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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

Humanitarian EffortsDeputy Prime Minister of Turkey, Recep Akdağ, announced at the World Humanitarian Day celebration on August 19 that Turkey is one of the leading countries in humanitarian aid.

Coming in second behind the United States, Turkey contributed one of the largest amounts of humanitarian aid to countries in need in 2016. While the United States has contributed $6.3 billion of humanitarian aid to areas in need in 2016, Turkey contributed a close $6 billion. This is an improvement, as Turkey was third in humanitarian efforts in 2013, 2014 and 2015. After nearly doubling its humanitarian aid from $3.2 billion in 2015 to $6 billion in 2016, it moved up to number two.

In addition to the abundance of financial aid, Turkey has contributed food, health and education resources to specific countries including Somalia, Uganda, Bangladesh and Syria.

Held every year on August 19, World Humanitarian Day is a celebration in tribute to the aid workers who risk their lives in humanitarian service. Assemblies occur to increase support for people who are affected by crises around the world. European Union (EU) representative Gabrial Munera-Vinals spoke at the World Humanitarian Day celebration and announced that attacks on humanitarian aid workers have increased in recent years.

In 2016, 288 humanitarian aid workers were killed, injured or kidnapped. In the past two decades, over 4,000 humanitarian workers have been victims of such attacks. Says Munera-Vinals,”On World Humanitarian Day, we pay tribute to, and honor, all those who risk their lives while bringing assistance to victims of wars and national disasters worldwide. We commend the bravery of all men and women who continue to work selflessly for the benefits of others.”

Turkey’s humanitarian efforts have received recognition because, although Turkey is not the richest country, it persists in its efforts to help other struggling nations.”We salute the countless Turkish men and women who work as humanitarians in Turkey and around the globe,” Munera-Vinals says.

If Turkey continues on its current trajectory of humanitarian efforts, thousands of people in struggling countries will receive the help that they need, and Turkey might one day come first in humanitarian aid.

Kassidy Tarala
Photo: Flickr

How to Help People in Turkey
Turkey’s lower-class faces issues of poverty that affect the country’s food security, schools, economic development and more. In particular, an influx of Syrian refugees over the past few years has put stress on the country’s economy.

Approximately three million refugees live in Turkey, the majority coming from Syria. Approximately 260,000 of Syrian refugees living in Turkey still reside in camps and are not fully integrated into community life. Whether a person is from a large nonprofit or a small family, here’s how to help people in Turkey.

  1. Support an aid organization
    The World Food Programme is an organization that focuses on combating global hunger. It reports that high volumes of refugees entering Turkey have led to a 30% increase in the size of host communities. This, according to the organization, puts a hefty strain on local markets and infrastructure. A strain is also created by informal migration, according to the World Food Programme. In fact, in 2015 approximately 885,000 people entered Europe through Turkey. The International Rescue Committee began working in Turkey in 2013. They focus on how to help people in Turkey with respect to education, safety, economic status and legal aid.
  2. Take political action
    President Trump’s travel ban prohibits refugees from countries like Syria from entering the U.S., thus making them more likely to inhabit a close neighboring country like Turkey. An increase in Turkey’s refugee population has the potential to seriously weaken the country’s economy. Signing petitions, making regular calls to federal representatives and spreading public awareness about how the travel ban affects countries like Turkey are important strategies.

One of the most pressing issues in Turkey is the large presence of Syrian refugees. Even without the backing of a large organization working to combat poverty, there are still several approaches one can take when considering how to help people in Turkey.

Leah Potter

Photo: Google

Turkey's Tourism Industry
Turkey’s tourism industry is vital to the country’s economy. After declines in the past two years, Turkey now reports an increased number of foreign visitors again.

Domestic and international political tensions dramatically intensified the downward trend. Numerous terrorist attacks in late 2015 and throughout 2016, which were partly attributed to Kurdish militants and partly to ISIS, claimed hundreds of lives, including many foreigners.

In July 2016, a bloody military coup against the government of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan was quelled but led to the declaration of a state of emergency by the government that persists until this day. The situation has been used to justify an extensive crackdown on civil servants and civil society, including the closure of media outlets and non-governmental organizations and the detention of journalists, members of the parliament and human rights activists. The violence and political instability left tourists worried about their safety in Turkey.

The neglect of human rights and democratic values has also chipped away from the image of the country’s leader in Europe – an unfavorable image only further deteriorated by the “war of words” he has been waging with EU leaders. Recently, Erdogan has repeatedly made negative headlines throughout Europe, not only with his domestic policies but also with his hostility toward several members of the European Union, whom he accused of Nazism and fascism, for instance.

Visitor numbers from Russia also saw a steep decline in 2016. A diplomatic crisis had emerged between the countries, after Turkey shot down a Russian military jet close to the Syrian border in November 2015. The Russian government reacted by banning charter flights to Turkey and barring tour companies from selling deals to Turkey. Prior to the crisis, Russians had made up the second-largest group of visitors to the country, generating $34 billion in revenue in 2014 by themselves.

