Turkey faces rise in brain drain over political and economic concerns

Turkish men shout slogans in front of the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey, July 17, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 21 July 2020

Turkey faces rise in brain drain over political and economic concerns

  • Over 330,000 people left the country last year, according to recent official data

ANKARA: Dr. Ahmet Erdi Ozturk, lecturer at London Metropolitan University, has lived abroad for nine years. He even married and had a child, miles away from his home country and parents. He always maintains that “it is emotionally very hard to be a member of the diaspora.”

When asked, however, whether he would be willing to return to Turkey to an academic post with a higher wage, he politely declines, saying, “There is no stability and predictability even in the academic sphere, let alone in politics.”

Recently, several foreign academics who were called from abroad to teach at Sehir University in Istanbul found themselves jobless and hopeless after the university, founded by Turkey’s former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, was shut down by an overnight presidential decree. The decree followed a longtime dispute between Davutoglu and his ex-ally President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after the former founded his own breakaway Future Party.

An expert on Turkish politics as well as diaspora studies, Ozturk said that people were becoming increasingly disappointed with the widespread nepotism in the country, especially after the economic deterioration.

Ankara’s opposition-affiliated Mayor Mansur Yavas recently announced a list of those who were unfairly employed in the municipality during his predecessor’s time, government-aligned controversial figure Melih Gokcek. 

“Democracy is something that influences daily life,” Ozturk told Arab News. “Young citizens are losing their hopes of finding a job based on their merits if they don’t know any high-ranking people. Many people feel that even their basic freedoms are being taken away from them.”

He added that it would be nearly impossible to “win back” that generation in the short term, as young professionals are choosing to leave altogether in what amounts to a brain drain for the country.

Turkey witnessed a 2 percent increase in its number of emigrants in 2019, compared to the previous year.

A total of 330,289 people left the country last year, according to recent official data from the state-run Turkish Statistical Institute. About 40.8 percent of those who emigrated from Turkey were between the ages of 20-34.

Seren Selvin Korkmaz, executive director of the Istanbul Political Research Institute, said recent studies showed that young people were leaving Turkey mainly for better working conditions and living standards, job opportunities and freedom.

“Migration becomes an exit strategy from everyday struggles. In the country, youth unemployment is more than 25 percent. Many of these young people are still financially dependent on their families or are working for low wages,” Korkmaz told Arab News.

Under these conditions, she explained, young people do not envision a future for themselves.

“I think this creates a ‘violence of uncertainty’ for them. In addition to unemployment, authoritarian tendencies in the country — including social media bans and threats to freedom of thought — impact the youth and make them worry for their future,” she added.

SODEV, a Turkish foundation, recently asked young people between the ages of 15 and 25 whether they would live abroad if given a chance.

Almost half of those who identify as supporters of the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) government said they preferred to live abroad — a sign which, experts think, shows they have lost their faith in the country’s future.

According to this same survey, released in May, 70.3 percent of respondents believe that a brilliant young Turk would never be promoted professionally in the country if he or she did not have any political and/or bureaucratic “connections.”

According to Korkmaz, the current young generation in Turkey is in a much more precarious position compared to their parents.

“They do not have job security. Education under the AKP’s neoliberal policies is not a guarantee for upward mobility anymore. Also, professional identity, based on the harmony between the education one receives and the job he or she performs, is eroding in the country,” she said.

“Young people feel disappointment after graduation. They are hopeless, and current political parties and actors are unable to attract them,” Korkmaz added.

Experts say that recent government threats to further control platforms like YouTube, Twitter and Netflix have triggered much anger, especially from Generation Z — those born between 1995 and 2015 — who see social media as one of the last remaining bastions of freedom in the digital age.

In the upcoming 2023 parliamentary elections, young voters are expected to make up 12 percent of the electorate and are therefore considered a critical element that politicians in the country have to consider.

Dubai introduces facial recognition on public transport

Updated 17 min 25 sec ago

Dubai introduces facial recognition on public transport

  • ‘This technology has proven its effectiveness to identify suspicious and wanted people’
  • Dubai has ambitions to become a hub for technology and artificial intelligence

DUBAI: Dubai is introducing a facial recognition system on public transport to beef up security, officials said Sunday, as the emirate prepares to host the global Expo exhibition.
“This technology has proven its effectiveness to identify suspicious and wanted people,” said Obaid Al-Hathboor, director of Dubai’s Transport Security Department.
The emirate already operates a biometric system using facial recognition at its international airport.
Dubai, which sees itself as a leading “smart city” in the Middle East, has ambitions to become a hub for technology and artificial intelligence.
Both sectors will be on show when it opens the multi-billion-dollar Expo fair.
“We aspire to raise our performance by building on our current capabilities, to ensure a high level of security in metro stations and other transport sectors,” said Hathboor.
Earlier this week, under the watch of Dubai’s Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, the city’s police used facial recognition in a simulated scenario to identify gunmen launching an attack on a metro station.
A special police unit, trained in the United States, helped “evacuate” commuters from the station in the mock attack, before working in tandem with a control center to apprehend the suspects.
Members of the special unit will be sent to major metro stations during Expo 2020.
The six-month event was delayed by one year due to coronavirus, and is now set to open in October 2021.
It was expected to attract 15 million visitors before the global economy and transport systems were disrupted by the pandemic.
Jamal Rashed, of Dubai Police’s Transport Security Department, said the facial recognition technology will be rolled out in the coming months in all metro stations.
Other technology already in use to combat the spread of the coronavirus, such as helmets with thermal cameras and smart glasses, will also be used to identify and manage large crowds.
“It took at least five hours to identify a suspect before,” said Rashed. “With this technology, it takes less than a minute.”
But while the technology to identify individuals has simplified lives, such as being used for unlocking phones, it has also raised concerns over privacy.
Berlin-based advocacy group AlgorithmWatch says that at least 10 European police forces use facial recognition technology — a trend that privacy and rights groups are concerned about.
China has also been criticized for the facial recognition systems in its public surveillance network.