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10 Facts About the Armenian Genocide
On Oct. 29, 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to acknowledge the Armenian genocide that occurred at the hands of the Ottoman Turks during the First World War. Armenian-Americans have long-awaited this action, which was taken at a time of worsening U.S. and Turkey relations. The Prime Minister of Armenia, Nikol Pashinyan, lauded the motion on Twitter and called it “a bold step towards serving truth and historical justice.” Here are 10 facts about the Armenian genocide to further contextualize this important decision.

10 Facts About the Armenian Genocide

  1. The Armenian genocide refers to the systematic, premeditated massacre and forced deportation of more than one million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire. While the number of victims of the genocide is disputed, some estimates, such as one from the U.S. Congress, puts the number of Armenians killed by the Ottoman Empire at 1.5 million Armenians between 1915-1923. The genocide was an attempt by the Turks of the Ottoman Empire to eradicate the Armenian people.
  2. Prior to the twentieth century, the Armenian people had resided in the Caucasus region for approximately 3,000 years. The Armenians are predominantly Christian and in the fourth century A.D., the kingdom of Armenia was the first country in the world to adopt Christianity as its official religion. In the 1400s, that empire was that of the Ottomans. Led by Muslim Turks, the Ottoman Empire was suspicious of the Armenians who they feared would be more loyal to Christian governments. Nevertheless, the Armenians thrived under the empire until its decline, beginning in the late 1800s. Ottoman discrimination towards the Armenians reached a new high as the empire grew weaker. By the 1890s, the regime was already committing mass atrocities, including the killing of hundreds of thousands of Armenians.
  3. In 1908, the Young Turks, a nationalistic reformist group, overthrew the Sultan and formed a constitutional government. The Young Turks wanted to “Turkify” the empire and viewed the Christian non-Turks of Armenia as a threat to their regime. Indeed, when the Ottoman Empire entered the First World War on the side of Germany and Austria-Hungary, the Turks declared war on all Christians with the exception of their allies in the war. World War I was the immediate backdrop of the Armenian genocide. The Turks used it as justification for their persecution of the Armenians, whom the Turks called traitors. As the war dragged on and some Armenians sought to aid the Russian army against the Ottomans, the Turkish regime set out to remove Armenians from their Eastern front.
  4. Historians consider the beginning of the genocide to be April 24, 1915. On this day, the Turks arrested and killed between 50 and more than 100 of Armenian intellectuals. After that, the Turkish government sent thousands of people on death marches and deprived them of basic needs, such as food and water. Often, Armenians were forced to walk naked until they died. The government had other gruesome ways to kill Armenians, including burning people alive.
  5. Most of the killings occurred between 1915-1916, during which period the Ottoman Empire systematically slaughtered and terrorized Armenians by raping, starving, shooting, drowning and maiming them. Many Armenians died from disease or were subjected to mass deportations as well. Even after World War I, the Turkish nationalist government continued its persecution of Armenians and other ethnic minorities in Cilicia, Smyrna (Izmir) and the Armenian highlands. The nationalist regime confiscated property from Armenians in order “to finance the ‘Turkification’ of Anatolia” and to incentivize ordinary Ottoman citizens to take part in the ethnic cleansing campaign.
  6. Ottoman forces sought to rid of the region of Armenian landmarks such as churches, homes and other cultural sites by destroying or confiscating the properties. According to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, “tens of thousands of Armenian children were forcibly removed from their families and converted to Islam” because the Ottoman government wanted them to assimilate into Turkish society. In some cases, children could convert to Islam in exchange for staying alive. In addition to the Armenians, the Ottoman government targeted non-Turkic minorities, namely Yezidis, Assyrians and Greeks.
  7. Turkey refuses to acknowledge the Armenian genocide, though the Turkish government acknowledges that some atrocities happened. However, the government argues that the killings of the Armenians were not systematic or premeditated and were an unavoidable consequence of the war. Recognition of the Armenian genocide is illegal in Turkey, as it is considered to be “insulting Turkishness.”
  8. Recognition of the genocide by the U.S. is controversial because of the United States’ alliance with Turkey. For the first time in decades, the entire U.S. House of Representatives considered and decided to acknowledge the Armenian genocide. At the time of the ethnic cleansing and since then, the U.S. has condemned the Turks’ genocidal activities on various occasions. U.S. Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire (1913-1916), Henry Morgenthau, declared the Ottoman’s actions as a “campaign of race extermination” and organized protests by officials against the Ottomans. The U.S. government officially recognized the genocide in May 1951, April 1981, 1975 and in 1984.
  9. The Armenian genocide still has consequences to this day. There are 7-10 million people in the Armenian diaspora, and 3 million people in Armenia, who are descendants of the genocide. The genocide is, for some, core to Armenia’s identity. Yet others would like for Armenia to move and focus on problems in their own country. Turkey’s refusal to recognize the genocide affects its politics today and its relations to Armenia. However, there are groups (including liberal intellectuals and Kurdish groups) in Turkey that have acknowledged and apologized for the genocide.
  10. Denial of the genocide has far-reaching implications. Turkey’s denial of the genocide has hindered peace between Turkey and Armenia. This denial undermines the commitment to preventing future genocides and atrocities. The institutionalized denial shields the perpetrators of the genocide from blame. The U.S. has refused to acknowledge the genocide as such, under the argument that doing so would threaten regional security and U.S. interests in the Middle East. Turkey’s genocide denial has perpetuated the distrust and resentment Armenians have towards the Turks, as well as anxiety Armenians have that they are still under threat.

