In Türkiye, anti-Erdogan youth dream of somewhere else

Hacibe Kayaroglu expressed hope that Turkey’s presidential election would be synonymous with change. But three days before the second round, which President Recep Tayyip Erdogan considers the favourite, young Turks are thinking more than ever about emigration.

“Young people have no hope anymore. Every night, we talk with my roommate about how to leave,” says the engineering student in Ankara, jacquard vest and long brown hair.

Five other young residents of Istanbul and Ankara interviewed in the middle of the presidential election told AFP they wanted to leave Turkey, blaming President Erdogan, who has been in power since 2003, for a decline in the economy and the state of freedom. Many testimonials are also flooding the social networks.

“We live in a beautiful country but it’s not going well and it’s getting worse. That’s why a lot of young people go abroad,” said Emre Yoruk, whom his older brother told thousands of young Turks. as inspired to migrate. This every year.

In a survey published by the Konrad-Adenauer Foundation in early 2022, 72.9% of Turks aged 18 to 25 said they would like to live abroad if given the opportunity.

“This figure is even higher among young people who support the AKP or MHP”, the Islamo-conservative party of President Erdogan and the ultranationalist formation with which he has allied himself, underlines Demet Lüküzlü, a sociologist specializing in youth at Istanbul Yeditepe University. Are.

“Young people complain about the economic situation, but also about an environment that makes them feel bad and over which they feel they have no control,” she notes.

– “Iranian women” –

Turkish opposition candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu takes a selfie with young Turks during his election campaign in Ankara May 13, 2023 (AFP/Archive – Adem ALTAN)

According to polls taken before the first round, rival No. 1, Social Democrat Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, was the preferred candidate of Young Turks, who tend to be less conservative than their elders.

But the leader of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) won only 44.9% of the vote against 49.5% for Mr Erdogan in the first round.

The 25-year-old has “lost all hope” of seeing Kemal Kilicdaroglu win and will vote “off duty” in the second round on Sunday. “If Erdogan wins, I will leave Turkey,” she said.

The Istanbulite, who prefers to keep her surname silent, is concerned about the election under the AKP label of four representatives from the hardline Islamist group Huda-Par during the first round of legislative elections held in parallel and won by the current majority.

“I love my country very much, but I don’t want to end up like Iranian women,” saddens the young woman, who works in marketing and plans to emigrate to the Netherlands with her older sister.

– “return back” –

The topic of emigration and brain drain did not come up during a week-long campaign that dominated the question of the return of the 3.7 million refugees living on Turkish soil.

5.2 million young Turks have been called to vote for the first time this year (AFP-Eylul Yasar)
5.2 million young Turks have been called to vote for the first time this year (AFP-Eylul Yasar)

“We pity those who knock on the doors of other countries just to get a nice car or a better phone”, fulfilling the “disgusting whim” of a part of Turkey’s youth, the head of state’s dismay was launched in

Kemal Kılıkdaroğlu spoke to the youth who recently went abroad.

“Come back, young people. This country needs you”, he launched on Twitter in early May in response to a video of a dozen graduates of Bogazıcı’s prestigious Istanbul University, in which he promised them to return to Turkey.

One of them, Omer Altan, still hopes for a victory over Kemal Kilikdaroglu on Sunday. “He will defend himself with all his might,” says the Turkish student pursuing a master’s degree in electrical engineering at the Technical University of Denmark.

“More and more young and old are considering going abroad,” he says, criticizing the “inequalities and corruption” that he says undermine Turkey.

The 25-year-old student, however, plans to return to Turkey regardless of the outcome of the second round.

“Erdogan’s re-election may inspire me to come back to help him achieve good things. Because if Erdogan wins, there will be more need to do good.”

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