Remember filling out questionnaires last summer?  Well the report of the survey is almost complete and should be available early next month.  In the meantime here’s the interim report published in July 2006 as a reminder.

Remember filling out questionnaires last summer?  Well the report of the survey is almost complete and should be available early next month.  In the meantime here’s the interim report published in July 2006 as a reminder.

Settled Foreigners : Belonging and Participation – by Dr H I Bahar, translated by Pat Temiz

Last week we were in Alanya working on the ‘Settled Foreigners in Turkey’ project funded by TUBITAK.  As you will be aware, Alanya is the area with the largest number of settled foreigners, and we duly carried out interviews and administered questionnaires.  In the context of settled foreigners completing questionnaires, it would seem that the targets we had set were too high.  It could be that we didn’t allow for the fact that, in July and August, settled foreigners often prefer to return to their own countries, thus having a negative effect on our sample size.  Certainly those settled foreigners who tried to escape the heat in Turkey this summer, were in for a surprise when heatwaves hit other European countries.

Questionnaires were either completed face to face, or picked up for completion at pre-arranged points and handed back later.  To ensure that the questionnaires were taken seriously, we used established newspapers, organisations and businesses as distribution points.  In Alanya questionnaires were also completed in the caf矡ttached to a supermarket.  This was decidedly not an easy methodology.  Citizens of different nationalities reacted very differently when faced with a questionnaire.  Some people were very happy to complete questionnaires; others rejected the idea saying “We just want to live here quietly.”

We even encountered different reactions within the same family.  A mother and father refused to complete questionnaires, but their young daughter agreed to fill one out saying “I’d rather complete a questionnaire than look at the shelves in the supermarket.”  Our task was to find a balance between trying to get as many people as possible to complete questionnaires, whilst not upsetting anyone in the process.  In their home countries Europeans can be asked to complete questionnaires on a regular basis, which could explain some of the irrational reactions we received.  Some people complained that they were always filling out questionnaires, but nothing ever seemed to happen as a result of their effort.

Due to the physical similarities between German, English, Danish, Dutch, Irish and some Turks, we sometimes approached a person we believed to be a foreign resident, only to discover that they were Turkish.

{mosimage}Resident foreigners would seem to live in different locations according to age and social class.  People with money have cars and seem to prefer houses with gardens and swimming pools outside central Alanya in the districts of Avsallar, Oba or Mahmutlar.  People without cars choose to live nearer to the centre of Alanya, or other towns, where they have ease of access to shops.

To study the buying of property in Turkey by settled foreigners consideration must be given to the concepts of ‘risk and trust’.  Buying property in Turkey can be a risky undertaking.  You have to be in the right place, at the right time and deal with the right people.  Foreigners buying property will use a Turkish acquaintance as a ‘go-between’.  And there are instances of foreigners being badly treated by such an acquaintance whom they have trusted.  The bad treatment does not just come from Turks.  It is also possible to find instances of settled foreigners preying on each other.  Risk and trust are inextricably entwined and real estate companies with a foreign interest must be made reliable.  Real estate companies owned by a foreigner married to a Turk, or in partnership with a Turk, would seem to have the greatest market share.

In general settled foreigners’ opinions of Turkey and the Turkish community would seem to be satisfactory.  There are issues over the foreigners’ understanding of Turkish rules and regulations.  They complain about road safety, environmental matters and littering.  Noise and ill treatment of animals were also causes for complaint.  It would seem infringement of regulations has become accepted in Turkey.  According to settled foreigners the worst thing is the acceptance of such infringements.

A model for democratic participation

We must accept that the number of settled foreigners in Turkey is growing daily.  In Europe, the number of people thinking of buying property in Turkey would also seem to be increasing.  When you meet such people they ask how safe it is to buy property here.  How prepared are we, as a nation, to answer that question?

Relationships between settled foreigners and central and local administrations are extremely limited.  In a general sense administrations should exert influence to ensure successful outcomes for both buyers and sellers.  Foreign companies who organise tours of Turkey from Europe introduce people to the real estate market.  In this context, should not potential customers have free tours of Turkey?

We came across many organisations and associations, sometimes set up by foreigners alone, and sometimes by foreigners and Turks working together.  Some associations would seem to use influence for their own benefit.  The functions and activities of some associations are open to challenge.  Who set them up?  Who are the leaders and members?  Are they open to the public or can only certain people join?  How were the association’s leaders chosen?  What kind of influence does one organisation have over another?  How far is it possible for associations to have a shared vision or mission?

It would seem necessary to aim for a model of democratic participation to help solve problems arising between settled foreigners and the Turkish community at all levels and across social, economic and political arenas.  The model would allow settled foreigners, Turkish community organisations, together with representatives of local and central administrations to meet and determine a shared policy acceptable to all.  The level of influence between settled foreigners and local authorities is severely limited.  For the past 2.5 years it could be claimed that this matter has been addressed, but where is the evidence?  What agreements have been reached, what systems have been put in place?  To what extent have any agreed systems been tested?  These questions cannot be answered either on the internet or by any other means.

{mosimage}We have heard of websites where it is stated “Don’t sell real estate to Turks”.  In Alanya, and other places where foreigners have settled, there are wealthy landowners.  Due to lack of education and experience, money they make from the sale of land is not used productively.  Instead it is spent on cars, a luxury lifestyle and generally ‘putting on a show’.  This frittering away of money, instead of productive investment, will also have a negative effect on the next generation.  It is clear that, unless the children of those who’ve become wealthy from land sales are educated in the productive application of money, they will face an economically impoverished future.

However, it is wrong to consider settled foreigners purely in an economic context.  We should try to broaden contact between settled foreigners and the Turkish community by looking to benefit from the settled foreigners’ strengths and the level of their education.  In Alanya the private schools offer Turkish courses for the children of settled foreigners.  They should also be a source of information and support for EU projects.

We must smooth the way for Turks and settled foreigners to meet on an ‘equal partnership’ basis.  Some associations should be run jointly by Turks and settled foreigners.  In this context the ‘Turkish German Friendship Association’ run by Fahri Yigit in Alanya is a good example.

Turks and settled foreigners can take part in activities together: picnics, celebrations of national holidays such as Children’s Day on 23rd April; being included within the framework of such activities can only increase the settled foreigners’ feeling of ‘belonging’ in Turkey.  They will feel they are truly part of a community.  Once Turks and settled foreigners are working in partnership, their efforts must surely result in a better working, and living, environment.