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15th Anniversary - Year 2015, Issue# 31 - Dedication theme:
Freedom of Information in the Genetically Modified Age:
WATER, FOOD, HEALTH, ENVIRONMENT

Conference
Radicalization of the Middle East:
A Secular Perspective through Women and the UN Post-2015 Development Agenda

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

I would like to start by sincerely thanking Prof. Özay Mehmet for his time and attention, and the Carleton University/Modern Turkish Studies Initiative for giving me this opportunity to speak in front of you.

I’m here not only to share my observation and experience on the aforementioned title of this presentation, but also to learn from various distinguished experts from different regions of the world and interact with a wide audience on the overarching concept of the conference.

As conceptual ground, I’d like to start with the following two quotes:

“Secularism is a principle that involves two basic propositions. The first is the strict separation of the state from religious institutions. The second is that people of different religions and beliefs are equal before the law.” ―Secularism.org.uk

“We must unite. Violence against women cannot be tolerated, in any form, in any context, in any circumstance, by any political leader or by any government.”
―Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, United Nations

O V E R V I E W

Based on some existing dogmas and religious practices, “gender equality and girls and women rights” have been deliberately undermined both in the poorest and some richest countries in the world for too long. These dogmas, “tore”, customary, traditional, religious, and inherited practices have put young girls’ and women’s lives at risk within their families and communities to the extent of being killed, recognized as “honor killings”.

Although Turkey has been a secular Republic and Democratic country through the Lousanne Peace Treaty and formed by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (1881 – 1938) in 1923, it still couldn’t overcome these issues fully. On the contrary, the situation has been worsened during last decade or so! Why?

In order to understand the problem, we need to look at what has made Turkey what it is today, and what has been done to Turkey; how its enlightenment process was blocked and twisted, and how the “separation of powers” and the secular and democratic political structure is tried to be reverted to an Islamic state! One of the Republic’s core roots was the Village Institutions (Köy Enstitüleri), and they were completely closed down prior to 1950, about 12 years after Ataturk’s departure from this world.

VILLAGE INSTITUTIONS OF TURKEY
The very first implemented Universal Education program for girls and boys

In 1927, when Latin script was introduced in Turkey, 82.5 % of the male population and 92.5 % of the women population was illiterate. [*]

The Village Institutions (V.I.) (1940-1950*) was one of the core visions and successfully implemented programs of Atatürk’s for the newly formed modern country in order to overcome critical social problems through an enlightenment process, through education and teachers.

Accordingly, teachers of the V.I.s could return to their villages and educate their countrymen and women in every corner of the country. Thus, V.I.s met the country’s urgent NEED, in particular, following the introduction of the Latin script in 1927. It was also its first kind in the Middle East and Islamic World in terms of “girls and boys” attending a school together. The students were selected from the country’s poorest children in order to provide them a teaching career in the form of “free universal education”. This example alone is far ahead of the present times’ Millennium Development Goals and the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda for 2030 of the United Nations.

The V.I.s educated and graduated 1,308 women and 15,943 men (total 17,251) as young teachers during its very short life-span. That alone has strengthened the country greatly and provided fundamental human resources to continue to nourish for many decades even after the institutions’ complete extinction.

In this context, the extinction of the V.I.s might be considered as one of earliest and harshest attack against the infrastructure of modern secular Republic of Turkey.
[*] Source: http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/1186471?sid=21106102000243&uid=3739832&uid=4&uid=2&uid=3739256

The Village Institutions were never considered to be re-opened and no government could fully overcome serious social issues as honor killings, domestic violence, and related consequences - reactions within family, relatives, village, town, city, and the country at large!

These practices have been some of the unnamed and unpunished key fundamental barriers in front of the basic girls/women rights and human developments in Turkey, in the Middle East, and the developing countries. The “full development process” and “human developments of Turkey” have been blocked since the extinction of the V.I.s.

According to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP-2007 & OECD-2008 Report page#17), “women represent more than 70% of the world’s poor –population- due to unequal access to economic opportunities in both developed and developing countries”. To that extent, although Turkey had presented a remarkable model during the first 15 years of its formation, and a foundation for human development and self-reliance and national level sustainability, it was completely dismantled by cutting off one of the most important components of the new secular country.

To add on the UNDP’s report, despite technological achievements and women being in the work force and all levels of society, particularly in the developing countries, and despite the UN’s MDGs from 2000 to 2015, only 3% (*) of women in the world owns property!

In this picture, how could Turkey, the Middle East, and developing countries, and the world at large, be safe, and secure; and how could development be human centered in a sustainable and healthy environment?

It has become more evident that no one can be safe and sustain life for long unless the entire world political structure is transformed into a secular, democratic, free, human development-centered, transparent, and accountable one!

(*) According to International Center for Research on Women (http://www.icrw.org/what-we-do/property-rights) and Huffington Post (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/soraya-chemaly/women-own-1-of-the-worlds_b_1076715.html), this is only 1% or less than 1%.

For the full presentation (as pdf file) please click on the following image or the below title:

Bircan Unver, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada
Radicalization of the Middle East:
A Secular Perspective through Women and the UN Post-2015 Development Agenda


Presented by Bircan ÜNVER

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