In Türkiye, the anti-Erdogan youth dream of elsewhere

Hasibe Kayaroglu hoped that the Turkish presidential election would be synonymous with change

In Türkiye, the anti-Erdogan youth dream of elsewhere

Hasibe Kayaroglu hoped that the Turkish presidential election would be synonymous with change. But three days before the second round, which President Recep Tayyip Erdogan approaches as a favorite, the young Turk is thinking more than ever about emigrating.

"Young people have no more hope. Every night, the only thing we talk about with my roommate is how to leave," says the engineering student in Ankara, jacquard vest and long brown hair.

Five other young residents of Istanbul and Ankara, interviewed between the two rounds of the presidential election, told AFP they wanted to leave Turkey, blaming President Erdogan, in power since 2003, for the deterioration of the situation. economy and freedoms. Many testimonials are also flooding in on social networks.

"We live in a beautiful country but it's not run in the right way and it's getting worse. That's why a lot of young people go abroad," said Emre Yörük, whom his older brother pushes to emigrate as tens of thousands of young Turks do this every year.

In a survey by the Konrad-Adenauer Foundation published in early 2022, 72.9% of Turks aged 18 to 25 said they would like to live abroad if given the opportunity.

"This figure is high even among young people supporting the AKP or the MHP", President Erdogan's Islamo-conservative party and the ultranationalist formation with which he has allied himself, underlines Demet Lüküslü, sociologist specializing in youth at the Istanbul Yeditepe University.

"Young people complain about the economic situation but also about a climate that makes them feel bad and over which they feel they have no control," she notes.

According to polls carried out before the first round, the social democrat Kemal Kiliçdaroglu, opponent number 1, was the preferred candidate of the young Turks, less conservative than their elders.

But the leader of the Republican People's Party (CHP) won only 44.9% of the vote in the first round, against 49.5% for Mr. Erdogan.

Ezgi, 25, has "lost all hope" of seeing Kemal Kiliçdaroglu triumph and will only vote in the second round on Sunday "out of duty". "If Erdogan wins, I will leave Turkey," she said.

The Istanbulite, who prefers to keep her surname silent, is worried about the election under the AKP label of four deputies from the radical Islamist group Hüda-Par during the legislative elections organized in parallel with the first round and won by the current majority.

"I deeply love my country but I don't want to end up like Iranian women," laments the young woman, employed in marketing, who plans to emigrate to the Netherlands with her older sister.

The theme of emigration and the brain drain did not emerge during the campaign, dominated for a week by the question of the return of the 3.7 million refugees living on Turkish soil.

"We look with pity on those who knock on the door of other countries just to have a nicer car or a better phone", had launched in the fall the head of state, fulminating the "despicable whims" of a part of Turkish youth.

Kemal Kiliçdaroglu recently spoke to young people who have gone abroad.

"Come back, young people. This country needs you", he launched in early May on Twitter in response to a video of a dozen graduates from the prestigious Istanbul University of Bogaziçi pledging to return to Turkey s he asked them.

Ömer Altan, one of them, still hopes for a victory on Sunday from Kemal Kiliçdaroglu. "He will defend himself tooth and nail," says the Turkish student, who is completing a master's degree in electrical engineering at the Technical University of Denmark.

"More and more young and old are considering going abroad," he laments, castigating "the inequalities and corruption" that he says undermine Turkey.

The 25-year-old student, however, plans to return to Turkey regardless of the outcome of the second round.

"A re-election of Erdogan could also push me to come back to try to help achieve good things. Because there will be a greater need to do good if Erdogan wins."

26/05/2023 12:20:36 -         Istanbul (AFP)            © 2023 AFP