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Tourism in TurkeyThe COVID-19 pandemic gripped the world over a year ago and tourism worldwide has since seen a considerable decline. Turkey heavily relies on its tourism industry and previously hosted hundreds of thousands of visitors daily. But in 2020, figures fell significantly due to the virus and subsequent travel restrictions. However, implementation of increased safety measures provides hope for the tourism industry in Turkey. 

The Pandemic’s Effects 

With a rich cultural history, Turkey offers a variety of stunning historic sites and tourist attractions. In recent years, the country has ranked among the top 10 most-visited countries worldwide, according to WorldAtlas. Places like Istanbul and Antalya draw in millions of visitors, creating thousands of jobs as well as revenue for the country. This was before the pandemic. 

The COVID-19 pandemic was devastating for many countries, especially those that relied on tourism and travel for economic stability. For Turkey, the pandemic led to up to $12 billion in lost revenue and slashed tourism rates by 75% in the first half of 2020 compared to the previous year.

Contrasting those dim statistics, Turkey was labeled as a success last year by the WHO due to its fast actions in containing the virus. The Turkish government quickly instituted strict curfews for citizens,  which proved successful and indicated a quick end to the virus. Consequently, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan loosened restrictions in Turkey’s “controlled normalization” phase in early 2021. Since then, there has been a drastic spike in cases this year. There is an estimated 1000% increase in daily cases, with an average of around 50,000 cases per day. Despite Turkey’s impressive initial control of COVID-19, deaths have doubled since the end of 2020. 

Turning a Corner with Safety

When will former capacity return to sites like Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar? That is the main question business have in 2021. In response, the president of Turkey’s Travel Agencies Union, Firuz Bağlıkaya, stated that tourist agencies plan to create the best experiences possible for tourists rather than increasing tourism rates. As such, the government has begun to roll out what it calls the Safe Tourism Certification Program, which is spearheaded by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

The program is mandatory for businesses with 30 or more rooms and optional for smaller businesses. After a company applies, an accredited team comes to assess the safety of the establishment. Companies that pass the inspection are then announced on the Ministry of Culture and Tourism’s website. Certified companies also receive safety logos that are visibly placed throughout the facilities. To ensure continual safety, periodic inspections occur in both a planned manner and secretive visit on a monthly basis. All of this information is made easily accessible to everyone, including guests, by simply scanning the QR code found on every safety logo. 

Tourism Season in 2021

Although small businesses and vendors in Turkey have been hit hard, things are looking up for the country’s tourism industry. According to Firuz Bağlıkaya, European countries rolling out vaccines at higher rates is an encouraging sign for the tourism industry. Tourists from these countries may be more inclined to travel, which is very important since the tourism industry relies on foreign traffic. Additionally, establishments within Turkey are measuring up to safety standards due to the Safe Tourism Certification Program. This will entice more visitors to come back the country and see its famous sites. With increased vaccine rollouts and continued safety protocols, Turkey may be back on its feet for the 2021 tourism season.

Maddie Youngblood

Photo: Flickr

Fighting Poverty With Soap OperasGlobally, it is estimated that at least 150 million people, or 2% of the world’s population, are homeless, with another 1.6 billion people, or over 20% of the world’s population, lacking adequate housing. However, at the end of 2018, 51.2% of people worldwide and 45% in developing countries were using the internet. Almost 60% of households had internet access in their homes in 2018, which is up from less than 20% in 2005, and broadband access continues to grow with a penetration rate of 69.3 per 100 participants. A report by the International Telecommunication Union found that almost 80% of households had a TV by the end of 2012. This percentage is 69% in developing countries, while “virtually all” households in the developed world have TVs. Over two-thirds of households with TVs took digital signals in Sub-Saharan African in 2016, and estimates report that TV penetration will reach 99% in 35 forecast countries by 2021. Especially in impoverished areas, internet and television, and more specifically soap operas available across many different providers, help people stay up-to-date on both current events and employment opportunities, learn more effectively and, rather surprisingly, escape poverty.

