Sunday, May 30, 2010

More Reason Why Neighborhood Pressure Matters

Bogazici University and the Open Society Institute have released a study assessing intolerant attitudes in Turkey toward ethnic and religious minorities and LGBT people. The survey, released in report form as "The Otherization and Discrimination in Turkey
(in Turkish)" ("'Biz'lik, 'Oteki'lik, ve Ayrimcilik: Kamuoyundaki Algilar ve Egilimler"), was conducted between Feb. 15 and April 25, in 18 provinces with the participation of 1,811 interviewees. Hurriyet Daily News summarizes the results:

The most striking result of the survey concerns the question on “who deserves a restriction on their rights?” The answers given by the respondents indicated that the discriminatory tendencies and the level of tolerance have changed little in the last five years.

An astonishing 53 percent of participants strongly believed that the right to freely express a different sexual orientation should be restricted. Similarly, 37 percent of the people sampled denounced the right of believing in no religion, with 59 percent standing against atheists flaunting their lack of religion. Moreover, 28 percent denounced the right of non-Muslims to be open about their religious identity.

The results showed that 72 percent of the sample supported the idea that “those who have a different sexual orientation, like homosexuality, should be open about their sexual identities.”

According to the 2005 results of the survey, 58 percent said non-heterosexuals should not be equally free. The percentage of those who say the rights of those who have a different native language other than Turkish should be restricted is 19 percent, the same figure as the 2005 survey.

Those who say that all ethnicities, religions and sects should be secured by the Constitution make up 74 percent.

Some 36 percent of the interviewees said their primary identity was “being a citizen of Turkey,” whereas a 29 percent thought “having a Turkish national identity” was most important.

Meanwhile, 66 percent said they have no other ethnic culture and they are rooted completely in Turkish culture, while 20 percent said their ethnic culture and language were secondary to Turkish language and culture. Some 8 percent said their language or culture came before Turkish culture while 2 percent said they had absolutely no connection to Turkish culture and language.
59% of respondents in the survey said they did not feel any sort of neighborhood pressure. And, the rest?

Such surveys should boost concern about the arguments of "strong democrats," those who continue to stress democracy with little reference to rights protections and difference. See my March 26 post on the need for Turkey, and the AKP as the government in power leading up constitutional efforts, to come to a sophisticated of rights-based democracy. Until the "democrats" start talking about protecting everyone's rights, promoting difference and diversity in Turkish society, and adopt an open, articulate discourse that encompasses all of Turkish society, many Turks are likely to fear rule by the majority -- and, if the respondents in this poll hasd their say, for good reason. Leadership requires taking risks and promoting new understandings, most especially in conservative societies where difference is seen as something Other. The AKP has taken some positive steps in this direction, but how genuine, far-reaching, and reflective of an overall attitude appreciative of diversity is still very much in doubt. When combined with a general societal ambivalence toward liberalism and a lack of tolerance, many Turks' fear of rule by majority should be taken seriusly. Turkey might not end up like Iran, but it could certainly end up a more closed, oppresive society should majoritarian democracy continue to take a stronger place without attention to rights. For more on neighborhood pressure, see also Feb. 10 post.

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