Eastern Turkey - Giving something back

Giving something back

Eastern Turkey sees far fewer tourists than the western part of the country, and it is generally fair to say that it is less well developed, poorer and more backward than the western part. It has been likened to Turkey’s Middle East. About 45% of Turkey’s population lives here, yet it produces only some 8% of gross domestic product. Most seasoned observers of Turkey regard this discrepancy and the harsh reality  it reflects for the largely Kurdish local inhabitants as the single most pressing issue that the government needs to address. Until it is, much of the Kurdish population will remain disaffected and potentially volatile, and the government will need to tie up large amounts of money and troops.

Household monthly expenditure in the southeast has been calculated as the lowest in the country – as low as US$150 a month – at least eight-times lower than in the western region of Marmara (which includes İstanbul). Yet the birth rate is the highest in the country, because it is also the region where fewest girls go to school, and poor education goes hand in hand with a higher birth rate. Studies have shown that women in eastern Turkey want on average three children, but end up having more like six. Handing out contraceptive devices is obviously not your role as a visitor, but if the subject arises, you can do your bit to help educate and encourage women to use contraception.

With so many rivers and lakes, water scarcity is not a problem, neither is electricity shortage, so you need not be too worried about using the country’s resources. An area where you can set a good example, however, is litter, especially in the countryside. Make certain you never leave any debris after picnics – there are plenty of bins in the towns where you can dispose of rubbish properly. Children often cluster round asking for money (para in Turkish), sweets (bonbons), or pens (kalem), but the problem will only get worse if you hand out goodies. Give generous donations in the churches and monastery offertory boxes, as these are communities that struggle to make ends meet.

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