Society, Politics, and Economy in Modern Turkey: Sociology of Turkey - Maintained by Tugrul Keskin
We are at a point in our work when we can no longer ignore empires and the imperial context in our studies. (p. 5)
― Edward W. Said, Culture and Imperialism

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The AKP’s working class support base explains why the Turkish government has managed to retain its popularity during the country’s protests

Erik R. Tillman – DePaul University

The London School of Economics and Political Science - May 29, 2014

A number of anti-government protests have taken place in Turkey over the past year. Erik R. Tillman assesses the dynamics underpinning support for the ruling AKP government and its main opposition, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), during the unrest. He notes that although AKP has parallels with mainstream centre-right parties in Europe, its support base is built on working-class voters. He argues that as the protests largely articulated concerns associated with middle class voters, this ‘ideological reversal’ has so far helped to protect the AKP electorally. Nevertheless, the dynamics of the most recent protests over the mining disaster in Soma could pose a threat to the governing party as they are closely associated with its core working class support base.
During the past year, the government of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has faced a series of protests over its increasingly authoritarian style of governance and a series of scandals regarding alleged high-level corruption. However, Erdoğan does not appear to have lost significant popular support. In municipal elections on 30 March, his Justice and Development Party (AKP) won a comfortable plurality of the national vote.
How has the Erdoğan government retained its popularity in the face of these protests? An examination of the nature of mass party support in Turkey shows a reversed relationship between the apparent ideology of each major party and the social base of its support. The Gezi Park protests and subsequent outrage over alleged corruption have largely reflected the middle-class concerns of opposition supporters and have thus failed to shift the attitudes of many government supporters. If public outrage over the recent Soma mine disaster lingers, it could provide a more credible threat to the government’s popularity by shifting the attitudes of a core group of AKP voters.
In contemporary Turkish politics, there is little congruence between the stated ideologies of the two largest parties and their actual bases of mass support. The governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) describes itself as a conservative democratic party and is affiliated with the Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists. Conversely, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) describes itself as a social democratic party and is affiliated with the Party of European Socialists. Normally, one would expect the AKP to have more support among middle class voters and the CHP to derive most of its support from working class voters. Virtually the opposite is true.


Friday, May 23, 2014

Turkish Onomastics and Migration Patterns

Comparative Perspectives and Continuities 30 May - 1 June 2014 | Regent's University London

Next week at Regent’s University Turkish Migration Conference (TMC2014, London), Elian Carsenat will present breakthrough data mining technology to apply onomastics (the recognition of personal names) to the discovery of new migration patterns.
As states struggle to provide timely and accurate data to international organizations (such as the OECD, IOM, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees UNHCR, …), these organizations can turn to the Big Data to identify and monitor new trends. What can Twitter, LinkedIn, Google, Facebook, D&B, Thomson WoS … tell us about the changing migration patterns of highly educated professionals, entrepreneurs? We’ll present how applied onomastics and the Big Data can be a game changer in migration studies, with vast implications on how countries or even regions can engage their Diaspora (to attract FDI, remittances, to build networks of expertise, …)
We look forward to see you at Regent’s University Turkish Migration Conference (TMC2014, London). Full program here.


From Gezi to Soma

By Alain Gabon

Turkey Agenda - May 22, 2014

As a descendant of three generations of French coal miners, the Soma tragedy hits particularly close to home. It is hard, and as a matter of fact not desirable or appropriate, to have a purely analytical discourse about this.  The first thing I immediately and spontaneously remembered, right there, literally the second I heard the horrible news, was my first descent at the bottom of the pit, as a child, for a “visit”, a guided tour so to speak with the miners as tour guides, of the place where both my father, my grand-father, and my great-grand-father had been (and in the case of my father, still was) working daily, as were almost all of the fathers and many brothers, cousins, etc. of my school friends in that small mining town we all loved. That was a nice town that had been able to prosper and even thrive both economically and culturally thanks to the coal mines around which the whole city and most of the others in that mining region had been built.  It is thanks to these coal mines but also to the truly generous social policies of the French welfare state and the private owners of the pits, who, while exploiting them, also lavished benefits on their workers including free housing in large, solid and comfortable houses built for them, free education for their children, free health care for the whole family, and a range of other social welfare benefits that are simply unthinkable in today’s economy—it is thanks to that that the entire coal miners’ working class of that region including my own family and those of, literally, all my friends and neighbors, were able to rise up to middle-class standards, give their kids a high school and for many a university education, thereby ensuring they would not have to do that kind of back-breaking and excessively dangerous work. And most kids including myself did not have to, though I sometimes regretted not having been part of what was then presented, in the paternalistic discourse of the state and the rich Catholic conservative bourgeois owners of the mines, as the “working-class aristocracy of the nation”—a title they were taking dead seriously, disputing it to the steel factory workers who were also being told by their bosses they were the real “working class aristocrats of the nation”.


