Perspectives Issue 10
The whole of Turkey has been recently debating the “new” versus “old” Turkey ever since Prime Minister Davutoglu and the President Erdoğan have been repeatedly proclaiming a “vision of New Turkey.” Whatever the society and politics of Turkey in future will be, it will be shaped by future generations or more precisely by the current children in Turkey.
In a letter directed to the young electorate during the campaign for presidential elections, Tayyip Erdoğan very clearly stressed the important future role of the youth. He also presented his vision of the young generation: “On the path to achieving the goals of 2023 we imagine a youth that is bound to the national and ideal values, morally, active, entrepreneurial and well equipped, a youth that mixes global values with the values originating from his own history. We strongly wish our youth to stay away from violence, the exploitation of politics, from ideologies of others that are not in accordance with our way of thinking and of life, who are bound to the national and ideal values and walk as free individuals into the future. We especially emphasize that our youth should stay far away from those networks that betray their own country and nation by exploiting moral values. Our youth should not fall into these traps. I believe that the youth of Turkey will realize the darkness behind the masks. With their hearts full of faith and patriotism they will render ineffective initiatives directed against the independence of Turkey, the respect for our flag, the unity of our homeland and the harmony of our nation” (op. cit. Yeni Şafak, 6.8.2014).
Accordingly, we wanted to draw a picture of the current conditions for youth in Turkey. A government whose candidate for presidency is writing a letter to the youth, allows us expect a policy for the benefit of the youth. It allows you to believe that the conditions for the youth in this country must be extraordinarily good.
But when drafting the concept of this special issue, long imprisonment of the publicly so-called “stone throwing children”, sexual abuse and children and human rights violations in prisons came to our mind. We remember the parliamentary question of MP Sezgin Tanrıkulu (CHP) concerning six thousand lost children in public childcare centers in the last ten year . We also remember the parliamentary question of MP Tanrıkulu concerning the incredible increase of lawsuits based on sexual abuse of children. According to this parliamentary question the number of lawsuits increased from 2,414 in 2006 up to 16,827 in 2011 (TBMM, 2.5.2014, No 24406). We therefore were eager to read the answers of the government to these parliamentary questions. But unfortunately, as many other parliamentary questions, the government did not fulfill its legal obligations. It simply did not answer these questions (http://www.tbmm.gov.tr/develop/owa/yazili_sozlu_soru_sd.onerge_bilgileri?kanunlar_sira_no=155085). We assume this information are correct, otherwise governmental bodies would have given other figures.
The scientific articles you will find in this Perspectives issue will shed some light on the situation of one third of the population of Turkey – youth below the age of 18. You will learn that around 20% of children are sexually abused – every third girl and every fifth boy. One in every three marriages in Turkey involves a child bride, and still more than one third of girls married off are not the first wives of their husbands. About 6% of children below the age of 18 years are working 11 hours a day and more. The future of these youngsters seems to be shaped or conditioned by traumatic experiences and severe living conditions. We yet do not know what the consequences for the political future will be. But there seems to be an incredible gap between political statements and social reality. Youth seems to be considered a strategic tool for elections, ideology production and populism. But what should we think about the motto of “New Turkey” if one of the basic pillars of this motto is grounded on a myth?
On behalf of the Perspectives team