Soap Operas Aid Poor Turkish Women

In a study by Ozgun, Yurdakul and Atik, the researchers found soap operas affected young women’s self-perception and social advancement who lived in impoverished neighborhoods of Izmir, Turkey. The study found that due to their local income, the women overall viewed these soap operas as tools of information gathering without the emotional burden of heavier news. The study suggests that soap operas become their primary connection with the outside world, exposing them to consumer culture and marketing that are useful skills to have when entering the workforce.

More profoundly, these women were often able to connect on a cathartic level with the characters in these soap operas who endured the same economic struggles but were able to escape poverty. Some women noted that the soap operas reminded them of their difficult pasts, which prompted them to “review and assess” their current life conditions and deal with daily problems. The shows also revealed to the women what they lacked in life, whether it be a job or power, and exposed them to the affluent “other life,” which led some to feel dissatisfied with their condition and ultimately try to come up with solutions to escape from it.

However, the study also reveals that while soap operas empower some women, they can also exacerbate poverty even more, as some women try to mimic the lavish lifestyle of some characters without the finances to do so. Thus, the authors suggest that it may be more impactful for television networks to showcase culturally accessible public programming with more informative, advice-filled narrative content to better reduce poverty.

Combating Poverty Through “Edutainment”

Similar to the suggestions of Ozgun et al., Bilal Zia and Gunhild Berg experimented with “edutainment,” or entertainment with an educational aspect, by working together with the production company of “Scandal!,” a popular South African soap opera, to incorporate financial education messages throughout the plot. Since making financial decisions can be challenging for impoverished populations that lack education in finance, “Scandal!” hoped to develop better habits within viewers through a subplot about debt and gambling.

Zia and Berg ran a study in which one group of people would watch this soap opera while a control group watched another show, and the researchers found that viewers of “Scandal!” showed significant improvements in financial knowledge and behavior. Viewers of “Scandal!” started to borrow from others less and reduce unnecessary expenditures like gambling. Viewers reportedly connected with the main character of the show and ultimately made more economical life decisions that could in the future help them escape poverty.

Fighting HIV with Soap Operas

In addition to increasing financial literacy, soap operas can also improve health and medical awareness among impoverished populations. A study in Nigerian found that people who watched the soap opera “MTV Shuga” were twice as likely to get tested for HIV and were overall more knowledgeable about HIV transmission. The show, which has been broadcasted in more than 70 countries, focuses on an impoverished woman and her HIV-positive lover as she navigates the complex reality of HIV’s role in daily life.

The show, which has been supported by organizations like UNICEF and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, raises awareness of the dangers of risky sexual behavior especially in regions like Sub-Saharan Africa, which has approximately 1.5 million new HIV/AIDS cases each year. In addition to HIV testing, “MTV Shuga” also contributed to a reduction of chlamydia infections by 58% and a reduction in having concurrent sex partners by 14%. The study reveals that edutainment like “MTV Shuga” is more influential and cost-effective than more traditional educational campaigns, which keeps people both entertained and informed.

Lowering Fertility Rates Through Soap Operas

A 2012 study by La Ferrara, Chong and Duryea explored the impacts of telenovelas, or Brazilian soap operas, on fertility rates in Brazil. After a year that the signal for Rede Globo, the main telenovela producer in Brazil, became available in municipalities across the country, the researchers found that fertility rates sharply declined. This effect was strongest for women of low socioeconomic backgrounds, many of whom lack proper education regarding safe sex and childbirth.

The research found that among the telenovelas studied, 62.2% of main female protagonists did not have any children, while 19.8% only had one child. Data reveals that telenovelas contributed to the decline in the number of live births particularly among 30 to 34-year-old women from around 4.4 to around 3.2. The study concluded that these soap operas helped mothers make more educated decisions surrounding raising a family, which could lead mothers to seek future employment or save monetary resources for child education.

– Noah Sheidlower
Photo: Flickr

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

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

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