestic homicides are often referred to as “honor killings.Anti-female sentiments are deeply engrained in Turkish culture. The President of Turkey and other members of the Turkish government have made many comments publicly degrading women. The usual rhetoric is that women are not equal to men and that women without children are deficient. Members of the Turkish government have also publicly encouraged verbal harassment of women wearing shorts. The country’s former Deputy Prime Minister, Mehmet Şimşek, blamed the rising unemployment rate on women seeking jobs. Former mayor of Ankara, Melih Gökçek, said that women who are victims of rape should die before they have an abortion.
  2. Femicide in Turkey is on the rise. The Turkish government has admitted to not keeping records of violence against women, but the Turkish feminist group We Will Stop Femicide reported that 474 women were murdered in Turkey in 2019, mostly at the hands of relatives or partners. These numbers are expected to skyrocket in 2020 due to coronavirus lockdowns. A study conducted by Sage Journals in 2009 reported that 42% of Turkish women between the ages of 15 and 60 experienced some form of physical or sexual abuse from their husband or partner.
  3. Legal framework has been laid to protect women. In 2011, Turkey became the first country to adopt a Council of Europe convention on gender-based and domestic violence. This was the Istanbul Convention, which provided legislation to protect victims and prosecute offenders. However, law enforcement rarely follow these basic laws. The laws are under further threat by President Erdoğan and the conservative Justice and Development Party (AKP). The AKP has tried to roll back this legislation on the grounds that it threatens traditional family values. Furthermore, conservative lobby groups protest the legislation outlined in the Istanbul Convention on the grounds that it promotes divorce and “immoral lifestyles.”
  4. Female empowerment has led to women in Turkey achieving economic independence. This is a huge step, as it gives women the ability to exercise their rights and leave abusive relationships. However, workplace and wage discrimination is still widespread throughout Turkey. Only 34.2% of Turkish women work, which is by far the lowest percentage of employed women in the 35 industrialized countries. Women are also more likely to work low-wage jobs or to be employed in the informal sector with no social security. Turkey ranked 130th out of 149 countries on the World Economic Forum’s 2018 Global Gender Gap Index.
  5. The Turkish government practically encourages gender-based violence. The rise of female independence has led to what feminist scholar Fatmagül Berktay calls a “crisis of masculinity.” She claims that the reduced need for men to be breadwinners has caused them to feel displaced, and as a result, they often engage in physical, sexual, psychological or economic abuse against their partners. Political tension in Turkey also promotes gender-based violence. Religious militarism is a rising state ideology in Turkey, which promotes misogyny and makes women easier targets of abuse. In addition to these factors, the government’s benign attitude toward violence against women encourages male offenders and, by extension, femicide in Turkey.

While many of these facts can appear disheartening, Turkey also demonstrates plenty of improvement. We Will End Femicide and similar groups are empowering women in Turkey to fight for their rights. Protests across Turkey have seen inspiring turnout since the death of Pınar Gültekin was made public on July 21. Western nations have also been made aware of the prevalence of femicide in Turkey via social media, and women around the world are joining the #challengeaccepted trend to raise awareness of the issue on social media.

Caroline Warrick
Photo: Wikimedia

Homelessness in Turkey

Similarly to the rest of the developed world, there are several factors that contribute to homelessness in Turkey. These factors include price inflation, unemployment, limited housing, unsafe home-life, mental illness, addiction, migration and undocumented citizen status. While many statistics remain unknown, here are five facts about homelessness in Turkey that are staggering.