H. Res. 296: Affirming the United States Record on the Armenian Genocide

The House of Representatives recently passed a resolution acknowledging the genocide. This action is significant, as the previous U.S. attempts to recognize the genocide have resulted in renewed bilateral talks between Turkey and Armenia. Another positive effect of the United States’ recognition of the genocide is that it is front-page news across Turkey. Thus, recognition of the Armenian genocide brings greater awareness to it, especially to Turks who never knew it occurred since the history of the mass killings was omitted from school books.

On April 8, 2019, Representative Adam Schiff [D-CA-28] introduced H.Res. 296 which had 141 cosponsors, including 120 Democrats and 21 Republicans. The House passed the resolution on Oct. 29, 2019, by a margin of 405 to 11. In the weeks leading up to the vote, Turkey outraged members of Congress by its ground offensive against the Syrian Kurds and U.S./Turkey relations have continued to sour since then.

On Dec. 12, 2019, the Senate unanimously voted to affirm the Armenian genocide, despite the Trump administration’s objections.

The Armenian genocide was a horrific tragedy that led to the deaths of one and a half million people, yet many people still deny the reality of the genocide for political reasons. As these 10 facts about the Armenian genocide prove, the mass ethnic cleansing did happen, and its effects are felt to this day.

– Sarah Frazer
Photo: Flickr

Helping Syrian Refugees After Arriving
The Syrian refugee crisis has been ongoing for more than eight years since the civil war that started in 2011. More than 5 million people have fled Syria, while many more were displaced within Syria itself. Externally, Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan have the highest proportion of Syrian refugees in the world. Since refugees often try to live in urban areas for better employment opportunities, they frequently struggle with financial resources and end up living below the poverty line. In response, domestic and international organizations are helping Syrian refugees after arriving in each of these three countries.

Lebanon

As of June 30, 2016, Lebanon had the most Syrian refugees relative to its population, which was about 173 refugees per 1,000 people, or a total of 1,035,700. Lebanon also hosts a high number of refugees compared to its GDP, equating to 20 refugees per $1 million in GDP. While Lebanon hosts a large number of refugees, it is struggling to provide for them. There are around a million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, 70 percent of whom live below the poverty line. These refugees often have little to no financial resources, which leads them to live in crowded homes with other families in more than 2,100 communities.

One organization helping Syrian refugees in the country is the Lebanese Association for Development and Communication (LADC), which emerged to help both Palestinian and Syrian refugees. Its projects range from community-based projects to aid projects with both local and more than 500 international volunteers helping to establish more than 6,500 beneficiaries. One of its projects was the Paradise Wall, a community art project to smooth the integration process between 120 Syrian and Lebanese children by asking them to work together creatively to produce a wall full of designs.

Turkey

Turkey hosts the largest number of registered Syrian refugees – currently at 3.3 million. Authorities claim that there are more than 3 million Syrian refugees, but that they have not registered. This is because they see Turkey as a transit country or fear deportation. The fear of deportation comes from the fact that Turkey offers temporary protection status to Syrians instead of internationally-recognized refugee status. This increases the likelihood of Turkey deporting the refugees while avoiding the risk of receiving international renouncement for doing so. Most refugees attempt to settle in urban areas in these countries, as opposed to refugee camps where only 8 percent of registered Syrian refugees live.