Did reforms stop in Turkey?

By Ibrahim Kalin

Turkey Agenda - May 20, 2014

Recently there has been a recurring claim that Turkey has stopped introducing new judicial and political reforms. Critics claim that the Turkish state has forsaken its reform agenda which it followed until the 2011 elections and wants to maintain the status quo that developed under its rule since 2002.

This is not true. Since 2010 the government has introduced a large number of new laws and regulations, all of which are either derived from the Copenhagen criteria or have been suggested by the EU since Turkey's accession talks began in 2005. These reforms have been supported by a large group of opinion makers, politicians and the public at large.

A cursory look at the list of reforms over the last three years reveals a steady trend. The referendum on Sept. 12, 2010 introduced the following changes:

-Children's rights were strengthened under the constitutional law
-The office of the Ombudsman gained constitutional status and began its work
-Members of Parliament were prevented from losing their status in the event their political party shuts down
-The right of individual application to the Constitutional Court was granted
-A Human Rights Committee was established to protect and improve human rights, prevent torture and maltreatment and train citizens and officials in the field of human rights


Between Two Rationalities: The Possibility of an Alternative Politics in Turkey

By Bülent Küçük

Jadaliyya - May 23 2014 

How can the results of the recent municipal elections in Turkey be understood amidst the constantly changing political landscape: graft scandals, revolting judicial decisions, changing political alliances, and an ever-increasing polarization? It can be argued that only preliminary lessons can be drawn when analyzing an ongoing historical process for historical and structural clues. This is a state that cannot overcome a widening social opposition, which views elections as the only conduit for democracy (while tampering with these very conduits themselves), which is only able to use brute force against the voices expressed on the streets. It is a state that can only tell lies, since it can no longer (re)produce its own reality, turning ever more clearly into a security and police apparatus. In such a context, do the results of the local elections count for anything?
The question here is: when marginalized identities proliferate, when new sorrows and indignations amass, when a populist government manages to monopolize all branches of power under its thumb, what kind of democratic institutions and practices, what kind of struggle, can resist or even transform this kind of rule? How will it be possible to prevent this single-party, single-identity, single-family, one-man rule to drag society into bigger disasters after the collapse of expansionist foreign policies and nearly going to war with some of its neighbors? Amidst this climate of conflict, secret negotiations are supposedly ongoing with the Kurdish Liberation Movement; these are hardly likely to be conductive to a new constitutional arrangement that deepens democracy and brings peace to the conflict. What kind of mechanisms and forces can push this government towards more democratization and the consolidation of the peace process? And finally, how could such an opposition go beyond the simple strategy of exposing government corruption and lawlessness and become more encompassing in its opposition?


The Failed Autocrat Despite Erdogan's Ruthlessness, Turkey's Democracy Is Still on Track

By Daron Acemoglu

Foreign Affairs - May 22, 2014

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was once the darling of the international community, but no more. He is still sometimes praised for stewarding Turkey through impressive economic growth, defanging a Turkish military establishment with a long history of meddling in national politics, and initiating a promising peace process with the country’s restive Kurdish population. But Erdogan’s achievements are now shadowed by his undeniable lurch toward autocracy. Over the last year, he has initiated a harsh crackdown against peaceful protesters, political opponents, and independent media outlets. (According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, at one point, the number of journalists jailed in Turkey even exceeded the number in Iran and China.)


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Tragedy of the Soma Mine-Workers: A Crime of Peripheral Capitalism Unleashed.