5 Facts about Homelessness in Turkey

  1. The total number of homeless is unknown: Since it is not considered a social issue by much of the population, there are fewer social services and limited resources allocated for the homeless. This directly impacts the current problem by hindering accurate record-keeping and regular head counts. According to government guidelines, when a citizen becomes homeless, they are supposed to register as such at the appropriate office. However, the submission rate of their paperwork is very low. Despite the lack of data, the roughly estimated number of homeless people is more than 150,000.
  2. Economic crisis: In 2019, Turkey fell into another recession due to strained relations and disputes with other countries, including the United States. Currently, the unemployment rate is more than 13%. The economic state has a devastating effect on the nation’s unemployment rate and financial fluidity, which contribute directly to rising homelessness numbers. Turkish leaders have been drafting plans to climb out of their recession. However, the COVID-19 pandemic will not only delay their efforts but perhaps call for a complete revision of the plans.
  3. The streets of Istanbul are highly dangerous for the homeless: The majority of the homeless population is found in urban areas, with a high population density residing in Istanbul. Within the city limits, many homeless lack any type of shelter and are forced to fend for themselves on the streets. They claim people riddle the streets with crime and conflict, making them fear sleeping during the night or even daytime. As a result, they lose essential sleep because sleep requires that they let their guard down, which can be a grave mistake. Homeless people spend most of their time defending what little they have from thieves as well as keeping themselves safe from bodily harm.
  4. Exposure to the elements: Turkey is known for its harsh weather conditions and frequent natural disasters. In the winter, officials make mass housing efforts when the temperatures become unsurvivable, but they can rarely harbor everyone. The shelter conditions usually involve tight living quarters, and there is no security keeping guard over the occupants. When a natural disaster strikes, such as a flood or earthquake, the homeless have nowhere to seek shelter for protection or necessities such as food and clean water. The disasters can lead to property loss, bodily harm or even death. Preparation for a natural disaster is nearly impossible due to limited access to new reports and weather warnings.
  5. Government intervention is underwhelming: In the past, the government has been criticized for neglecting to respond and take appropriate action to relieve the persistent homelessness problem. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Turkish government launched emergency efforts in a campaign called the Accommodation for the Homeless Project. It aims to provide temporary housing for the homeless to limit the spread of disease. This project is important because an assumed 20% of Turkey’s homeless population has a pre-existing lung condition, an illness that puts them at a significantly higher risk of developing a life-threatening complication from the disease.

Compelled by the startling facts of homelessness in Turkey, one organization has channeled its faith into compassion to break through the social stigma surrounding the homeless and help. Since 2017, The Good Deeds Association has helped the homeless with their personal needs by donating clothes, providing showers, making laundry available and even giving haircuts. They believe their efforts will not only make a difference in their quality of health but also help them in pursuits to better their life, such as successfully finding a job. They hope to inspire people through their actions to get involved and do their part for their community as well.

– Samantha Decker
Photo: Flickr

healthcare in turkeyResting in the middle of three continents, not only is Turkey’s economy promising but so is their cultural impact. Turkey houses one of the largest refugee populations, with over 3.6 million registered Syrians amongst the 82 million Turkish citizens. With the country’s inconsistent conflict, the citizens require constant care due to the aftermaths of war, diseases and recently, coronavirus. Thus, healthcare in Turkey is at the forefront of global evaluation.

COVID-19

As of July 23rd, 2020, COVID-19 had infected more than 220,000 people in Turkey. The virus reached the peak of the first wave in April and has gradually sedated ever since with only one thousand cases nationally. Turkey restricted access across the borders and made it mandatory to wear masks in public. People above the age of 65 and below the age of 18 are required to follow a curfew under lockdown. The immediate action and the meticulous COVID-19 management by Turkey set a high example for the strength of a developing country.

Common Diseases

Apart from the coronavirus, Turkey sees many deaths from viral infections, circulatory system disorders, respiratory diseases and cancer. In 2016, non-communicable diseases caused 89% of deaths. Not only does the warm oceanic climate foster the spread of communicable diseases, but Turkey’s location between Africa, Asia, and Europe also promotes the spread of foreign diseases. Despite those factors, Turkey’s expansive healthcare system nurses their patients to their best ability.

Universal Healthcare System

The healthcare system in Turkey is not only affordable but of high quality. They are the regions leading provider for healthcare, providing citizens with the most care possible. While a heart bypass surgery would cost $129,750 in the United States, it only costs $12,000 in Turkey. Many infamous pharmaceutical companies and internationally-competitive medical facilities are all situated in Turkey. Turkish residents can receive free universal healthcare when registered with the social security system in contracted hospitals. Foreigners living in Turkey pay around $30 a month for unlimited healthcare.

Refugees and People in Poverty

Since the beginning of Syria’s refugee crisis, WHO has partnered with Turkey’s Ministry of Health to provide “culturally and linguistically sensitive” free healthcare. The WHO Refugee Health Program trained more than 2000 Syrian health workers in seven training facilities for the workers to be hired into 178 different hospitals. Syrian asylum seekers and refugees receive free healthcare to treat traumatized patients.

With Turkey’s 9.2% poverty rate, many cannot afford private health insurance or even pay their taxes. Turkey has created a system to include access to high-quality healthcare for all. In 2012, 98% of Turkish residents had access to healthcare because of The Health Transformation Program led by the government of Turkey and the World Bank.

