Kore Şehitleri Cad. No: 38/3 Zincirlikuyu, 34394, İstanbul T F E - PDF

Kore Şehitleri Cad. No: 38/3 Zincirlikuyu, 34394, İstanbul T F E THE MODES OF POLITICIZATION OF YOUTH IN TURKEY: A CROSS-COMMUNAL

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Kore Şehitleri Cad. No: 38/3 Zincirlikuyu, 34394, İstanbul T F E THE MODES OF POLITICIZATION OF YOUTH IN TURKEY: A CROSS-COMMUNAL EVALUATION Author Etyen Mahçupyan Translation Şebnem Girginer Edit Omar Sheira Cover Design Aslı Özcivelek Publication Design POMPAA Place of Publication UZMAN DİJİTAL BASKI VE BÜRO MAKİNELERİ LTD. ŞTİ. Fahrettin Kerim Gökay Caddesi No:13/B Hasanpaşa, Kadıköy, İstanbul (pbx) Publication Date December 2016 Print Run 200 PODEM PUBLICATIONS ISBN Copyright December 2016 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced electronically or mechanically (photocopy, storage of records or information, etc.) without the permission of the Center for Public Policy and Democracy Studies (PODEM). The viewpoints in this publication belong to the authors, and they may not necessarily concur partially or wholly with PODEM s viewpoints as an association. Etyen Mahçupyan Etyen Mahçupyan received his Bachelor s degree in Chemical Engineering from Boğaziçi University, his first Master s degree in Business Administration from Boğaziçi University, and his second Master s degree in Political Science from Ankara University. He has published numerous books on issues related to the mind-set, history and politics of Turkey. He previously wrote columns for Turkish national daily newspapers Radikal, Yeni Binyıl, Taraf, Zaman, Today s Zaman, Daily Sabah, and Akşam. From 2007 to 2010, he was the editorin-chief of Agos, the Turkish-Armenian weekly newspaper. Currently, he is a columnist at Karar. Mahçupyan was an advisor at TESEV (Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation) from 2012 to He served as the Senior Advisor to the Prime Minister of Turkey between October 2014 to April Mahçupyan is among the founders of PODEM and is an Executive Board Member. About PODEM Public Policy and Democracy Studies Association (Kamusal Politika ve Demokrasi Çalışmaları Derneği, PODEM) is an independent think tank established in February 2015 in Istanbul, Turkey. At PODEM, our vision is to contribute to the building of an environment in Turkey where the institutional and legal foundations for democracy are established, a democratic mind-set, social peace and justice are embedded, and one that yields greater credibility to Turkey to facilitate regional and global peace and justice. Our mission is to understand and analyse through research the changing dynamics of Turkey s society, its relations with other societies and states and to translate our insights into policy suggestions. About Berghof Foundation This study is published in the context of a joint project of PODEM and the Berghof Foundation, an independent, non-governmental and non-profit organisation that supports sustainable peace through conflict transformation. With the mission of creating space for conflict transformation, the Berghof Foundation works with likeminded partners in selected regions to enable conflict stakeholders and actors to develop non-violent responses in the face of conflict-related challenges. The opinions of the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Berghof Foundation. Table of Contents Foreword Introduction Ideology Identity Class Individualization Action/Violence General Evaluation Foreword This report aims to understand the modes of politicization among young people from different identity groups in Turkey. To this end, it presents comparative analyses of four pieces of qualitative field research in Istanbul and two in Diyarbakır, in dimensions of ideology, identity, class, individualization, and action/violence. The report seeks to highlight the similarities and differences between Alevi, Kurdish, Islamist youth in Istanbul and Kurdish youth in Diyarbakır in the above-mentioned dimensions. Foreword The Modes Of Politicization Of Youth In Turkey: A Cross-Communal Evaluation The first piece of research in Istanbul was conducted with young people from low-income, Alevi-populated neighbourhoods, inhabited also by left-wing movements. On top of interviews with opinion leaders, one-on-one, in-depth interviews were conducted with 38 people between ages 16-35, whose families had migrated from the Anatolian provinces of Erzincan, Sivas, Tokat, Kahramanmaraş and Tunceli to the neighbourhoods under the scope of the research. Semi-ethnographic data was also collected in Cemevis, tea gardens and coffee houses in the neighbourhoods. The second research in Istanbul took place in the Küçükçekmece district where various ethnic identities, namely Kurds, Albanians and Bulgarians, are dominant. The research analyses the sense of identity among young people from these neighbourhoods through its socioeconomic, social and political dimensions. To this end, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 23 people between ages Semi-ethnographic