Turkey

Turkish Opposition Parties Grapple with the Kurdish Question

Özlem Kayhan Pusane argues that the Kurdish question in general, and the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in particular, will occupy a critical place on the Turkish political agenda in the run up to the summer 2023 presidential and parliamentary elections. After the leader of Turkey’s main opposition party publicly validated the beleaguered and oppressed HDP as a legitimate political actor, other opposition parties signaled their willingness to grant the HDP a more central role in Turkish politics. While the broader political atmosphere in the country is conducive to such a change, considering that all sides need Kurdish votes for victory in 2023, there are major challenges ahead.

The Shifting Politics of Debt in Turkey

State-sponsored credit campaigns are not a new strategy for Turkish governments but the low-interest consumer loans that were extended to almost 7 million people in the first months of the Covid-19 pandemic surpassed all earlier financial inclusion programs. Inviting masses into the financial sector amid stagnating or declining real wages and expecting people to reinvent themselves as entrepreneurs or small-scale investors were the main pillars of the project. It did not, however, solve the problems faced by low-income groups, women and minorities. Ali Rıza Güngen examines the state’s shifting approach to debt and the consequences for borrowers.

The Shifting Politics of Debt in Turkey

State-sponsored credit campaigns are not a new strategy for Turkish governments but the low-interest consumer loans that were extended to almost 7 million people in the first months of the Covid-19 pandemic surpassed all earlier financial inclusion programs. Inviting masses into the financial sector amid stagnating or declining real wages and expecting people to reinvent themselves as entrepreneurs or small-scale investors were the main pillars of the project. It did not, however, solve the problems faced by low-income groups, women and minorities. Ali Rıza Güngen examines the state’s shifting approach to debt and the consequences for borrowers.

Multiculturalism, Democracy and Turkification in Netflix’s The Club

James Ryan 05.24.2022

The Club (Kulüp), produced by Netflix, is set in the mid-1950s among the cast, crew and management of a trendy nightclub in the Beyoğlu district of Istanbul. In addition to the use of Ladino, the language of Turkey’s Jewish population, the show uniquely represents Istanbul’s minority populations, their contributions to cultural life and their experiences of persecution. James Ryan elucidates these unusual characteristics that distinguish the show from a typical Turkish soap opera and provides fascinating context to its real-life historical elements.

Wildfires Ignite Political Debate in Turkey

Ekin Kurtiç 02.22.2022

Although wildfires in Turkey’s Mediterranean forests are not unusual, the ferocity of last summer’s fires sparked new political debates around the issues of government forest management and post-fire restoration. Turkish forestry experts and the public are now questioning conventional solutions promoted by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), such as planting trees, that promise a quick and convenient recovery—and green the state’s image.

Manufacturing the AKP in Turkey

Utku Balaban 01.25.2022

The AKP’s decades-long electoral success in Turkey has been made possible by their strategic alliance with the country’s small industrialists. Utku Balaban analyzes the connection between Islamism and industrialization since the rise of these urban manufacturers in the 1980s and explains the nuances of the Islamists’ reliance on their support in working-class communities.

Rethinking Whiteness in Turkey Through the AKP’s Foreign Policy in Africa South of the Sahara

There is a new investment in whiteness in contemporary Turkey, and it is not by those who have traditionally been identified as “White Turks,” but by their long-standing critics, the so-called Black Turks.

Intellectual Traditions and the Academy in Turkey — An Interview with Evren Altınkaş

MERIP editors interview Evren Altınkaş, a Turkish scholar who was pushed out of his academic position by his university’s administration as a consequence of participating in the Gezi Park protests of 2013. Altınkaş discusses his work on the intellectual tradition in Turkey, the role of the ruling AKP party in society and the challenges he and other academics face.

Designing Nationhood in Turkey’s Universities

Begüm Adalet 06.2.2021

Begüm Adalet reviews Burak Erdim’s “Landed Internationals: Planning Cultures, the Academy, and the Making of the Modern Middle East.” As in past decades, universities in Turkey are venues of contestation between authority and resistance, with the government imposing its singular vision of a “pious, homegrown, national youth” on a diverse student body. Erdim’s book is the story of one such institution, the Middle East Technical University (METU) in Ankara, which was an iconic site of leftist student mobilization and anti-US protests in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Humanism in Ruins – An Interview with Aslı Iğsız

Aslı Iğsız discusses her book Humanism in Ruins, which examines the long-lasting impacts of the 1923 Greek-Turkish Population Exchange Agreement. Challenging the common portrayal of the population exchange agreement as a success story, she unveils how the discourses of liberal humanism and coexistence went hand in hand with a biopolitics of segregation. Her research also offers fresh insights into today’s discriminatory policies both on the national and international level.