The advancing system of Turkey aims for 100% access to quality healthcare. With an accepting atmosphere, people in poverty no longer have to worry about paying hospital bills or skipping doctor appointments. Healthcare fosters a system where everybody is strong and able-bodied to take on work. This creates an opportunity for people in poverty, refugees, and other vulnerable populations to rise above the poverty line.

Zoe Chao
Photo: Flickr

Turkey is a country with major economic influence in the Middle East, and it is ranked as the 17th most prolific economy worldwide. However, data about hunger in Turkey shows that 2.5 percent of the population is undernourished. In fact, hunger in Turkey increased marginally last year, alongside a 3.5 percent increase in poverty.

Causes of Hunger in Turkey

One major cause of hunger in Turkey is the Syrian refugee crisis. Turkey hosts more refugees than any other country in the world. With nearly 3.1 million refugees, the government has needed to provide substantial support to its newest migrants. So far, the Turkish government has provided over $10 billion to support the refugees. General migration due to poverty has also caused an increase in hunger in Turkey. In response to the high rates of migration, Turkey’s E.U. Affairs Ministry stated, “Access to food and nutrition is the most fundamental right and this right of migrants should not be violated.” 66 million people have been forced to migrate due to poverty or wars. Turkey houses 26 percent of those people in its region.

Organizations Fighting to Eradicate Hunger in Turkey

Many international organizations have partnered with the Turkish government to assist with the migrants and refugees living in the country. One such organization is the World Food Programme (WFP). The influx of Syrian refugees has put a strain on local markets and infrastructure in Turkey. The WFP has focused on providing cash assistance to refugees to stave off hunger insecurities.

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is another organization that has helped issues around hunger in Turkey. IFAD recognized that isolated rural villages in Turkey had a particular need for physical and social infrastructure. Many IFAD projects and loans have worked to improve rural living conditions for families, and specifically, women. Agriculture employs 45 percent of the Turkish workforce, including 90 percent of rural women working outside the home. Through IFAD’s low-interest loans and grants, it develops projects to help rural populations overcome hunger and poverty.

The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations is another organization that has partnered with Turkey to do more to eradicate global hunger. Since Turkey is one of the world’s leaders in agriculture, it can promote new technologies and food availability for countries in need. In the Turkish Partnership Program, Turkey allocated $10 million towards food safety projects. Additionally, Turkey has made significant donations to the WFP. In fact, the WFP sees Turkey as one of its most generous donors. Just a few decades ago, Turkey was receiving significant assistance from the WFP to reduce hunger.

Hope on the Horizon

Even with all of these efforts, hunger in Turkey has been on a steady increase since 2015. The proportion of undernourished individuals has increased as well. Fortunately, since the 1990s, the prevalence of malnourishment in children under five has decreased. The child mortality rate in children under five-years-old due to hunger has also decreased from 14 percent in the 1980s to 1.2 percent in 2019.

Overall, the rate of hunger in Turkey was on a steady decline until the start of the Syrian refugee crisis. Despite some setbacks, Turkey’s promising history with caring for migrants and undernourished populations indicates that these rates may decrease again.

– Mimi Karabulut 

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Turkey
With an increased Human Development Index (HDI) of 0.806 from 0.655 in the last decade, Turkey’s overall development has significantly increased, namely with a hike in life expectancy and education. While the execution of specific long-term policies (Development Programme for Women and Conditional Education Assistance) constantly address issues such as gender inequality and education, the refugee crisis and the disruption that COVID-19 has caused remain more pressing matters. Nevertheless, as all of these existing and new issues pile up, the initiative to alleviate poverty in Turkey has currently slowed down.

The Long-term Causes of Poverty in Turkey

  • Education: The proportion of poor people with limited or no education at all is significant. In fact, a study from 2007 indicated that 26.9 percent were illiterate, 22.6 percent had basic reading and writing skills and 42.4 percent were primary school graduates. These facts might suggest that a lack of education contributes to poverty due to the inability to work at higher-paying jobs. In order to encourage education, Turkey circulated free textbooks and transportation. Additionally, the FAITH project, which the Turkish government implemented, made education compulsory for all citizens for the initial 12 years. Along with the increase in the number of universities from 93 to 107 by 2013, the total gross enrollment increased to 81.6 percent. While the Turkish education system is still not able to compete with the European Union’s standards, it is definitely becoming more efficient.
  • Household Make-up: The mean household size tends to increase in poorer households, as nearly six out of 10 households have more than four members. Meanwhile, 45.6 percent of the poorest women in Turkey are housewives. As the number of people in households increases, the burden often falls to men to fulfill the basic needs of the entire family.
  • External Immigration and Refugees: Around 4.1 million immigrants from Iran, Iraq, Bosnia and Syria have strained Turkey’s resources. Legal immigrants receive access to education, health care and social security under Turkish legislation, namely the Law on Foreigners and International Protection and Temporary Protection Regulation. Furthermore, the demand for housing has driven up its price, pushing more and more people into poverty. Turkey has pledged nearly $35 billion to manage the flow of immigrants, which is inadequate because of the number of illegal immigrants also occupying Turkish territory. The rise in population, due to how drastic it is, has left more people confined to the poverty trap prevalent in the nation.

