Turkey’s worrying brain drain, those who left speak their minds

In wide-ranging interviews,  four different Turkish nationals who have since left the country told their stories that highlight how Turkey is being robbed of its best when it comes to skills as more and more emigrate to greener pastures, according to Birgün daily.

Aslihan (36) moved to England in March 2018 and works in the finance sector. Firat Topal (37) works as a general accountant and treasurer, also in the finance sector in Holland, he moved there in December 2017.

Gokhan (39) worked as a designer for twenty years, a year back he moved to London with his family. Gizem (30) moved to Australia in October 2018 with her husband. Gizem is now in her fifth year as a financial expert.

Q: What is your reason for leaving Turkey?

Aslihan: I have a child who is two and a half years old. Therefore, our basic motivation was education. The education system in Turkey, as it was in the past, is a puzzle and lacks vision. However, this uncertainty has hugely increased in the recent past quality still lacks. This almost destroyed everyone’s trust in the system. The anti-secular changes in the curricula of public schools are alarming. Private schools have a proper curriculum but are expensive. In a family where two parents work, one of the wages goes to school expenses.

Fırat Topal left Turkey and moved to Netherland. (Photo: Birgün)

Firat: When it comes to love, it is impossible to predict the time you want to leave and make plans. I can explain our reasons for settling in a country where we do not speak the local language. It is the possibility of maintaining the world you have built for your family without being under too much threat from the outside, knowing that you are not interfered by the state or other people.  When you also consider a better social life and the desire to work in institutions where workers’ rights are protected and the freedom of international travel, your reasons for leaving the country are formed.

Gökhan: Our first priority was our daughter’s education. My wife and I were also middle-level managers in international companies. Before we had our daughter, the idea of living abroad was in a corner of our minds, but when our daughter was born, the plan took priority. Considering the reason we left was education, and also considering the current situation in education back home, we made this decision.

Gizem: I can say our reasons were the negatives we experienced in education and law in Turkey. In other words, the inability of the legal system to function properly and the constant changes to the education curriculum, the dismissal of deans, research assistants and instructors. I am married and when we decide to give birth to a child, we did not our child to be educated in a hollow educational environment. In short, we decided to go abroad to secure our future and feel safe.

Q: Is Turkey experiencing a brain drain? What are the reasons for this?

Aslihan: Young brains of the country do not feel safe. People who cannot freely express their thoughts, are suppressed, marginalised and are becoming increasingly impoverished choose the option to express themselves more freely with the same effort.

Firat: It is not possible to put a valid diagnosis for everyone. There are those who build a solid financial basis in a five-ten day period in a year after investing in business opportunities, and they leave Turkey temporarily. They do not have too many complaints from their country, and often prefer a lifestyle similar to the one they had back home. Of course, there are also people who change their minds and extend their stay. There is also a group of people who are not content with the socio-cultural and political condition of the country in the last twenty or even thirty years. Some are devoted to their children’s future and wish to bring them up in a better environment in terms of educational standards.

Gökhan: As far as I can follow, the children’s education is one of the important reasons. Another reason, I would say people feel their professions are not given the value they deserve. The political situation of the country is another reason, of course.

Gizem: Young individuals do not feel safe. Because they can see the justice system does not work. They cannot foresee a future in the country. Always, in every field, uncertainty in economy, politics and education prevails. They see their incomes and buying power decreasing day by day.

Q: What are your thoughts about the country’s future?

Aslihan: I still have hope!  I still love my country despite leaving it. And one day I believe it will come to a much better point than its current state.

Firat: After the 1980 military coup in Turkey a social crisis started. There are certain problems such as cultural degeneration, increasing ignorance that has been exalted in the last decade, and hence the hatred towards the knowledgeable person, the othering, and the anger towards people on the other side as a result of this othering.

These factors, which have increased their influence in the last 38 years, unfortunately, created a very bad environment in a country with a very dark background in such areas as civilised discussion, fundamental rights and freedoms and social security.

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The alienation of individuals, social media and conventional which exalts and degrades people overnight, the admiration for sensation over knowledge have all contributed to the creation of a bomb ready to explode. The current political actors are quite successful in using this negative picture for the continuation of their power.

The people who complained about this environment fled to small cities on the Aegean coast or hid behind the walls and security guards of the big cities, and yet there were the ones who kept their longing to settle out of the country. Seventy million angry, dissatisfied, impatient and information to reach the people who do not want to make any effort to throw a cage and fight each other as we watch.

The indigenous people who complained about this environment fled to small cities on the Aegean coast or the walls and security guards in the big cities, and the ones who had the opportunity had a great longing to settle out of the country. It has become a country that label studies with a variety of offences and it does not give Turkey the signal will change for the better.

Gökhan: At the moment, I think we have never been as divided as today in our history. Previously, people lived in this land with different ideas, but the two extremes had never been so dissociated. Moreover, one of the ends is very aggressive. People with different opinions have also become a minority. They’re afraid to express their opinions. That was a reason for the migration. This process will continue in the future as the current majority wants this. We are quite far away from bringing the two masses together in the middle, I think this will exacerbate further.

Q: Do you have any concerns about starting a new life in your destination country?

Aslihan: It is always hard to establish a new life, but working, producing people can see the value given to one’s efforts here. Therefore the difficulty is not more than the difficulty back home for “survival” and to live like a human being.

Firat: I have had this concern since the moment I arrived abroad, but it was also an adventure. Of course, my wife’s life here in this adventure was an important help. Needless to say, there are many problems here too, such as racism, alienated individuals and people who shout “ we don’t like foreigners in this town.” Today, in Germany, even if you have the same qualifications, an immigrant has to apply ten more times than a  German.

Gökhan: Of course I do. In the first year, we experienced this difficulty. We’re around people who don’t know us, we’re in a country where we can’t speak our own language. We have to establish ourselves as individuals in both professional life and in daily life.

Gizem: Of course. If you think about it, you have a specific career in your own country. And in a new country, you start from scratch. It’s not easy.

Q: Are you planning to return home in the future?

Aslihan: Of course I do. If living conditions in my own country (education, fundamental rights and freedoms, economic conditions) start to compare with living conditions of the country I live in, why not?

Firat: I don’t have such a plan at the moment. My reasons for leaving my country were reasons such as being over-populated, traffic, leisure life, travel opportunities and they all played a role. There are things we have inherited from the history of the country and they are stuck to people’s character, and I don’t think these will change. That’s why I’m not thinking of going back.

Gökhan: I don’t know what the conditions will be, but I don’t think of it as I don’t think the country will change in the way I expect. It’s not just about education or political reasons. There are two separate sides, the faces on our side do not laugh much. I didn’t see them laughing on the other side either, though.

Gizem: It’s uncertain for us, frankly. We have no idea about this right now.

Those who discriminated against are quick to leave
Q: Do you have any other friends who left?

Firat: In the last five years, two families and about three to four friends and acquaintances have settled in countries like Canada, England, Netherlands, Germany and UAE.

Gökhan: As far as I can follow, children’s education is an important reason. Another reason, I would say professionals do not receive the value they deserve. If I give an example from my own sector, I was positively surprised by the value and importance given to my profession. The country’s political situation is another reason.

Gizem: We have friends working with annual contracts in their overseas projects and want to extend their term and stay abroad as long as they have the chance.

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