The IES Research Colloquium: Başak Kale

January 28, 2019

Başak Kale, Associate Professor (International Relations, Middle East Technical University): “Syrian Refugees in Turkey: Understanding and Analysing High Social Acceptance and Reluctant Social Cohesion”

Lunch will be served at 12:00 pm
12:15 pm
CK Choi, Rm. #351

Abstract – Hosting the biggest refugee population in the world, Turkey has been an interesting case to observe the limits of social acceptance and social cohesion with respect to refugee integration. Within the course of seven years, the political discourse for the acceptance of Syrians refugees had evolved labelling Syrians from “guests” and “temporary protection holders” to “prospective citizens”. Turkish public has demonstrated an understanding approach in accepting refugees constituting 4% of its population in a relatively rapid period of time. This research argues that despite the increasing polarization within the Turkish society, the last couple of years have proved that Turkish society still keeps a solid welcome for Syrian refugees. However, the findings of this research also highlights the limits of this welcome. This study demonstrates findings that reveal empirical evidence on the reluctant social cohesion in Turkey. It shows that there is high social acceptance in both refugee and host communities, but social cohesion proves to be weak. Turkish host community is reluctant in terms of extending their welcome to Syrian refugees as fellow “community members” with equal economic, social and political rights. An understanding of Syrian refugees as “future citizens” by Turkish citizens is way beyond an immediate reality. Contrary to the Turkish host community, Syrian refugees believe to have a future in Turkey as Turkish citizens with close connections to Syria. The differences between the understandings of these two communities frame the issue of the prospective nature of this relationship at the very core of this study. This research aims at scrutinizing the tenants of this interesting, but yet challenging divide in understanding.

There have been various studies looking at different aspects of the impact of Syrian refugees on Turkey. However, a nation wide analysis looking at the perception of Turkish citizens and Syrian refugees on social cohesion has been missing. Taking perceptions of both Turkish citizens from diverse backgrounds and Syrian refugees living in and out of camps, this comprehensive study based on a nationwide survey on perceptions of both host and refugee communities looks at the empirical findings revealing the resilient but yet reluctant nature of social cohesion and its limits. Scrutinizing the pre-conceptualized notions of social solidarity based on societal homogeneity and/or assimilation, this research argues that social cohesion cannot be seen as the end goal for refugee integration process. Accepting that it is a dynamic process rather than an end product, integration policies have to be restructured and analysed over time for the changing and dynamic social circumstances.