Turkey’s Measures to Reduce Poverty

The severity of poverty in Turkey has instigated the introduction and implementation of various policies such as the following:

  • The Country Partnership Framework (CPF): CPF is an agreement between Turkey and the World Bank with hopes of achieving growth, inclusion and sustainability under the 11th National Development Program. The General Assembly of Parliament of Turkey has implemented this as part of the 10th Development Plan.
  • The World Bank Group (WBG): The World Bank is partnering with the Facility for Refugees in Turkey (FRiT) to help reduce economic disruption due to the influx of refugees in Turkey by implementing programs with regards to education, employment and social support. For example, FriT, along with UNHCR, has pledged € 23.929.195 to allow access to protection and services for refugees and asylum seekers in Turkey.

Trust Funds in Addition to FRiT

  • The Clean Technology Fund (CTF): CTF  has granted $390 million to support wind power and encourage the private sector to invest in renewable and efficient energy.
  • E.U. Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA): IPA funds are providing € 3533 million to Turkey. The most important goal of IPA is to improve public administration and financial governance.
  • Global Environmental Facility (GEF): GEF funds are financing $387,138,238 to focus on climate change and the maintaintence of biodiversity.

How COVID-19 Could Affect Turkey’s Ability to Address Poverty

The unexpected spread of COVID-19 has recently strained the world economy, including Turkey’s ability to implement and administer the necessary schemes to alleviate poverty. In fact, the bilateral trade between China and Turkey is as low as 1.1  percent. Coupled with the loss of tax collection from affected industries (including textiles and garments) and restricted travel abroad, this has led to an increase in national debt and left the private sector enduring heavy losses. Therefore, the government’s ability to address poverty has diminished.

Mridula Divakar
Photo: Flickr

Destruction of the Thracian BulgariansThough somewhat obscure today, the Destruction of the Thracian Bulgarians refers to the systematic expulsion of the native Christians (Bulgarians, Greeks and Armenians) in Eastern Thrace. These atrocities occurred during and after the Second Balkan War of 1913. Additionally, it involves some of the figures later complicit in the Armenian Genocide of World War One. Historians increasingly view the Destruction of the Thracian Bulgarians as a prototype for subsequent Ottoman campaigns of ethnic cleansing.

Today, the descendants of Thracian Bulgarian refugees remain attached to their Thracian heritage. Amazingly, this is despite gradual assimilation into the dominant culture of Bulgaria. The Destruction of the Thracian Bulgarians remains a point of contention between the governments of Turkey and Bulgaria.

