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What Is Driving Turkey's Secular Elite To Emigrate

Istanbul University
Istanbul University
Suat Kiniklioglu


ISTANBUL — During a recent lunch in Washington with someone who works at a think tank there, the first thing he asked was, "What's going on in Turkey, for God's sake? Every day, good people are asking us about opportunities for either employment, or simply moving here."

I tried to explain the situation to him the best I could. Unfortunately, the secularist Hegira (exodus) we sense around us today is a fact. People who are fed up with Turkey's agenda and have the means to escape abroad are busy planning their futures outside of the country. Sociologists and economists would call this process "human capital migration," but what exactly does it mean for our country?

It means that more and more of our doctors, engineers, academics and otherwise well-educated people are fed up with the increasing authoritarianism. They see migrating abroad as the only way out. So that's what's happening.

The white-collar employees of Turkish multinational companies try to get transferred to offices outside of Turkey. Those who have the financial power to invest abroad start businesses or buy real estate that may allow them to legally migrate. Others try their luck with temporary business contracts in the hope of securing their presence abroad later. There is a growing demand for U.S. green cards. The white collars are leaving Turkey in search of a better future. They don't want to raise their children here.

Turning the tide

Fo those without an organic connection to the Justice and Development Party (AKP), or for those who don't submit to them and offer "gifts," there is no future in Turkey. There is no possibility for social mobility, neither within the state apparatus nor the private sector.

[rebelmouse-image 27088320 alt="""" original_size="500x335" expand=1]

Looking back? Photo: tinou bao

Meanwhile, the education system is getting worse and worse. Even children schooled at private institutions at great sacrifice to their parents are not educated properly. Most of us worry about whether our children will be able to find employment, compete with others on an international level and build a decent life.

Turkey also experienced a steady rate of human capital migration from the 1970s to the 1990s. But the tide reversed between 2007 and 2011. Many Turks living abroad even decided that things were better at home, and started to return.

Of course, the crisis in Western economies during those years also played an important role in this phenomenon. Now we see the tide turn once more. During the last couple of years especially, growing authoritarianism, corruption and imposition of religion are scaring away that precious human capital the country needs.

While the migration once was primarily motivated by economic factors, today it is more ideology-driven, amid increasing polarization and the systematic marginalization of those who don't support the AKP.

The future horizon of Turkey looks dark, so dark that people are willing to disrupt their daily habits and leave their homeland to seek a future in foreign countries. Even worse, the prospect for any political change in Turkey looks more and more remote. This secularist hegira is almost certainly bound to continue.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Zaluzhny vs. Zelensky: Ukraine's Heavyweight Feud Puts The War At Risk

Tensions keep brewing between Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, and his military chief, Valerii Zaluzhny. Coming at a critical point in the war's deadlock, the disputes risk undermining Ukrainian unity and playing into Russia's hands.

Photograph of the Ukraine Armed Forces Valeriy Zaluzhny  saluting in uniform

February 24, 2023, Kyiv: Commander-in-Chief of Ukraine Armed Forces Valeriy Zaluzhny salutes during ceremonies marking the 1st anniversary of the Russian invasion

Ukrainian Presidents Office/ZUMA
Roman Romaniuk & Roman Kravets,


KYIV — On November 20, Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin made an unannounced visit to Ukraine.

Austin's arrival was initially intended as a show of respect to Ukrainian war heroes and a reaffirmation of Washington's steadfast support for Kyiv. However, this visit inadvertently exacerbated tensions between Ukraine’s top military leader, Valerii Zaluzhny, and its President, Volodymyr Zelensky.

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"After Austin's arrival,” one Ukrainian government insider revealed, “it seemed Zelensky was suddenly about to replace Zaluzhny. Eventually, though, their conflicts faded away, and were replaced by sarcastic banter.”

Recent weeks have seen global media outlets reporting on the details of the "conflict" between the Ukrainian president and the Armed Forces head. In response, the President’s Office dismissed all such claims as Russian propaganda.

Amidst the ongoing threat looming over Ukraine, disputes between the country's top leaders aren't surprising. Such disagreements can even be seen as part of the carrying out of any war.

The root of tensions between the nation's president and its ranking head of the Armed Forces, can be traced to a complicated blend of war and politics. Zelensky's involvement in military planning and command during the war has caused friction as he's integrated political elements into the traditionally apolitical sphere of the army, inadvertently making Zaluzhny a visible figure in the political arena.

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