data was also collected in parks, coffee houses, craft stores and markets in the neighbourhoods. The third research in Istanbul aims to explore the social relations, spatial factors, and socioeconomic conditions that shape the senses of belonging of Kurdish youth from Kurdishmajority neighbourhoods, where they live with their parents that moved from eastern and southeastern provinces due to forced immigration and economic need. As a part of the research, indepth, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 33 Kurdish youths between ages The last piece of research in Istanbul was conducted around Islamist groups/circles in Istanbul. Instead of the focus on neighbourhoods, this time interviews were conducted among 30 people that are members of various Islamist organizations and their offshoots. The sample was formed to reflect the wide spectrum of Islamist thought. 6 The Diyarbakır research encompasses two fields first, with young people close to Kurdish political life; second, with young people close to Islamist organizations active in the region. In the first part of the Diyarbakır field, in-depth interviews were held with a total of 20 young people between ages that are close to Kurdish politics. Interviewees were met with in houses, cafés, and associations. In the second part of the field, which focuses on youth close to Islamist organizations/movements in Diyarbakır, in-depth interviews were conducted with 18 people between ages that carry out civil society activities in Islamist circles. The research in Istanbul was carried out throughout 2015, while the research in Diyarbakır was carried out in the summer of The Modes Of Politicization Of Youth In Turkey: A Cross-Communal Evaluation Introduction 8 Introduction Over the past fifteen years, Turkey has experienced a geographical development nearly tantamount to that of the late 19th century and an ensuing intellectual whirlwind that proceeded in lockstep with it. Among the major factors that have had an impact on this phenomenon is globalization, which has created a world with multiple players, increased uncertainty, and additionally, propelled the re-structuring of the Middle East to the fore-front. Meanwhile, the increasing xenophobia in Western nations especially that targeting Muslim identity has raised racial and ethnic tension in their communities. On the other hand, the prevailing Kurdish politics has expanded the borders of the Kurdish issue beyond those of Turkey in hope of establishing an autonomous rule in Syria. This is how Turkey diverged from the frame of mind where it once felt secure within its national borders. During the same period, the per capita income within Turkey notably rose and urbanization and infrastructure investments exceeded those undertaken throughout the entire history of the Republic. At a time when the legacy of the Kemalist regime was running out of steam, the AK Party established a government which carried the periphery to the centre, and subsequently led to the doubling of the middle class in the country in a relatively short time period. It was during that same time frame when the bar in Turkey was raised in terms of democracy, human rights, and civil liberties. It became more difficult for the closed congregational structures to sustain themselves; individualization and secularism started spreading at an increasing rate; the majority of society actively explored the subject of universal truths; and yet, a simultaneous perception of threat in terms of territorial integrity and national identity was on the rise. While such a chaotic atmosphere was leading to the diversification and increasing politicization of identity-related demands, the ruling party kept vacillating between implementing democratic reforms and utilizing law enforcement-driven authoritative methods. However, each of these vacillations not only led to disappointments, but also made governing the country much more difficult. The delay in implementing solutions, coupled with the doubts on what direction the country was headed, encouraged the politicization of the youth, with certain groups among them turning to embrace radical approaches. This research is based on four qualitative limited area field researches in Istanbul, as well as two in Diyarbakır. The field research in Istanbul is geared towards understanding the Kurdish, Alevi, and Islamist youth who stand close to radical ideas. As for the studies in Diyarbakır, they comprise 9 young people of whom all are Kurds who are affiliated with the prevailing Kurdish political movement or the local Islamist political entities. Therefore, the objective of this research is not merely to understand young people, or even the politicized youth, in Turkey. In a more specific sense, the subject matter of this study relates to young individuals who are in contact with/feel affinity to political entities and organizations that could resort to violence. The following analysis attempts to establish the common aspects and differences in young individuals of different identities