In Turkey, the UNCHR, EU and WHO have come together to fund the Association for Solidarity with Asylum Seekers and Migrants (ASAM), which is a multi-regional organization that does a wide variety of work to help Syrian refugees after arriving in Turkey. It has many projects ranging from legal counseling to psycho-social support for children through playful activities. One of its projects titled Women and Girls’ Safe Space emerged to offer training sessions on women’s reproductive health.

Jordan

Jordan is proportionally the second-largest host of the Syrian refugees, sheltering about 89 refugees per 1,000 inhabitants as of 2016. Fifty-one percent of these refugees are children and 4 percent are elderly, meaning that 55 percent are dependents who rely on the remaining 45 percent of adult, working-age Syrian refugees. Consequently, more than 80 percent of them live under the poverty line.

To deal with this, the Jordanian government has initialized formal processes to help them escape poverty. In 2017 alone, the country issued 46,000 work permits so that Syrian refugees work. Recently, in collaboration with UNHCR, the International Labor Organization (ILO) established an employment center, The Zaatari Office of Employment, in the biggest camp for Syrian refugees. By August 2017, around 800 refugees benefited from this center by registering official work permits in place of one-month leave permits.

While the Syrian refugee crisis is still ongoing, it is important to note that many are helping Syrian refugees to settle and integrate into their host societies. Many countries from all over the world are starting to resettle the refugees within their borders to lift off the burden of poverty and overcrowding in certain areas. People often recognize Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey for their willingness to take in large numbers of Syrian refugees, but this must not erase the work a variety of organizations are doing to help refugees after arriving in their new homes.

Nergis Sefer
Photo: Flickr

Helping the Kurds of Turkey
Scattered throughout the mountainous regions of Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Iran and Armenia, the Kurds are known as one of the largest ethnic groups without a state. Totaling about 35 million, 20 million of these Kurds live in Turkey, making it the largest Kurdish population within a state’s borders. Despite the significant size of the Kurdish population in Turkey, most  people in the U.S. and abroad don’t actually know what’s going on and how non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are helping the Kurds of Turkey.

Surviving War

Since 1984, Turkish authorities and the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) have been interlocked in a gruesome conflict. Labeled as a terrorist group by most of the international community, the PKK has engaged in terrorist and guerrilla tactics in the hopes of establishing a free Kurdistan in southern Turkey. In response, Turkish forces have unleashed a brutal and destructive counter-terrorism campaign in the South.

In 2016, 653 security officers, 460 PKK militants, 52 civilians and 139 youth of unknown affiliation died from clashes.

Basic human rights — such as minority rights, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly and freedom from torture — have been frequently violated by Turkish forces; which can be found here on the U.S. State Dept’s page.

Bolstering Economics

In 2015, it is estimated that between 15 percent (official Turkish government numbers) and 40 percent (private estimates) of the population in Kurdish-majority areas are unemployed. In fact, a study by the International Terrorism and Transnational Crime Research Center found that 4 out of every 5 PKK militants were unemployed at their time of recruitment.

As of 2015, about 1 in 3 people living in Turkey below the poverty line come from the southeastern provinces. According to the Turkish Statistical Institute in 2016, 9 out of 10 of the poorest cities in Turkey reside in its southeastern provinces. This has resulted in the average daily income of $7 for people living in Kurdish-dominated cities.

The Turkish government attempted to re-finance the Southeastern Anatolia Project (GAP) by pumping money into projects — such as dams, irrigation, agriculture and power plants — that focus on rebuilding war-torn infrastructure.

However, according to the Ministry of the Economy, two-thirds of the $309 billion went to already developed regions, such as Istanbul and Ankara, while the southeastern provinces only received a mere 5 percent of the total funds.

Improving Education

The largest city in the southern provinces, Diyarbakir, teachers’ union reported in 2008 that class sizes were up to 60 students per teacher with little to no funding for textbooks, facilities or classroom materials.

Moreover, most of Kurdish students grow up speaking only their native Kurdish language; however, the Turkish government only allows the use of Turkish as the official language in schools. Therefore, many teachers experience language barriers while trying to educate and teach.

While around 800,000 students graduated from the Diyarbakir region, only about half had employment readily available, and around 0.1 percent went on to a university.

It is clear that the people of southeastern Turkey (primarily Kurds) are suffering from severe disparities in education, employment, security and infrastructure compared to the rest of Turkey. While the Turkish government has implemented projects on paper, actually turning funds and promises into solutions have not shown much progress in helping the Kurds of Turkey.