Church, Mosque, Museum? Reflections on Monuments in Turkey and Spain

On July 24, 2020 the Turkish government opened Hagia Sophia in Istanbul to prayer for the first time in 86 years, reverting the building’s status from museum back to mosque. Blessing and Yaycıoğlu explain the politics behind this decision and explore the ramifications for Hagia Sophia and other monuments with similarly rich and multilayered histories.

Boğaziçi Resists Authoritarian Control of the Academy in Turkey

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s appointment of Melih Bulu as the new rector of Boğaziçi University on January 1, 2021 provoked outrage among students and faculty in Turkey. Alemdaroğlu and Babül explain the anger behind the continuing protests and how Boğaziçi’s struggle fits into a long history of government control over higher education as well as the ruling party’s desire to attain cultural hegemony by cultivating what Erdoğan calls pious, homegrown and national youth.

Syrian Refugees Navigate Turkey’s Shifting Health Care Terrain

Registered Syrian refugees in Turkey are allowed to access free state health care. But the language barrier, registration difficulties and prejudice led to the emergence of informal clinics run by refugee doctors. Although the government has opened Migrant Health Centers to ease access and replace informal clinics, unregistered refugees continue to face challenges. Nihal Kayali interviewed doctors, patients and clinic staff to find out how Syrians strategically navigate Turkey’s shifting health care terrain. Forthcoming in MER issue 297 “Health and the Body Politic.”

Syrian Refugees Navigate Turkey’s Shifting Health Care Terrain

Nihal Kayali 11.24.2020

Registered Syrian refugees in Turkey are allowed to access free state health care. But the language barrier, registration difficulties and prejudice led to the emergence of informal clinics run by refugee doctors. Although the government has opened Migrant Health Centers to ease access and replace informal clinics, unregistered refugees continue to face challenges. Nihal Kayali interviewed doctors, patients and clinic staff to find out how Syrians strategically navigate Turkey’s shifting health care terrain. Forthcoming in MER issue 297 “Health and the Body Politic.”

“Turkey Wants to be Part of the Nuclear Club” An Interview with Can Candan

Kenan Behzat Sharpe spoke with Candan about his latest film project Nuclear alla Turca, a documentary on the history of atomic energy in Turkey, a country on the verge of building its very first nuclear plant despite a growing anti-nuclear movement.

The Lost Wetlands of Turkey

Every year around World Wetlands Day on February 2, Turkish news outlets report that the country has lost between 1.3 and 2 million hectares of wetlands since the mid-twentieth century. Since the founding of the Turkish Republic in 1923, over 1.3 million hectares of wetlands have been drained and transformed into fields, factories or urban neighborhoods, flooded in large dam reservoirs and irremediably damaged by various infrastructural developments.

The Unintended Consequences of Turkey’s Quest for Oil

The discovery of oil in Turkey’s southeast encouraged state elites to imagine that development would lead to the assimilation of Kurds into Turkish culture and language. Instead, oil infrastructures and the resulting social changes had very different consequences. Zeynep Oguz explains the historical dynamics of the quest for oil and how it nurtured Kurdish dissent and critique of the state.

The Unintended Consequences of Turkey’s Quest for Oil

Zeynep Oguz 10.13.2020

The discovery of oil in Turkey’s southeast encouraged state elites to imagine that development would lead to the assimilation of Kurds into Turkish culture and language. Instead, oil infrastructures and the resulting social changes had very different consequences. Zeynep Oguz explains the historical dynamics of the quest for oil and how it nurtured Kurdish dissent and critique of the state. Forthcoming in MER issue 296 “Nature and Politics.”

Rebranding the Turkish State in the Time of COVID-19

As Turkish scholars residing in the United States when the pandemic began to curtail normal life, Ergin Bulut and Başak Can signed on to take the Turkish government’s evacuation flight home. This experience and their time spent in government-managed quarantine yielded interesting insights into the state’s intense efforts to rebrand itself as caring and effective, particularly after consolidating power during the 2018 switch from a parliamentary to presidential system.

The Kurdish Movement’s Disparate Goals and the Collapse of the Peace Process with Turkey

The Kurdish movement in Turkey has three stated objectives: to achieve a resolution of the Kurdish issue, to democratize Turkey and to establish a decentralized political system formulated as Democratic Confederalism by Abdullah Öcalan, the imprisoned leader of the...
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