Archive for December, 2011


Our very last briefing of the trip was with the EU Accession Negotiation Team for Turkey. Yes, you read correctly. We got to meet the actual team that is directly involved in negotiations with bringing Turkey into the European Union.

It was interesting to hear their perspective on it. Obviously we went directly to the negotiations room and were briefed about the different criterion for entry into the EU. I always figured it was just basic civil rights that was blocking Turkey’s entry, such as a distinct lack of freedom of speech. Being as Turkey has a very strong and growing economy at the moment one would think that the EU would be glad to bring Turkey in. However, countries such as Greece and France (mainly Greece), have been blocking Turkey’s accession.

Traditionally there has always been a bit of cross-Meditteranean rivalry between the two countries. They don’t really get along all that well for whatever reason. Anyway, the point is that Turkey is having issues getting into the EU, mainly due to the fact that Greece has a beef with them. This being said, with the state of the EU at the moment, does Turkey really want to join now anyway?

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One of our final briefings was with an NGO called Çağdaş Yaşami Destekleme Derneği, which in English literally translates to “Association for Support of Contemporary Living”. The main objective is to provide education to those who may otherwise go uneducated (young girls in Eastern Turkey mainly) to provide them an opportunity to progress and to build a more modern society.

They have numerous scholarship programs that provide for secondary and tertiary education for girls. In Turkey schooling is compulsory up to the age of 14. Eastern Turkey is still extremely conservative in comparison to Western Turkey (Western Turks will often call them conservatives and sometimes even terrorists due to significant presence of Kurds) and it is not uncommon for young girls to be pulled out of educational institutions in favour of married life.

We all know that in many cultures it is the mother who raises the children. It is generally the mother who stays home, the mother who takes them to school or activities and the mother who spends the most time with them. In cultures like that in bilingual households the children are most likely to speak the language that the mother speaks fluently.

It is extremely important for social progress that children have an educated mother and it is even more important for social progress that children have female role models to look up to and respect.

Apparently, a common outcome is that the women that they help to educate often become teachers and move back to their villages to teach. Needless to say, this generally leads to positive outcomes as it gives children a female authority figure, gives an educated adult woman as a role model and can be inspiring for the girls of the community.

It was very interesting to hear the perspective of a woman from Ankara about the treatment of women in Turkey. Obviously Turkey has issues with human rights, civil rights and women’s rights, but it seems to be particularly bad in Eastern Turkey due to the conservativism of the region. You will hear many Turks say how they are a modern nation and equal rights allegedly apply and all that lovely stuff, but to hear a woman who experiences the plight of females in Eastern Turkey on a regular basis it makes you realise just how divided the country is and how little development has seemed to happen to Eastern Turkey since Ataturk changed the country.