The Path to Peace: The Kurdish Project

One of the most well-known NGOs helping the Kurds in Turkey is the Kurdish Project. It was created by Farhad “Fred” Khosravi, a Kurdish-American entrepreneur, with the help of other NGOs, the Kurdish-American community and San Francisco tech groups. The Kurdish Project is a cultural-education initiative that aims at raising awareness of the Kurdish people, their culture and their struggles.

Through education and awareness, the members of the project hope to bring peace and stability to the Middle East by sponsoring local and international NGOs that focus on helping the Kurds.

Lobby for Change

Keep in mind, Turkey and the U.S. share a strong relationship and partnership in Middle Eastern affairs. So, emailing, calling and meeting with representatives in support of helping the Kurds of Turkey could go a long way to pressuring the Turkish state to change its methods.

Change shouldn’t be thought of as too far way in this situation. In fact, Erdogan himself stated that: “If we solve this problem [the conflict with the PKK], then investments can boom.”

Although he has frequently leaned toward brutal crackdowns in the southeastern provinces, economic aid, not military force, is recommended by the Washington Institute. If security forces are applied to more constructive projects, such as rebuilding infrastructure and protecting civilians, then the Turkish government can make significant headway to bringing peace within its borders.

After all, rebuilding the southern provinces will not only be helping the Kurds of Turkey, but also the rest of the Turkish state as peace and prosperity overcome conflict and poverty.

Tanner Helem
Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education in AnatoliaAnatolia is known as the Asian side of Turkey. Communities in Anatolia generally engage in a rural way of living where, most of the times, dynamics like globalization and technology are not the primary driving forces. Anatolia has been dealing with the issue of gender inequality in education, and there are many questions about girls’ education in this part of Turkey.

Reasons Behind the Gender Gap in Education

The gender gap that exists in Anatolia has not only existed in the workforce but has also translated to education in the region as well. Due to several different reasons, the people of Anatolia used to wish for their daughters to stay home and do domestic chores but, on the other hand, were motivated to send boys to school. That kind of behavior was a result of several barriers: lack of classrooms and schools, the distance of the school, the economic situation of families, early marriages problem and lack of female role models in Anatolia.

As the government was focused on decreasing the gender gap in education, the officials came up with a new program in 2004 that opened a door to many other programs and establishments related to this problem. Soon, the bad image of the situation was fixed with the help of different participants and the government taking effective steps to overcome the issue of the gender gap in the education of Anatolia.

Off to School, Girls!

One of the most impactful campaigns that was organized by the Minister of National Education and supported by UNICEF was Haydi Kızlar Okula! (Off to school, girls!). The campaign was very effective and became one of the first steps in the process of changing girls’ education in Anatolia.

The goal of Haydi Kızlar Okula! was to close the gender gap in 53 provinces that had the lowest enrollment rates of girls in schools in Anatolia by the end of 2005. The campaign did not only enable a sustainable social mobilization of the communities but also solved the issue of a lack of available schools and classrooms in different districts.

The campaign itself was a collective effort of many participants and institutions fulfilling their responsibilities for girls’ education in Anatolia. The government of Turkey might seem like the main organizer of the program but many other companies and organizations were also involved. Nationwide TV channels voluntarily contributed to the program in terms of spreading the news, and Coca-Cola provided free publicity.

The contribution of the campaign in solving the problem with girls’ school enrollment was remarkable because it increased the number of girls in primary schools immediately. According to 2010 data shared by the Ministry of National Education in Turkey, the number of the girls in schools in 10 provinces was 10 by the end of 2003. This number was increased to 33 provinces and 73.2 girls by the end of 2004 and then up to 53 provinces and 62.251 girls by the end of 2005. It should be highlighted that a total of 239.112 girls attended primary school as a direct result of Haydi Kızlar Okula!

Haydi Kızlar Okula! might seem off-topic to the revolutionary decrease of the gender gap in Anatolia today due to the fact that it happened in the early 2000s, but it is considered the first of many other campaigns that solved the issue of the educational gender gap in Anatolia.

– Orçun Doğmazer
Photo: Flickr

Minorities
In countries all around the world, rates of poverty among minorities are distressingly high. There are many different types of minorities: racial and ethnic, national and linguistic, cultural and tribal, political and religious, gender and sexual. There are immigrants and refugees. People with disabilities and mental health disorders.

Poverty, unemployment and incarceration rates are typically much higher among these populations than among majorities. Physical and mental health is poorer. Educational attainment is lower.