within Istanbul and Diyarbakır respectively by initially examining the two cities separately. As for the evaluation sections, they allow us to examine Istanbul and Diyarbakır as a whole, and conduct a regional comparison in terms of Kurdish and Islamic identities. The above-mentioned analysis and comparisons are carried out according to five dimensions: ideology, identity, class, individualization, and action/violence. The Modes Of Politicization Of Youth In Turkey: A Cross-Communal Evaluation Introduction 10 Ideology Istanbul: common aspects Despite having different identities and ideologies, young individuals who are amenable to radical ideas share four common elements in terms of their respective perception: 1. All issues and solutions are defined on an ideological platform; their ideologies may surround their entire semantic world. 2. In the backdrop of the ideological attitude, young people feel negatively impacted and disappointed by fast-paced developments. 3. They are all afraid of being assimilated by the so-called enemy environment that surrounds them. 4. On the other hand, they all think that the solution lies within the eradication of their own suffering and that it will have no impact on persons of other identities. Istanbul: differences The most prevalent difference among young individuals of the three different identities reveals itself as what they trust or distrust. While the Kurds trust Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), they harbour distrust towards the state and government. The Alevis hold a feeling of trust towards the West even though such trust is not manifested strongly, and contrastingly harbour distrust towards the state and government. Islamists, on the contrary, have faith in the state and government, and do not trust the West, specifically Western values. Diyarbakır: common aspects Two different youth groups, subscribing to Kurdish and Islamist ideologies respectively, have three views in common: 1. All issues and solutions are defined on an ideological platform; ideologies are almost the only single reference point for all answers and questions. 2. The ideological and political fight is sacred as far as both groups are concerned. The alienation experienced throughout this process is regarded as a positive element. 3. The reflection of values such as freedom and equality, implied by democratization in real life, is regarded as a necessity and yet not deemed sufficient for a solution. 4. An opportunistic approach in the name of political goals is seen as acceptable and rational. 5. Alternatives regarded as a solution by some ideological groups are perceived as threats by other groups. 11 Diyarbakır: differences 1. Even though civilian politics is supported as a matter of principle, those holding their Kurdish identity above everything else are more prone to leaving an open door to violence. 2. Those who embrace their Kurdish identity ideologically justify the legitimacy of the opportunistic approach by their stance against the state, while those who embrace the Islamist identity justify such an approach by standing against the global system. 3. Democracy is a positive medium for Kurds and a usable tool. As for Islamists, it is a negative systemic method of enforcement and almost an independent factor. Evaluation A look at young individuals within political groups reveals the fact that the fundamental axis that unifies Istanbul and Diyarbakır is ideological. Regardless of their groups or identities, young individuals perceive issues, as well as their solutions, through a fundamental ideology that surrounds, and gives meaning to, their entire lives. This ideology functions as a macro-rhetoric. However, where it relates to their daily lives and relations with society, Istanbul and Diyarbakır both emerge as completely different states of existence. İdeology The Modes Of Politicization Of Youth In Turkey: A Cross-Communal Evaluation Young people in Istanbul live with a constant perception of threat. Not only are they entangled in a daily flow of uncertainty and changes which they cannot be sure of, but they are also surrounded by a world that they regard as the enemy which essentially belongs to the others. Therefore, the first and foremost concern of young people in Istanbul is protection and selfpreservation. Due to this reason, their political assessments are closely linked to trust- or distrustrelated concerns. Young people in Diyarbakır, on the other hand, live in their own social environment which corresponds to their identity. This is why they propel rhetoric on macro issues and solutions to the forefront while leaving problems or dangers implied by their daily lives in the back. Concentrating on the fight, this approach causes young people to put forth arguments that are more theoretical and political. These two critical differences between young people in Istanbul and Diyarbakır reveal the susceptibility of youth politicization to the surrounding conditions. In Istanbul, alienation from the environment is an adverse factor due to the fact that it directly constitutes a threat to daily life. In contrast, alienation in Diyarbakır is experienced more on the rhetorical and political levels, and perceived positively since it tightens and reinforces the comradery. On a parallel note, young individuals in Istanbul are of the opinion that a solution for their own problems would not constitute a threat to others, thereby implying that they would not be against a solution for the problems of others as well. However, those in Diyarbakır think otherwise; they regard solutions for others as a direct threat to themselves, and do not deny that their solutions, in fact, constitute a threat to others. 