Since the widespread, largely peaceful protests in Turkey (against irresponsible town planning, corruption, creeping islamisation, police brutality, and more) were successfully if brutally suppressed by the state in June, Turkey has returned to a sort of normality, all be it one that is more deeply divided than ever.
While the root causes of the protests continue to bubble under the surface, the government maintains its hardline position that the protesters are in fact vandals and terrorists. The impression of an Orwellian state ruling through fear and paranoia has been reinforced by measures to encourage citizens to report on their neighbours’ activities, using anonymous informant boxes to alert police to crimes such as banging pots and pans in protest against the government (“The Confidential Police Notice Point Project”).
Alongside medical workers, lawyers, architects and what is left of the free press, most prominent among those who were standing up for secular and civil society and greater democracy were Turkey’s youth. Arrests of young protesters continue to be reported on an almost daily basis, for crimes including tweeting about protests and organising a fast-breaking dinner in Gezi Park. Meanwhile Prime Minister Erdoğan continues to blame international conspiracies for Turkey’s troubles, and describes any form of debate or protest ‘illegitimate’ compared to voting at the ballot box. One thing most people agree on in Turkey is that Erdoğan and the AKP will again win local and Presidential elections in 2014, and national parliamentary elections in 2015.
The prospect of several more years of authoritarian leadership, increasing islamisation (causing bars to close and concerts to be cancelled), restricted democracy and the suppression of any form of protest is a depressing one for large segments of Turkey’s youth. University students will continue to be given special attention, with Erdoğan announcing that State Police will patrol Turkish universities from September. Reports that students access to education will depend on behaviour also continue to circulate.
In this climate, and considering the repression of Turkish-language media channels, we expect that learning English and studying in foreign universities will have greater appeal for millions of young Turks in the coming years.