Examples of Poverty Among Minorites

  1. Ethnic minorities account for only 15 percent of Vietnam’s population, but 70 percent of the population living in extreme poverty. There are great discrepancies in educational attainment as well: 18.8 percent of ethnic majorities have completed university or upper-secondary education, compared to 8.5 percent of ethnic minorities.
  2. In the United States, Latinos and Hispanics are incarcerated at 1.4 times the rate of white Americans, and African Americans at an average of 5.1 times white Americans. Though the unemployment rates for Hispanics and blacks have been declining since 2010, they are still higher than that of white Americans: the unemployment rate of blacks is nearly double that of whites.
  3. LGBT+ individuals are severely persecuted in many nations. In Turkey, 78 percent of people say that society should not accept homosexuality. Same-sex marriage is unrecognized, same-sex adoptions are prohibited and LGBT+ individuals face severe discrimination in obtaining employment and housing. Violence against these people is widespread and often goes unpunished.
  4. Indigenous people are among the most discriminated-against people in the world, and many populations experience high rates of poverty and health problems. For example, the diabetes prevalence rate among the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, indigenous people in Australia, is six times that of the national average. The suicide rates among the Inuit in Canada is 11 times the national average and one of the highest in the world.
  5. In many countries where a vast majority of the population belongs to a certain religion, those who practice a different faith experience strong discrimination and high rates of poverty. In Nepal, the poverty rate among Muslims, a minority in the mainly Hindu country (approximately 81 percent of Nepali are Hindu) is 41 percent, about 10 percent higher than the national average. In Bangladesh, where 89 percent of the population is Muslim, Hindus face serious barriers in obtaining education and employment and are often subject to displacement and arbitrary seizure of their property.

High Rates of Poverty Among Minorities

Why do these disparities in poverty, prison, education and employment exist? Why do minorities tend to have poorer health and experience more violence? Prejudice, discrimination, social exclusion and marginalization are major factors.

Institutional discrimination in governments, corporations and education systems, exists in countries around the world. This discrimination breeds inequality, and inequality restricts people’s ability to obtain jobs and education, to access housing and healthcare, or to enjoy judicial and legal protections.

Sociological and psychological research has demonstrated that discrimination and social exclusion can contribute to poor mental and physical health, which impact an individual’s ability to work and earn an income. All of these factors contribute to the high levels of poverty among minorities.

How We Can Solve this Problem

Eliminating institutional discrimination and individual prejudices can reduce poverty among minorities. Though not an easy task, it is vital to the pursuit of a world without poverty. Governments, educational institutions, corporations and the media, which often use prejudicial rhetoric and discriminatory practices, must be held to a higher standard.

Education should highlight instead of hiding the discrimination that exists around the world. It should teach the importance of human rights and promote equality and respect of others.

Various social movements and nonprofit organizations attempt to do this. They strive to raise awareness of discrimination and inequality and eliminate these from society. The Black Lives Matter, MeToo, Sanctuary Campus, feminist and LGBT+ movements serve as examples. The Human Rights Campaign, Equal Rights Advocates, Race Forward and Global Rights are just a few of the many organizations that fight for equality for different minorities.

All of these movements and organizations and the many others that exist are crucial to the elimination of discrimination as well as reduction of global poverty. And so are individuals.

Individuals have a prominent role to play in the fight for equality. Every person has the ability to make a difference. You can help reduce poverty among minorities by supporting movements and organizations that advocate for minorities. You can speak up when you see discriminatory actions or hear prejudicial remarks. As Nelson Mandela said, “as long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest”.

Laura Turner

Photo: Flickr

TurkeyIt can be difficult to get investment projects off the ground when potential investors themselves cannot access credit. Without investment projects, it becomes difficult to lift people out of poverty, so the issue itself is critically important to The Borgen Project.

So, how does the current picture look regarding credit access in Turkey?

Turkey boasts the second-largest banking system in Emerging Europe, after Russia. The term “Emerging Europe” refers to poorer economies in central, eastern and southeastern Europe. Think Serbia and Albania, not Germany or France.

The Turkish system is highly liquid and well-capitalized, granting it great flexibility to lend financing to investors looking to develop the region. There are many viable options for those looking to get a loan in Turkey.

Turkey’s system supports three types of banks: standard deposit banks, development and investment banks and participation banks. Any of these may grant loans in the form of cash, non-cash or interest-free (i.e., participation) loans in local or foreign currency. Leasing and factoring companies are also an option and several international development banks also provide funding. The European Investment Bank (EIB) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) are two such entities.

In 2016, the World Bank reported that Turkish bank account, debit card and credit card ownership were at an impressively high level, which tends to indicate access to finance. As of then, the country had also recently increased its rate of savings, which bodes well for future credit access. However, the data show that women continue to have less access to credit than men, despite progress being made.