9 Facts About the Destruction of the Thracian Bulgarians

  1. Although the Ottoman census of 1906-1907 indicated a Muslim majority in five of Eastern Thrace’s counties, non-Muslims possessed numerical and cultural significance. Moreover, both Muslims and non-Muslims occupied positions across the empire’s social strata from peasant farmers to imperial administrators. Therefore, despite Ottoman claims to the contrary, Eastern Thrace’s character transcended a single religion and ethnicity.
  2. The Destruction of the Thracian Bulgarians consists of mass deportations and atrocities against Thracian Bulgarians, Greeks and Armenians. This arose from the late Ottoman Empire’s suspicion of non-Muslim minorities. The transformation of Eastern Thrace from a core to a peripheral territory occurred following the Balkan wars of independence. Ottoman officials saw ethnic minorities as a liability to the cohesion and security of the state. In place of deported or massacred Thracian Christians, the Ottoman state settled Muslim refugees from the western Balkans.
  3. With the expulsion of Bulgarian forces and the Ottoman reoccupation of Eastern Thrace during the Second Balkan War, non-Muslims faced accusations of disloyalty and subversion. Locals and officers alike singled out Thracian Armenians in particular as untrustworthy. These assumptions played on ethnic prejudices that precipitated the 1906 Adana massacre. They would reach a fever pitch during the Armenian Genocide of World War One. Thus, in Malgara, occupying Ottoman forces accused the local Armenians of appropriating property from Muslims, which incited a mob to murder 12 Armenians and raze 87 houses.
  4. On July 14, 1913, the recapture of Rodosto (present-day Tekirdag) from Bulgaria by Ottoman volunteer forces occurred. Local Christians and Jews were told they must surrender “government” property. In framing local non-Muslims as unjust appropriators of property, this stirred volunteers arriving by an Ottoman battleship. Further, they despoiled the town’s unarmed non-Muslim inhabitants, killing 19 people in the process and displaced others. This constitutes one of the most serious massacres of the Destruction of the Thracian Bulgarians.
  5. Mass expulsions of Thracian Bulgarians and Greeks, punctuated by intermittent killings, characterized Ottoman policy in Eastern Thrace. This occurred even after the September 29, 1913 peace treaty between Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire. Where voluntary deportation proved unfeasible, the Interior Ministry resorted to tax and labor levies to coerce emigration. The government signed three population exchange agreements between 1913 and 1914. These agreements were biased in favor of Muslim refugees from Balkan countries and against Christian refugees from Ottoman Thrace. This granted de facto legitimacy to a long-established reality arising from the Destruction of the Thracian Bulgarians.
  6. Enver Pasha played a role in fomenting violence against the Bulgarians and Greeks of Western Thrace across the Ottoman-Bulgarian border. Later, Enver Pasha became one of the architects of the Armenian, Assyrian and Greek genocides. Led by Enver Pasha, a coterie of fighters forded the Maritza river and razed 22 Bulgarian villages to the west of the Maritza river. Reportedly, these forces killed thousands of Bulgarians. However, the Ottomans did not regain Western Thrace.
  7. The process of resettling refugees in the wake of the Destruction of the Thracian Bulgarians placed a strain on the Bulgarian state and people. The experience of property expropriation without compensation left the refugees initially reliant on the assistance of the Bulgarian government and people. Substantial aid only arrived in the 1920s when the League of Nations provided loans to permanently house the refugees (incidentally, the first methodical policy of its kind).
  8. Attempts to preserve the cultural uniqueness of the Thracian Bulgarians spurred the formation of the Thracian organization. This organization protested the 1925 Agreement of Friendship between Bulgaria and Turkey. The agreement essentially validated the uncompensated appropriation of Thracian Bulgarian territory by the newly-established Turkish Republic. Though the post-World War Two communist regime suppressed Thracian associations, the fall of communism promoted their resurgence. Today, the associations seek to maintain the Thracian culture within Bulgaria and Turkey without advocating for an explicit right of return.
  9. In 2011, the Bulgarian Parliament voted for a proposal urging Bulgaria and Turkey to negotiate compensation for property expropriated during the Destruction of the Thracian Bulgarians. Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan displayed a willingness to negotiate over the matter in October 2010. The issue of compensation remains unresolved.

Although it transpired over a century ago, the legacy of the Destruction of the Thracian Bulgarians persists. Descendants of those directly affected especially recognize the importance of this history. The role as the prototype for the genocides of the Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians during World War One is also key. Further, this confirms that the Destruction of the Thracian Bulgarians is anything but peripheral to an understanding of the twentieth century’s upheavals.

– Philip Daniel Glass
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Child Labor in Turkey
Child labor in Turkey continues as both an international and domestic issue for the country. Despite Turkish and international community efforts to establish policies and initiatives to prevent child labor and protect the interests of children, child labor persists. The below facts highlight the details of the type of labor children typically perform as well as the efforts the government of Turkey has made to end child labor.