According to the Istanbul Culture and Tourism Directorate, the numerous crises amounted to a total drop of 25.9% of visitors in 2016 compared to the previous year, amounting to losses of billions of dollars in the industry, which is vital to the country’s economy: a report from the World Travel & Tourism Council stated that the travel and tourism sectors had generated 12% of Turkey’s 2014 GDP, based on its direct, indirect and induced GDP impact.

However, last year, many beds, beaches and restaurants stayed empty during the summer months, which in turn forced many businesses to drastically lower their prices. This tourism crisis threatens the livelihood of the eight percent of the workforce employed in Turkey’s tourism industry, as well as other businesses dependent on foreign consumers.

After the Russian government’s crackdown on travel to Turkey has ended, Russian tourists now flock back into the country. In April 2017, visitor numbers finally increased again compared to April 2016, but they still remained lower than pre-crisis levels.

Additionally, Turkish hoteliers hope to make up for some of their losses with domestic tourism, but visitors from within Turkey tend to spend less than tourists from Europe or the U.S. The German Tagesschau quotes a hotel operator in saying: “It is not only about increasing the number of visitors and filling up hotels. If the room rates remain low, our problems remain, too.” Despite recently increasing revenues, a challenging time still lies ahead for Turkey’s tourism industry.

Lena Riebl

Education for Syrian Refugees in TurkeyIn March 2017, the European Union (EU) and United International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) announced a new partnership with the Turkish government to address the issue of education for Syrian refugees in Turkey by initiating a program to provide 230,000 additional Syrian refugee children in Turkey with educational opportunities.

There are currently 3 million Syrian refugees in Turkey. 1.3 million of them are children. About half of the Syrian refugee children are enrolled in schools or temporary education centers. Nonetheless, 40 percent, or 370,000, of the Syrian refugee children living in Turkey are not receiving an education.

The initiative announced by the EU, UNICEF, and the Turkish government is a Conditional Cash Transfer for Education (CCTE). The CCTE, inaugurated in May 2017, provides refugee families with bi-monthly cash transfers. The cash transfers are targeted with the goal of encouraging 230,000 more children to regularly attend school. The overarching goal is to ensure that there is “no lost generation” of Syrians.

UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake noted that education is especially needed in emergency situations so that the refugees can one day rebuild their lives and their countries.

As of June 8, 2017, 56,000 refugee children have enrolled in the program.

Education for Syrian refugees in Turkey is difficult to implement for multiple reasons. The language used to teach in schools in Turkey is Turkish, while most Syrians grew up learning and speaking Arabic. Also, many Syrian refugee families do not have the financial resources to send their children to school.

Besides the CCTE, many organizations are working to better provide access to education for Syrian refugees in Turkey. In 2016, UNICEF, supported by the EU, aided 12,600 Syrian children by safeguarding their crossing of conflict lines so that they could sit their national examinations.

The Turkish Ministry of National Education and UNICEF have held teacher training for 20,500 Syrian refugees. The aim is to instruct Syrian volunteer teachers with pedagogic skills under the guidelines of Turkish teacher training standards. This aids the teachers who often teach in overcrowded classrooms and have many students with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

One Syrian volunteer teacher, Osama Ayat, relates to his students by telling them stories about his hours spent learning the Turkish language. He says he makes them laugh and emphasizes that teachers can empower their students.

Ayat and his students are one example of individuals benefiting from the strides that multiple organizations make to guarantee education for Syrian refugees in Turkey.

Sean Newhouse

Photo: Flickr


Amid the political tensions running in Turkey, about 30 million people are in need of assistance out of a population of 79 million. The issues of economic problems, social welfare and governmental pressures on families are only hurting those in need.

In 2015, unemployment in Turkey was 10.8 percent with household debt totaling up to 26.4 percent of disposable income. According to a survey released from the Turkish Statistical Institute (TUIK), 22.4 percent of households live below the poverty line. However, the Confederation of Turkish Trade Unions claims that 50 percent of Turkey’s population as living under the poverty line.

With financial struggles running throughout the nation, the government has shown little interest in helping families who are struggling to feed and care for their children. The government continues to encourage families to have at least three children.

Child support system is paid for on a monthly basis, adding up to about $206 per family. While the numbers have shot up from 19,735 to 101,561 families receiving help, there are no figures available for those supported by nongovernmental organizations.

Socialist International vice president Umut Oran explains that the Turkish government encourages people to have more children, ultimately making poor families poorer and increasing the number of government dependents.

“Membership in the AKP has become a prerequisite for easy access to assistance, though this assistance comes from the taxes the whole nation pays. Through the indirect taxes — which amount to 60 percent [of total tax revenues] — the state gives out what it takes from the citizens’ pockets to the beneficiaries,” Oran explained in an interview.

The government opposition in Turkey has done little to criticize government policies toward poverty. Because of the poverty plaguing the nation, rises in domestic violence and divorce have taken a toll on families in Turkey as well.

Mary Waller

Photo: Flickr