Just this past September, Reuters reported that Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan called for banks to open credit access in Turkey for investors and to lower their interest rates. Erdogan strongly opposes high-interest rates and wants to pressure the banks—especially state banks—to makes this change.

According to Hürriyet Daily News, this comes after Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Șimșek announced earlier this year the creation of a new Credit Guarantee Fund that allows crafts and tradespeople easier access to financing. Bloomberg reports that policymakers don’t intend to expand that fund despite the growth it has already sparked. Time will tell whether that is a good move.

Hopefully, the overall increase in lending power will spur even more investment and growth in Turkey and serve as an example to other nations struggling with high levels of poverty.

– Chuck Hasenauer

Photo: Flickr

TurkeyThe country of Turkey is located in between the European and Asian continents. Technically, the nation belongs to both continents, with 95 percent of Turkey’s landmass geographically located in Asia and the other five percent in Europe. This has led the Republic of Turkey to have evolved cultural influences from both the European lifestyle and the Asian way of life.

Even so, Turkey is a nation still heavily based upon tradition. Based on traditional values, women within the Turkish society rarely work outside the home or with men they are not related to. High-status job positions in almost all fields, except domestic, are taken by men, whilst the women are expected to stay at home mothers and wives.

Over the past several decades, though, women’s empowerment in Turkey has faced a turning point. Turkish women can now work as bankers, teachers, lawyers, engineers and more. A small but encouraging number of women even work as politicians. In spite of this being the case, women in Turkey still are not seen as equals to men. According to U.N. Women, women in Turkey make approximately 44 percent of the earnings that men make.

In the majority of households, the man has more power than the woman. The woman is expected to limit herself by choosing to take on a motherly role for the children, and being a dedicated and loving wife to her husband, even when faced with violence. As recorded by the National Domestic Violence survey, up to 38 percent of married Turkish women had suffered abuse from their husbands in 2014.

As mentioned before, the perception of women in Turkey is slowly starting to change. Throughout the 2000s, the Turkish government has adopted multiple pieces of legislation aimed at protecting women from domestic violence and eradicating gender-based discrimination. However, even though laws have been passed, the implementation and enforcement of such laws has not been as successful.

Gender equality is not yet a reality in the country, but women’s empowerment in Turkey has grown in the past few years. In fact, there is a United Nations campaign focused solely on improving the lives of women in the Western Balkans and Turkey. Initiatives, such as the three-year program Implementing Norms, Changing Minds, fight to end violence and discrimination against women, giving particular attention to women belonging to the most disadvantaged groups.

Furthermore, through the More and Better Jobs for Women project, the International Labour Organization (ILO) fights to create awareness about women’s employment opportunities. Developing women’s employment and creating decent work opportunities are some of the goals undertaken by the organization. By better serving the women of Turkey, the ILO hopes to increase the number of women employed in the labor force, only 26.7 percent of the female population as of 2014.

Turkey is on its way to becoming a country that values gender equality and forwards women’s empowerment. NGOs bring new awareness every day to the nation, and women’s empowerment in Turkey is slowly but surely becoming a reality.

– Paula Gibson

Photo: Flickr

Kurdish-Turkish WarThe Kurdish-Turkish war is known to be the largest civil war in the middle east, taking away the lives of more than 40,000 people, a majority of them being Kurds. After lasting almost three decades, it finally ended in 2013 when both the Turkish government and the Kurdistan Worker’s Party, also known as the PKK, announced a “bilateral cease-fire” to bring necessary peace within the region.

Here are nine facts that will give you a better understanding of the historic conflict:

  1. Tensions leading to the conflict between the Kurds and the Turks began after a nationalist Turkish force, led by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, established the Republic of Turkey in 1934 with the aim of “Turkifying” the entire state. This decision forced millions of Kurds to live in a state that only approved of Turks, and denied the existence of the Kurdish ethnicity. It led to extreme censorship for the Kurds, as their language was banned from the media, forcing Kurdish children to learn only Turkish in school. That is how a strong Kurdish resistance, the PKK, was born, with the main goal of creating a Kurdish state.
  2. The Kurdistan Worker’s Party was founded in 1978 by Abdullah Öcalan, with an ideology focused on Marxism. The PKK sought to create an independent Kurdish state in order to regain their autonomy from the Turkish government. The party had between 5,000 and 10,000 armed fighters who initiated violent attacks toward Turkish government officials.
  3. After several attacks, the Turkish government attempted to ease tensions with the Kurds by giving them “cultural concessions” in 1991 and limited autonomy in 1993. But, the resistance intensified as the interdiction of creating Kurdish political parties was maintained and, more importantly, direct military control was imposed in Kurdish areas under martial law. This led to a civil war involving approximately 200,000 security forces, in which an estimated 15,000 people were killed and dozens of villages were destroyed between 1982 and 1995.
  4. In response to Turkey’s militarization of the Kurdish region, the PKK launched an armed struggle within the Turkish territory which resulted in a counter military attack and, later on, a major crackdown from the Turkish government. In fact, Ankara established a state of emergency in 1987 and the Anti-Terror Law in 1991, which led to the killing of thousands of Kurdish civilians and the arrest of anyone who seemed to be associated with the PKK, or any other leftist groups.
  5. Following the implementation of these anti-terror laws, the Kurds strengthened their resistance towards the Turkish state, who, in response, resorted to even more violence and repression. This was the start of a “vicious cycle” for the Kurdish-Turkish war, as the Turkish government’s sole mission to end this struggle was to capture Öcalan and sentence him to death.
  6. After Öcalan was captured in 1999 with the help of the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency, the Turkish government began to reform its democracy, which led to significant changes for the Kurds. Those changes included the right for Kurds to learn their language in private courses and broadcast in their own language. Other reforms were the abolition of the death penalty and the elimination of the state of emergency.
  7. In the 2000s, while Turkey was experiencing a major democratic crisis, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) implemented a Kurdish peace process, which ultimately failed due to lack of cohesion between the different parties in Turkey.
  8. As democracy began slowly deteriorating, many Kurdish groups requested a peace deal with the Turkish President Erdogan, instead of consolidating democracy. However, in the mid-2000s, the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), a new Kurdish political party, surfaced and demanded democratic reform, which ended this peace process. The HDP is now represented in the Parliament, having won 10 percent of the vote in June 2015.
  9. As of today, President Erdogan’s power has grown stronger, facing much weaker opposition. Many reforms have changed the Kurds’ lives in a significant way after the Kurdish-Turkish war, such as the right to illustrate the Kurdish identity in the media and the right to establish Kurdish political parties.

One might ask if this means the Kurdish-Turkish war has been resolved. But, despite the evolution of the Turkish state and the representation of the leftist ideologies in the assembly, many critics argue that the situation could lead to potential uprisings in the future if the Turkish government keeps denying all the human rights abuses committed toward the Kurds. Acknowledgment of the Kurdish struggle for freedom is necessary in order to move forward with a more democratic nation.

Sarah Soutoul

Photo: Flickr

Turkey-ISIL ConflictSince Turkey declared war on the so-called Islamic State (ISIL) in 2014, the Middle Eastern country accomplished great strides in aiding the world’s poor, while struggling with both internal and external challenges. These 10 facts about the Turkey-ISIL conflict explore two sides of the same issue.

  1. Turkey’s economy struggled before the country declared war
    During the twenty-first century, Turkey utilized rapid urbanization and increasing trade to become an upper-middle-class country. As growth slowed in 2013, critics accused President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of being soft on terrorism. Time Magazine suggests that Erdoğan declared war on ISIL to distract his populace and boost the economy.
  2. In recent years, Turkey has discovered economic success
    The World Bank reports that exports and growth in Turkey will strengthen overall in 2017. In the midst of a turbulent time, the country continues decreasing its poverty rate past 9.3 percent, compared to 27.3 percent in the 2000s.
  3. Turkey has also found new economic hardships
    In spite of Turkey’s accomplishments fighting poverty, unemployment reached 12.1 percent in November 2016, rising from 11.1 percent a year earlier. The employment rate is even worse among men and women aged 15-24.
  4. Turkey shows incredible generosity to immigrants
    In 2015, Turkey provided a place to live for two million Syrian refugees. That number has since increased to three million. The 2015 Turkish Development Assistance Report named Turkey the second-largest donor country in the world.
  5. Turkey’s generosity comes with costs
    The increase in transport and food expenses drove core inflation up to 10.2 percent in 2017. This is the first time in a decade for such numbers to reach double digits in Turkey. Combined with a poor harvest and increasing gas prices, it’s uncertain how long Turkey will allow its refugees to stay. No one can put a price on human life, but these 10 facts about the Turkey-ISIL conflict reveal that fighting global poverty is more than a moral issue.
  6. Syrian refugees are uncertain if they’ll ever return home
    Many Turkish neighborhoods packed with Syrians in the past three years. As Middle Eastern conflict continues, these un-integrated communities reveal that caring for migrants is more than a short-term solution.
  7. Refugees are gaining more access to social services
    When Syrian refugees first entered Turkey in 2011, the government gave migrants a special protection status in lieu of work permits. The country also granted their guests temporary accommodation centers and permission to enroll in universities without passports. Turkey has since rolled out work permits in response to complaints.
  8. Not all refugees can use services
    Due to the length and cost of providing work permits and social security for Syrian workers, most Turkish companies risk minor fines to hire illegal workers. Such practices do not comfort Turkish anxieties. Labor lawyer Mehmet Ata Sarikaripoglu notes “a public concern that Turkish people would be unemployed because of… Syrians… employed with lower fees.”
  9. ISIL terrorists are retreating
    As of Oct. 4, 2017, Iraqi forces have retaken Hawija, a major Islamic State stronghold. Though Iraq routinely declares victory before fighting has finished, this latest strike continues a trend that has greatly reduced ISIL territory.
  10. Turkey’s conflicts with Kurds continue
    Turkish forces bombed more Kurdish separatists than ISIL targets during the war. The arrests of Kurdistan Workers Party members outnumber the amount of detained ISIL fighters. The Kurdistan Regional Government claimed territory close to Hawija, signaling that conflict in the region will continue for the foreseeable future.

