Why are well-educated young people thinking about moving abroad?

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Translated by: Cansu Şafak, Mert Erinç, Oğul Tuna, Edgar Şar, Alphan Telek, Aylin Yardımcı
Subtitles: Elif Akbıyık
Edited by: Melissa Clissold

Hello, good day. In my previous commentary on the daily Cumhuriyet earlier this week I told you the story regarding this cat brooch on my collar. I’d said that a young friend of mine, who decided to leave Turkey for Europe with his family, came by to say good-bye and gifted it to me. I have gotten a large number of responses mostly from abroad, many messages where people say they have similar stories as well as people who are interested in leaving Turkey for a life abroad. Except for a few exceptions, people sympathize with those who have gone and think that they are right. Only a few identify emigration with treason with the typical “like it or leave it” approach, which is worthless. Because we know that most of the goers have left because they like their country. This is very strange. It is not that they left because they don’t like the country; it is the total opposite. They like the country and believe that it is not livable anymore. So they can’t endure it.
The Minister for Industry and Technology Mustafa Varank previously complained about it saying, “we are losing our educated human resource.” He has long been advisor to the President and now he is the minister. So he should also be responsible for the current situation because it is the government that has paved the way for the atmosphere in Turkey, where the youth are increasingly willing to leave the country.
What is implied by ‘blocking the path’-there is a huge effort to block- is that there is a phenomenon that has existed for a long time in Turkey which has resurfaced very clearly recently:  Clientelism, as it is called in the West, is a really serious force; loyalty has taken the place of merit. And of course, there is a great concern after experience of the Gülen movement, while many people are loosing jobs and positions we are going through a process of people’s blocking in private sector and it doesn’t seem to have an end easily.
But that is not all; the youth can’t see a future. For example, very recently –yesterday, if I am not mistaken– The Deputy Minister of National Education explicated that scholarship students will no longer be sent to foreign countries, especially to The United States, and he added that he doesn’t understand why there are so many interested who want to study in USA. While this mentality and approach are taking over the government and this mentality is managing the resources, the youth can’t hold onto hope.
Where else, if not in the USA and in other western countries, can a master’s degree be done? Yet in Turkey –supposing that it is assumed that it will be done here – we all know that just a few students, even on the undergraduate level, are attracted by universities here which are filled with yes-men after the massive witch hunt, relying on clientelism or on partisanship, and where posts are given due to this clientelism.
We know that a sword still hangs over attractive universities. Instead of raising the level of other universities, we are experiencing a mediocrity, domination of sub-mediocre, a downgrading of these attractive universities –just like what happened with the high schools – to the levels of others.
And therefore we see that Turkey’s claims of ‘Being Western’ is gradually declining; among many people and the youth, especially amongst the ones who speak a foreign language, the ones who have a good education and the ones who have very intense relations with the West.
There was such a stance: “Let the people go, let the country remain in our hands, it may be better”. But, the quality of the country decreases and the country becomes a less livable place with those that leave: the productivity and the creativity decrease and finally the country is left to low profiles, there is something like that. Lately, Faruk Aksoy in Yeni Şafak (newspaper) wrote a very interesting article, which was debated over a lot. He wrote an article “They go to the defeated countries, while they are defeated”. He directly touches upon these issues. In that article, it is argued that there is a % 42.5 increase and this rate corresponds to 253.640 people and these people were overwhelmingly the young ones between 25 and 29 ages, referring to Statistics Institute of Turkey.
The publication of that article in Yeni Şafak shows us that people who are close to political power also accept the seriousness of this situation – it is a more comprehensive situation of Minister Varank example. It is a very interesting article, saying: “You take pains with, you hope, you imagine, you care about him/her, you sing songs for him/her, you integrate him/her to the society but some ill-bred, trickster comes and gets ahead of him/her, destroys his/her rights, steals his/her tomorrow and transforms his/her life into a prison.
I think this is a very striking summary. Faruk Aksoy says: “It can’t be that all these people are Gulenists, or traitors. It also can’t be that all these people are going abroad just for education purposes. Something else is going on. Everyone knows what they individually live and see. The youth don’t have trust in the future of the country they were raised in.” Yes, this is the case. It takes a little courage and a little suffering from it to express it as it is. It’s obvious that the author of this article, Faruk Aksoy, has also seen many cases that upset him.
Should we be sorry about this? To be honest, I’m not so sure. I’ve also been coming across such cases recently. There are many people whom I wouldn’t be surprised to see them go. They are looking for different ways to do it, ways their conditions would allow. Frankly, I don’t feel sorry for them. I feel sorry for the country, but I’m happy for them. Because Turkey is not an attractive country for people who have ambitions to challenge the life and to be prominent in the profession that he or she has chosen anymore. It is now more obvious than ever when taken together with the economic troubles we are going through. It is very clear that, at the moment; earning your living anywhere in the West grants you a better life.
Of course, there is one another issue here: For that generation, the age interval of 25-29 is the period when people get married, and even have their first children.
And I see and hear this a lot; many people – including my friend who gave me this pin, who said they were leaving for their 3-year-old daughter – similarly, there are others saying they want to give their children a good education and future.
I think of Venezuela; we’ve seen that as a result of the series of political and economic crises inflicted on the country by that weird populist, leftist government, that the urban, middle classes have left the country; subsequently we saw everyone, or anyone who could, begin to leave the country too – particularly after the earthquake. The numbers are very high. Of course, the Venezuelans have this advantage – let’s call it an advantage – which is that they speak Spanish, a language that is also spoken in many parts of the world, in Latin America yes, but also in Europe. Therefore, going to these places is not a huge problem for them. The other important thing about Venezuela is, as people did after the latest earthquake, there are countries they can literally walk into, or enter with their vehicles – we hear that they go to Colombia in particular, as well as other neighbouring countries. But this is not the case for Turkey, it necessary to speak a Western language, and if this was more common, I think there would be a lot more people leaving the country now.
The other issue of course is that none of Turkey’s neighbours offer a better alternative. What can people do? Leave Turkey and go to Syria? Iraq, or Iran? There is nowhere to go.
There’s perhaps only Greece – and most entries there are made illegally. There is nowhere to go en masse. Turkey isn’t as bad as Venezuela -thankfully so, and I hope it never becomes like that- but as long as this picture persists, as long as people and the country do not have a future, and democracy, rule of law and liberties are compromised, people cannot envision a future for themselves and their children.
Perhaps the biggest advantage of the West is that, if you have a profession and a steady income, one can plan a certain life for themselves for a certain amount of time. But in countries like Turkey, this has stopped seeming possible in the recent period. Your 10 liras can suddenly drop to 9 or 8 liras with an unexpected change in the exchange rate, and your whole life can change fundamentally.
Your life can fall apart completely after an attempted coup even if you have nothing to do with it, and you can get into trouble for a tweet you have shared etc. The way isn’t clear for Turkey here, and there are no political parties or institutions willing to clear the way for Turkey. This is another issue. In this sense, people cannot even think, “things aren’t going well right now, but if this or that changes, things may be back on track”. We are going through such a period.
For this reason, there is not much to be said for people who are able to leave. May all the best be with them. But I hope Turkey becomes a country worthy of winning these people back.
This is all I have to say, have a good day.

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