Kleff H.G.: The Turkish Interior Migration, 2007

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Apart from the different migrations caused by expulsions in the 19th century and until the twenties of the 20th century there have always been seasonal migrations between the villages and the somewhat distant summer pastures. From the 19th century, there began the seasonal migration of small farmers or tenants as agricultural workers. They mostly went to the areas where commercial crops such as of cotton, were groan as in the coastal plains.
In connection with this it has to be pointed out, that the nomadic traditions of Anatolian peasants never supported the strong attachment of peasants to a certain piece of land as was usual especially among Western European peasants after the Middle Ages.

The Period from 1950 – 1980

The rapid mechanization of Turkish agriculture as of 1950 -based on U.S. loans in the context of Marshall Plan Aid- was the initial impetus for the massive internal migration which has changed the structures of Turkey in the last 60 years radically. The loans were granted primarily to farmers and large landowners. Only they could provide the necessary collateral through their land titles. The mass of tenants and peasants didn't get any loans because of this. In consequence of this, hundreds of thousands tenants were expelled from the soil, when farmers and large landowners for the first time could farm their land alone with tractors, combines and a few agricultural workers.
1.5 million people left their villages during the first migration phase between 1950 and 1960. This amounted to 9 % of the rural population at the time. They usually came from the cereal cultivation areas in the Central Anatolian plateau, that had been the first to mechanize.
Approximately half of them migrated directly to the 3 largest towns of the country,
namely Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir. As a result, the population of Istanbul grew by almost 50 %, with similar levels of growth also experienced in Ankara and Izmir. Other migrants first migrated to the small and medium-sized towns in the immediate and broader environs and migrated to the big cities later.
Since there wasn't any state or municipal house building program, the migrants settled in the periphery of the cities on vacant municipal and state properties, setting up their squatter houses there illegally. They mostly settled in areas already settled by other immigrants from their villages or regions of origin. Although authorities tried to dismantle these “gecekondu” (turkish = built overnight) settlements, this went against old Ottoman law. In addition the political parties quickly recognized the settlers as potential voters and so they lured the settlers with promises of legalization of the settlements and provision of infrastructure.
From the beginning, rural migration confronted the municipal authorities with immense and largely insoluble infrastructure problems. Orderly town planning was no longer possible and the laying of paved roads, supply of electricity and water and sewage disposal were complicated and expensive in these unplanned squatter settlements. In the capital city of Ankara, which was erected in the twenties and thirties according to modern town planning principles, the areas provided for parks and green spaces were built over very quickly by the “gecekondus”.
Also from the beginning the rural immigrants generated strong displeasure among the urbanmiddle classes, who often lived in the immediate proximity of the Gecekondus. They felt completely overwhelmed by the migrants and their peasant culture. Similar phenomena of aversion and discrimination showed locals towards the rural immigrants in Western Europe. One difference was, that the immigrants from abroad were rejected in WesternEurope as ethnically “Turks” by mistake. Until now it is not really recognized, that the gap is not between local and foreign culture but between city and peasant culture as people of Istanbul know very well. An even bigger and more serious difference between Turkish internal and international migration is the fact, that in all internal migration centers the rural immigrants rapidly became the majority of the population while the old-established city population became minorities in their own cities. Parallel sorts of development
have occurred until now only in few districts in Western Europe.
During the period between 1960 and 1975, a further 6.8 million people turned their backs on their villages. These represented 33 % of the rural population. And again Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir absorbed almost the half of the rural migrants. The improvements of state run infrastructure was also a cause of the internal migration from the rural areas in this period:
The development of the road network first made it easier for the seasonal migrants
and later for the permanent migrants to leave the many previously isolated villages and regions. At the same time the development of health services and the easier accessibility of hospitals and health stations lowered the mortality rate and caused a strong rural population growth which strengthened the migration pressure. On the other side, great infrastructure projects -like dam and road construction but also the building activity in the municipal centers offered work for unskilled migrants.
At the same time there started after a change of the passport laws and recruiting agreementswith Western European countries, emigration abroad. About ten years later halts in recruiting in most Western European countries blocked this way out again. Were it not for the emigrants of these years the number of internal migrants would have been even far higher.
Despite the strong rural migration the rural population increased from 20.5 up to 25 million, between 1960 and 1980. Large portions of the rural population could only survive in the villages with the subsidization by the migrated fathers, husbands, sons and daughters. In return basic food was transported at visits directly by the village of origin to the family members in the cities.

The period from 1980 – 2007

In substance this system worked until the military coup of 1980. For various reasons internal migration accelerated greatly after the military coup. A major factor was the 1982 economic reforms of Prime Minister and later President Özal which were accompanied by enormous inflation. Different prices, among them prices for agricultural products, fertlizer and diesel fuel, were released. Now not only the subsistent peasants left the villages. Farmers producing for the market came under pressure too, when their product prices didn't increase in the same range as their costs. Simultaneously the depressing consequences of inflation -particularly for the lower classes-weakened the still existing familial solidarity between the villagers and the migrants in the cities. Therefore on the one hand famliy members in the villages were able to join the migrants and on the other hand they were forced to migrate because the couldn't survive in the villages when subsidies were not to forthcoming. Of course there were also attractive new income possibilities in the expanding export industries of Istanbul and Izmir and in some aspiring Anatolian provincial towns like Konya and Kayseri as well as in the booming tourism sector around Antalya and at the Agean coast.
Since the middle of the eighties, internal migration in the East and Southeast of the country increased enormously because of the war between the army and the Kurdish PKK. During the last 20 years many villages and whole areas were depopulated because the peasants had to choose either between collaboration with the respectively more dominant side or flight. The army often destroyed villages, fields and woods to deny the PKK sources of shelter and food. On the one hand the exiled migrated and still migrate to the big but undeveloped cities of the area, like Diyarbakir, Urfa and Gaziantep; on the other hand they migrate to the nearest cities at the Eastern Mediterranean region -namely to Adana and Mersin- and into the metropolitan areas of Istanbul, Izmir and Antalya. Meanwhile, Adana and Mersin should already have a Kurdish population majority. There are already
considerable Kurdish population concentrations in the interior immigration centers of
Western Turkey too. Besides the violence in tghe area, the Southeast Anatolian dam projects of the so called GAP project have disadvantaged large pecentages of the population too instead of delivering the promised improvement in the standard of living. This is another motive for migration:
The resettlement affected over 4000 villages and more than 5000 settlements. The
Atatürk, Karakaya and Bireçik dams led to resettlements of approx. 90,000 peasants.
Many persons affected received only insufficient compensations for the estates and properties they left behind. The majority of the compensated persons are therefore dissatisfied with her new settlements or their income is lower than before. Up until now hardly any new jobs have been created for residents. The "good" work is given mostly to qualified workers from Western Turkey. Moreover, primarily the traditional large landowners profit from the newly developed and irrigated areas.
All Turkish cities are still benefiting from rural migration from their environing villages. The cities of particularly underdeveloped or remote provinces are for their part also emigration places, though.

The Kurdish provinces of the Southeast and East still have a strong population growth. The simultaneousness of immigration and emigration is particularly strong in the cities there. They are a gateway station on the migration track from the villages to Western Turkey. Provinces in this region have the heaviest absolute migration losses. Two provinces of the Central Black Sea coast also belong to the provinces with very heavy absolute migration losses. The rural areas depopulate themselves rapidly. Beside this there are provinces where the population has declined in absolute terms. Among them are five provinces of the Central and Eastern Black Sea region and two East and Southeast Anatolian provinces, whose mountainous hinterland allows under today's circumstances no more rural existence and forces to migration.


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