These 10 facts about the Turkey-ISIL conflict reveal the inseparable relationships between war, economy and global poverty.

Nick Edinger

Photo: Google

Nothing brings a smile to a child’s face more quickly than watching the circus. Except, perhaps, being able to perform the feats themselves.

Sirkhane Social Circus School in Turkey trains refugee children from Syria in the art of circus performance as a way of bringing joy into a very difficult situation. A typical day of classes consists of children juggling, spinning multicolored plates, doing tricks on a trapeze and walking on stilts.

But the school is dedicated to more than just teaching practical skills. For the Syrian refugee children, circus arts have become a way of dealing with the trauma they have witnessed. They practice peace and harmony in a safe environment.

Located in an old house in Mardin, a city on the Turkish-Syrian border, the school serves students from Turkey, Afghanistan and Iraq as well as refugees from Syria. The children learn teamwork and form friendships with children from different backgrounds.

Older children are often inspired to give back to the community by becoming mentors to the younger students in a program called Circus Heroes. These older students also put on their own performances and participate in larger festivals.

Sirkhane School was founded by the Turkish organization Art Anywhere, an NGO which works to bring art to communities. Over the past three years, Sirkhane has trained more than 600 young circus performers. According to co-founder Pinar Demiral, the school’s main goal is to give these children a second chance to experience childhood.

Sirkhane is part of the social circus movement, a global movement that uses circus arts to reach children and youth who are considered at-risk. Social circus organizations work not only with refugees and victims of war trauma, but also with children from impoverished backgrounds.

The Red Nose Foundation in Indonesia welcomes children from two of the most impoverished areas in Jakarta, a fishing community and a trash pickers’ slum.

Kids describe the classes as a way to fill free time, and parents say that spending time at the learning centers teaches the children to be patient and polite. The foundation hopes that circus performance will inspire the kids to be more confident, responsible and aware of the world around them.

Besides teaching basic juggling, clowning and acrobatics, Red Nose also offers more traditional education classes, particularly in English and math, all through the lens of the creative arts.

For these children, science lessons might involve drawing pictures of the solar system or of a particular ecosystem. English is taught through the medium of creative drama. The organization also offers scholarships to help cover schooling expenses for children who have participated in the program for two or more years.

For students who continue to attend a social circus, their acrobatic and artistic skills sometimes become a source of income. The Cambodian non-profit Phare Ponleu Selpak, a social circus organization whose name translates to “The Brightness of the Arts,” specializes in training students who wish to work professionally in creative fields.

The organization runs a Visual and Applied Arts School, which trains Cambodian youth in fine arts, graphic design and animation, and a Performing Arts School, which teaches theatre, dance and music as well as circus techniques. Graduates of the program have gone on to study in Europe, the United States and Canada.

The movement is still growing. The first Social Circus Day in April of 2016 brought together organizations from 32 countries, including Zambia, Myanmar, Afghanistan, El Salvador and Italy. Entire communities came together to celebrate and enjoy the performances.

This is perhaps the most important lesson of social circus, a lesson the children already know: regardless of setting or circumstances, the power of laughter prevails.

Emilia Otte

Photo: Flickr