Triple Crisis - May 15, 2014

By Erinc Yeldan 

One of the greatest work-crimes in mining industry occurred in Soma, a little mining village in Western Turkey. At noon-time on Tuesday, May 13, according to witnesses, an electrical fault triggered a transformer to explode causing a large fire in the mine, releasing carbon monoxide and gaseous fumes. (The official cause of the “accident” was still unknown, at this writing, after nearly 30 hours.) Around 800 miners were trapped 2 km underground and 4 km from the exit. At this point, the death toll has already reached 245, with reports of another 100 workers remaining in the mine, yet unreached.  Turkey has possibly the worst safety record in terms of mining accidents and explosions in Europe and the third worst in the world. Since the right-wing Justice and Development Party (AKP) assumed power in 2002, and up to 2011, a 40% increase in work-related accidents has been reported. The death toll from these accidents reached more than 11,000. Many analysts agree that what lies behind these tragic events is the unregulated and poorly supervised attempts of a corrupt ruling government to push through hasty privatizations and a forced informalization of labour. The Soma mine itself was privatized in 2005. In the heyday of an anti-public sector campaign, the new owners of the plant proudly declared a decline in production costs from the US$120-130 range under the public ownership of State Coal Inc. (TTK) to US$23.80. It was not very long before it became clear that what actually facilitated this ‘miraculous market success’ was the determined evasion of safety standards. On that front, the president of the private company Soma Inc., Mr. Gürkan, was heard boasting, “You can ask ‘what changed in the mine?’ The answer is ‘nothing.’ We simply introduced methods of the private sector only.”


Why The Worst Is Still Ahead For Turkey's Bubble Economy

By Jesse Colombo

FORBES - MAY 21, 2014

The explosive rise of Turkey’s economy in the past decade is one of the most fascinating growth stories of all time. Since 2002, Turkey’s economy nearly quadrupled in size on the back of an epic boom in consumption and construction that led to the building of countless malls, skyscrapers, and ambitious infrastructure projects. Like many emerging economies in the past decade, Turkey’s economy continued to grow virtually unabated through the Global Financial Crisis, while most Western economies stagnated.  Unfortunately, like most emerging market nations, Turkey’s economic boom has devolved into a dangerous bubble that is similar to the bubbles that caused the downfall of Western economies just six years ago. Though Turkey has received significant attention after its currency and financial markets fell sharply in the past year, there is still very little awareness of the country’s economic bubble itself and its frightening implications.


Sunday, May 18, 2014

On Erdogan’s ‘Ordinary Things’: The Soma Massacre, the Spine Tower, and the Corporate-State’s Fitrat in Turkey

By Emrah Yildiz 

Jadaliyya - May 18 2014

On 14 May, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan reached Soma, the site of the coal mine explosion that has so far killed 321 people—an already horrific number feared to surpass 350. In his first public appearance, twenty-four hours after the explosion, he seemed sultanically informed about the dates of previous coal mine explosions and their resultant deaths, not only in contemporary Turkey, but also across time and space. After having thanked the media “workers” for their “responsible” coverage of the calamity or catastrophe (facia in Turkish) as an unfortunate yet ordinary “work accident,” Erdoğan was ready to present some facts on the ground for all. Beginning with a warning against “marginal groups who are trying to make use of this accident” for their political ends, Erdoğan lectured on:
I want to share with you some numbers to put things in perspective here. Between 1942 and the end of 2010, friends, our total number of deaths in this type of accidents is around 900. 42, 47, 55, 83, 87, 90, 95, 2010. Among these the methane gas explosion experienced in Kozlu in 1992 has been recorded as the biggest accident that cost 263 workers their lives. This is what it is with coal…Let us remember the past in England: in 1866, 362 people were reported dead. Another explosion in England in 1894, 290. Let me move to France: 1906, the second deadliest mine accident ever recorded. Let me move to more recent periods: Japan in 1914, 687. China, in 1960 gas explosion in the mine, 684. And from Japan, again coal explosion again in 1963, 458. India, 375. In 1975, gas catches fire again, and the roof of the mine collapses and 372. At this point these kinds of accidents are ordinary and recurrent things in these mines…Take a look at America, with its technology and all, in 1907 361 people…These are recurrent and ordinary things. In literature they are referred to as work accidents.
Read more....

The Soma tragedy: Kadere karşı / Against Fate

By William Coker 

Left East - 17 May 2014

My class yesterday began with something close to an apology from me for holding the class at all.  Times like this can make anyone engaged in intellectual work feel inadequate.  To some it seems vain to make statements and take up positions when hundreds have died.  To this I can find no Spilling ink may be impious, but saying nothing is worse.  We have the duty to understand what has happened, even when it might seem more decorous to be silent.
It’s too bad there’s so little to understand this time.  On Tuesday a fire broke out in a mine in Soma, in the district of Manisa in the Aegean region, trapping as many as 700 miners underground.  By Thursday afternoon 282 have been declared dead, with as many as 150 still missing.  The mine belongs to Soma Holding, which acquired it from the state in one of the AKP governments’ many privatizations.  Its executives maintain close ties to Erdoğan’s party, though the government would like the public to forget this; one worker who told the host of a live news program on the privately-owned, pro-government Habertürk television network about the company’s AKP ties found his broadcast very quickly cut off.
On April 29, the parliamentary faction of the main opposition party CHP had requested an inspection of the mine’s safety measures, which the ruling AKP rejected.