12 Examining the ideology parameter, one can claim that the identity-related environment has an apparent impact on the politicization of the youth. Young people are in a more distrustful, fragile, and uneasy mind-set in heterogeneous settings, and thus, worry about carrying on through their day-to-day life. This tension creates a gap between ideological rhetoric and daily actions, where their ideology functions as an argument of faith that holds them together rather than a mere generator of political statements. As for homogenous settings and identity, creating rhetoric that upholds ideology by pushing aside the requirements of daily life and defines a meaning for oneself and their adversaries within this framework may become natural. Young people are more self-confident in the way they speak in such an atmosphere and believe their efforts are dedicated to the long-term and macro goals. The distinction between the Kurdish and Islamist youth in these two regions in terms of ideological attitude adequately reflects the differences highlighted above. However, as a result of the more superior field status of the young individuals in Diyarbakır who emphasize their Kurdish identity over the Islamists due to the PKK/HDP (People s Democratic Party) factor the fact that Islamists prefer a relatively more principle-driven rhetoric while those with a Kurdish identity embrace a more political/opportunistic one is noteworthy. 13 Identity Istanbul: common aspects Identity The Modes Of Politicization Of Youth In Turkey: A Cross-Communal Evaluation There are quite apparent similarities between the Kurdish, Alevi, and Islamist groups throughout the course of gaining an identity awareness and politicization of young people: 1. It becomes evident that migration to metropoles and the experiences during this process have a direct impact on identification. Financial woes may in fact render such identification much deeper. 2. Still, urbanity is regarded as a positive aspect and a world of freedom and opportunities. 3. However, the magnitude and the complexity of the city direct the young people to much smaller-scale problems that pertain to their living quarters. 4. All young people feel a need to define themselves in the face of the other. 5. They all harbour a sense of victimization versus the powerful. 6. Young individuals of all three identities have feelings of alienation, distrust, and rejection. 7. Their basic fear is hybridization and degeneration, meaning the loss of their identity. 8. Due to this state of mind, it becomes evident that all young individuals share a desire for identification, regardless of their identity. 9. The combination of a drive for identification and a defensive instinct leads to the association of certain places with certain identities. Each group finds or creates micro spaces that they identify with in the city. 10. Groups keep their distances from places of other identities, as much as they do other identities, and avoid physical encounters. Istanbul: differences The only meaningful difference in terms of identity between the different sets of young individuals seems to be the native language of young Kurds, and faith for Alevis and Islamists, as a conduit for their respective identities. Diyarbakır: common aspects 14 Despite the fact that young individuals subscribe to different ideological views, those who emphasize their Kurdish or Islamist identities share significant similarities: 1. All young people share a perception of discrimination and injustice, and lay this in the very foundation of their respective views. 2. Not only do they not have any ties to Turkey s west, with the exception of Istanbul, but they also have no desire to associate with it on any level. 3. They do not have a sense of belonging towards Turkey. The prevailing lifestyle and administrative approach throughout Turkey is largely met with feelings of resentment, rejection, and humiliation among these young individuals. 4. Therefore, their sense of belonging is geared towards integrity within their collective vision. A macro space is created, complete with its abstract aspects, to provide an outlet for the search for a sense of belonging. Young people who emphasize their Kurdish identities turn to Kurdish lands within Turkey or the Middle East for this sense of belonging. As for
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