10 Facts About Child Labor in Turkey

  1. Work in Hazelnut Fields: Hazelnut production in Turkey is the largest sector of agricultural production, making up approximately 20 percent of Turkey’s agricultural exports. For this reason, many migrant agricultural workers travel along the eastern and western regions of Turkey looking for work during the hazelnut harvesting season. The children of these workers travel with their families and also contribute to the harvest of hazelnuts in Turkey. In 2017, nearly 800,000 children worked in the hazelnut fields. Most children work 11 hour days, seven days a week in the fields.
  2. The Second National Action Plan on Combating Human Trafficking: The Second National Action Plan on Combating Human Trafficking is an existing program in Turkey. This program identifies and protects both the victims of child trafficking as well as those children who are at high-risk for trafficking, such as the children of migrant agricultural workers. The high-risk children this program identified are the recipients of additional security precautions that the shelters took in. Victims of human trafficking frequently become migrant agricultural workers.
  3. Children of Syrian Refugees are High-Risk: As the number of Syrian refugees in Turkey continues to grow, so does the number of Syrian families working as migrant agricultural workers. Due to their status within the country of Turkey, many of these laborers work longer hours than those of the Turkish migrant workers and receive lower wages, with children oftentimes earning half of an adult’s wage. The children of the Syrian refugees are at an even higher risk of becoming permanently part of the sector of migrant labor due to lower access to education, discrimination and financial barriers.
  4. Efforts of the Turkish Government to Eradicate Child Labor: The Turkish government has made efforts to combat the high levels of child labor with a variety of government-funded programs. The Conditional Education and Health Care Assistance Program “aims to reduce poverty through cash transfers,” which takes the form of free milk and books given to primary school children. In 2017, approximately 190,000 children benefited from this program. By providing food and educational support, the Turkish government aims to create a learning environment for children where their families feel that they can afford the time for their children to be in school instead of working to earn extra money.
  5. Child labor in Turkey Increased in 2018: Despite the sweeping measures that the Turkish government has taken to prevent and eventually put an end to child labor in Turkey, the number of child laborers saw a marked increase in 2018. The Turkish government made a commitment to the International Labor Organization (ILO) that it would put an end to child labor by 2015, but that has not been the case thus far.
  6. Education Rates of Child Laborers: Due to the long hours that child laborers in Turkey work, they are unable to consistently attend schools in the areas where they work on hazelnut farms. The children also move around too frequently with their families to establish a lasting record at any one school, contributing to these children’s decreased likelihood of school attendance. In addition, the vocational schools that exist in areas that have heavy industry provide an education to children that promotes their continued work in the industrial sphere.
  7. Minimum Age for Child Labor: Turkey has existing laws in place that are to protect children from child labor. There is a minimum age requirement of 15 for agricultural work and a minimum age of 18 for hazardous work. A prohibition of forced labor and child trafficking also currently exists in Turkey. Despite the efforts of the government of Turkey, holes continue to exist in the legal framework that aims to protect children from hazardous child labor.
  8. Effective Enforcement of Existing Child Labor Laws: Though the Turkish government has age limits in place for child labor, as well as a list of light work that the Regulation on the Principles and Procedures Governing the Employment of Children and Young Workers permits, high levels of child labor in Turkey persist. Part of this gap in the legislation and actual protection of child laborers is due in part to the low numbers of inspectors and the classification of agricultural work as light labor. The Regulation on Principles has indicated that the country must legally consider picking fruit and vegetables as light work, therefore placing very few restrictions on migratory agriculture. Despite this, the gaps that exist in the legal framework “may hinder adequate enforcement of [Turkey’s] child labor laws.”
  9. National Program to Combat Child Labor in Turkey: The government of Turkey has made an effort to maintain compliance with international child labor laws. The National Program to Combat Child Labor began in 2017 and is to run until 2023. This program focuses on maintaining surveillance of the labor sectors of migratory agriculture, street work and work performed in small to medium industries to ensure that none of Turkey’s existing child labor laws are in violation.
  10. The Global March Against Child Labour: There are multiple NGOs in the international sphere that are fighting to end child labor worldwide. The Global March Against Child Labour is one such organization with a mission is to “mobilise worldwide efforts to protect and promote the rights of all children, especially the right to receive a free and meaningful education and the right to be free from economic exploitation.” Global March operates through the advocacy of issues to policymakers, raising awareness of child labor around the world and building partnerships with existing organizations such as the International Labour Organization. The Global March has seen success in many of its areas of focus. In 2018, Global March organized the Meet of Parliamentarians Without Borders for Children’s Rights in Brussels, Belgium. At the conclusion of the parliament, in which MPs from Sri Lanka, Benin, Togo, Paraguay, Uganda, Ghana, the Netherlands and Costa Rica attended, all MPs committed to working within their respective parliaments to end child labor in their countries.

Turkey still requires progress to put an end to dangerous and damaging child labor, but the steps that it has made in its own programs, as well as international programs, shows hope for a future for child labor in Turkey. That future includes stronger protection of a child’s right to receive an education and lead a stable life out of the fields.

– Anne Pietrow
Photo: Flickr