Friday, May 16, 2014

Stillbirth: The New Liberal-Conservative Mobilization in Turkey

By China Tugal

Jadaliyya -  May 15 2014

Liberal-conservatism was the dominant intellectual discourse in Turkey for more than three decades. The 1980s was its moment of departure. It suffered a hiatus under the shadow of the Kurdish war in the 1990s, but militaristic brutality also increased its sympathizers. The 2000s was its golden age. Its triumphalism reached an apex during the 2010 referendum. Ever since, its dominance has been crumbling.
State versus Society, the Military versus the Civilians, the Authentic Bourgeoisie versus the Old Elite
Among other factors, the 1980 coup convinced many intellectuals that the military was at the root of Turkey’s problems. Therefore, any civilian initiative deserved support. This belief was further strengthened by the global spread of liberal discourses after the defeat of the 1968 revolutionary wave. “Civil society” became the buzzword in academia and independent intellectual circles. The new focus on civilians and civic actors (somehow believed to be brought into existence without state and military involvement) got an additional boost from the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Eastern European intellectuals’ liberalism.
The rise of the Islamist movement put a new spin on this emergent discourse. The dominant intellectuals perceived Islamism as a threat, but also a possibility. It was obviously one of the voices in society against the state; but it also harbored a lot of authoritarianism. If the civilian elements within the Islamist movement could be harnessed to the liberal project, then the resulting combination could turn into a veritable force against the state. Simultaneously, many intellectuals within the Islamist movement also started to use the vocabularies of liberalism, civil society, and, interestingly enough, postmodernism. The question then became: were these just isolated and unrepresentative maverick intellectuals, or was there a social force behind them?

Read more....

The most powerful photo from a day of tragedy in Turkey

By Anup Kaphle        

The Washington Post - May 14, 2014

More than 230 people have died after a coal mine explosion in Soma, a small Turkish town of about 70,000 people that is nearly 150 miles from Istanbul.
According to Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz, 787 workers were inside the mine when an electrical fault triggered the blast. Rescue teams have pulled out 363 of the workers.
One of those rescued was this man, shown below being kissed by his father after he was pulled out from the mine. The image was captured by Turkish photographer Bulent Kilic for Agence France-Presse.

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Domestic Workers in Turkey Report Published

International Labor Organization

Report is the first national study aiming to explore the domestic work sector in Turkey
Entitled "The visible face of women’s invisible labour: Domestic workers in Turkey", the Report is prepared by Prof. Dr. Gülay Toksöz and Assoc. Prof. Dr. Seyhan Erdoğdu from Ankara University and published in the scope of the Conditions of Work and Employment Working Research Series of the ILO. The study highlights that informality is a predominant feature of domestic work in Turkey, a sector largely comprised of women workers. The authors of the study suggest that there is need but also room for improving domestic workers’ access to social security and for strengthening the legal framework addressing domestic workers’ needs and working conditions.
The findings of the study were presented at the National Conference on Decent Work for Domestic Workers in Turkey organized by the ILO in February 2013, with the participation of the Ministry of Family and Social Policies and the Ministry of Labour and Social Security. The Conference was an opportunity for the ILO’s tripartite constituents, as well as civil society organizations and academia to discuss the main problems facing domestic workers in Turkey and to reflect on possible ways forward. The Report was updated and finalized in the light of the feedback provided by social partners and relevant public institutions during and following the Conference.
The Report is also an important part of ILO’s global activities on domestic workers. In June 2011, the International Labour Conference adopted the Domestic Workers Convention (No. 189) and Recommendation (No.201) which are the first international standards specifically dedicated to the promotion of decent work for this group of workers. Since then, the instruments have become an important source of guidance for policy-makers around the globe seeking to improve the living and working conditions of domestic workers. The ILO’s follow-up activities in support of governments and employers’ and workers’ organizations include knowledge development and sharing, such as the Domestic Workers in Turkey Report, among other activities. You can reach the Turkish version of the Report here, and English version here.

Ending child labour: A comprehensive review of Turkish Experience

International Labor Organization

In 1992 Turkey was one of the initial six countries to undertake direct action to combat child labour through IPEC programs and assistance. The Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of Turkey and the ILO was signed in 1992 and was extended till September 2006. There was a total number of 101 action programmes implemented from 1992. IPEC projects carried out over the last 12 years have reached approximately 50,000 children. Sixty percent of these children have been withdrawn from work and placed in schools. The remaining 40 percent have benefited from improved working conditions and health, nutrition and vocational training services. Furthermore, approximately 25,000 families have received counselling services and assistance. The strategies developed and objectives of the Programme are coherent with national policies and objectives and reinforce and strengthen existing national structures.

to download the report....

Soma Faciası - Maden İşçileri

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Turkey coalmine disaster: accident or murder?

By Pieter Verstraete

Roarmag - May 14, 2014

The explosion that killed hundreds of coalminers in Turkey was not a random accident; it was the direct consequence of a decade of neoliberalization.

Not even two months ago you could hear Turkey’s urban middle class and youth shouting “thieves!” (hirsiz var!) at a corrupt elite in the Turkish government that illegally enriches itself. Today, as Twitterers report, we hear protesters chant “murderers!” (katiler!) in front of the Istanbul offices of Soma Holdings, the private owner of the lignite mine in Turkey’s Soma district, which just became a death trap to hundreds of coalminers.

While fellow miners, family members and other townsfolk are still digging desperately for survivors after yesterday’s explosion and fire inside the mine, riot police had their hands full washing people away with their water canons in the street where the Soma Holdings offices are located.

As I write this, Turkish news agencies officially report 274 deaths. But earlier today, Energy Minister Taner Yildiz stated that 787 people were working in the mine at the time of the explosion. It seems that there were more miners inside than usual since the explosion occurred during a change of shifts. So it is feared that more than 400 miners are still trapped underground, which runs as deep as 2 kilometres. Those trapped inside run the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, so time is crucial and rescue teams are pumping oxygen into the mine.


Turkey swept by protests as anger grows over fatal mine explosion

Thousands join strike and crowds heckle president while relatives begin to bury the nearly 300 coalminers killed in Soma        

By Harriet Sherwood and agencies in Soma, Thursday 15 May 2014

Anger at the deadly mine explosion in Turkey spread across the country on Thursday as thousands of workers joined a protest strike, demonstrators clashed with security forces, and families began to bury scores of men killed in the disaster.

As the death toll at the Soma coalmine pushed towards 300, with hopes extinguished for at least 100 more miners thought to be trapped deep in the pit, fury was directed at the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan – and fuelled by pictures of one of his aides violently assaulting a protester, and claims that Erdoğan himself had struck a teenage girl.

The president, Abdullah Gül, visiting the area, described Tuesday's explosion as "a huge disaster", adding: "The pain is felt by all". But despite more restraint among relatives and protesters in Soma than during the prime minister's visit a day earlier, Gül was still heckled by crowds.

The first funerals for victims were held as labourers continued to dig rows of graves in a cemetery near the mine. Women with pictures of victims pinned to their clothing swayed, wailed and sang as coffins were  lowered into the graves.

Some mourners said they had spent their lives fearing a catastrophic incident at the mine. "The wives of the miners kiss their husbands in the morning. When they come back, even if they are five minutes late, everyone starts calling. You never know what is going to happen," said Gulizar Donmez, 45, a neighbour of one of the victims and whose father and husband are both miners.

Read more.....

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Turkey mine explosion: more than 200 dead and hundreds trapped

Disaster management agency says authorities are preparing for possibility that death toll in Soma disaster could rise sharply

The Guardian - May 14, 2014

By  Ben Quinn and Constanze Letsch

A large rescue operation is under way to free hundreds of coal miners trapped underground after an explosion and fire in western Turkey left hundreds of their colleagues dead.
Early on Wednesday Turkey's energy minister, Taner Yildiz, said the death toll had risen above 200. Hundreds more were believed to be still trapped inside the mine, while more than 360 had been evacuated.
As rescue teams made their way from neighbouring regions, fresh air was being pumped into the mine in Soma, about 75 miles north-east of the Aegean coastal city of Izmir.
Twenty people initially made it out of the privately owned mine, where a power distribution unit was said to have exploded, but local authorities in the western province of Manisa said that between 200 and 300 workers were still underground.
The blast in the power unit of the mine triggered an electricity cut, making the lifts unusable and leaving hundreds of miners stranded underground.

Read more....