We at Spectrum House try to understand the new emerging dynamics in political, cultural and social platforms in an era where new system theories and social models are discussed and carry out research and studies to do this. In this study we intended to understand what the opinions and experiences of the Kurdish generation Z are in a wide range of matter that are in direct and indirect focus of the politics including identity, belonging, social life, religion, gender, future plans and dreams.
Young generations which constitute the most dynamic parts of today’s societies influence potential political developments in Turkey just like they do in the rest of the world. The role of young generations that affect socio-cultural and socio-economic balances and are relevant to the building of social policies in social transformation is acknowledged worldwide.
Turkey has the youngest population in the continental Europe and findings of many field studies on young people that have been conducted recently have been published. These studies mostly have generalizing and reductive frameworks and studies focusing on ethnical differences and the dynamics of such differences are relatively less common.
Based on these facts, we at Spectrum conducted a study on Kurdish generation Z in three Kurdish cities, Diyarbakır, Van and Şırnak which have the youngest population in Turkey and 28 sampling areas including most notably major cities such as Izmir and Istanbul to try to understand them under 5 main topics. Our objective in this study is to investigate and measure world perspectives, production relations, behaviour styles, socio-political orientations of the Kurdish generation Z and provide an assessment of the situation for policy makers, nongovernmental organizations and researchers in the country.
Therefore this study is neither an election barometer nor an attempt to classify political orientations. In this study we tried to understand cultural, political and social transformation of the Kurdish generation Z within the context of digitalization and communication technologies with the “digital habitus” concept.
We hope that this report will have a contribution, however small to understanding the Kurdish generation Z and to further studies on this subject. We want to continue to do further studies and research projects on the Kurdish generation Z for different areas based on the findings and details of the study.
We would like to thank our teams who worked hard, carried out and coordinated face to face interviews and contributed greatly to this study and to our friends who supported and guided us with their ideas from the very beginning.
Additionally we would like to thank to our young friends who participated in our survey and patiently responded to all of our questions and made great contributions for us to understand youth dynamism.
We know that there are increasingly more research and studies while Turkey is heading into a very important election. These studies are mainly focused on floating votes and young generations. Especially the size of the young population that will vote for the first time in the next election and the effect of these new young voters on the election results increase the importance of the studies on this subject. As seen in many studies, floating votes that are equal to 33 percent and new voters that are equal 10 percent will have a significant and decisive effect on the election results. Studies on young people are largely focused on the “Generation Z” and their behaviours, preferences, expectations, feelings and their relationship with politics are an important source of interest.
Young generations that constitute majority of the population in Turkey are mostly in fight with the dominant and established codes. In societies where gerontocracy in hierarchy mandates and those who set rules are chosen according to their age and similar classifications, young generations are considered to be a group of population whose limits are defined by the status quo with the belief that they need to be controlled. Lack of understanding about sociology and even social psychology of young people demonstrates that studies on youth are insufficient. This study attempts to understand youth dynamism and represents a sub-field study with the awareness on the subject.
Young population which consists of a range of categories including generations Z, Beta, Alpha, University Youth, Working-Unemployed Youth, Young Women, Young LGBTIQ+ and cannot be treated as a whole is one of the most important components of the society and an important actor to build the future. Young Kurdish generation in Turkey, one of the countries with the youngest population both in Europe and in the world is one of the most important building stones for youth dynamism in the country. This generation stands out as the generation that both affects socio-political and socio-cultural dynamics and is affected by these dynamics in the country as a result of the fast development of the communication technology.
According to the TUIK data, the total population of Turkey as of the end of 2020 was 83 million 514 thousand and 362 and the young population between the ages of 15-24 was 12 million 893 thousand 750. Based on this data, young population represents 15.4 percent of the total population. According to the results of the Address Based Population Registration System (ADNKS) the city with the highest percentage of young population is Hakkari with 23.4 percent. Şırnak with 22.5 percent and Siirt 21.8 percent follow Hakkari. The cities with highest young population percentages include cities with higher Kurdish population such as Ağrı, Muş, Van, Batman, Bitlis, Mardin, Urfa, Iğdır, Erzurum, Diyarbakır, Kars, Bingöl, Antep and Adıyaman. The percentage of young population between the ages of 15-24 in 19 cities with a high Kurdish population is 28.1 percent and this percentage is almost twice the average in Turkey.
The fact that the cities with the highest percentage of young population are Kurdish cities give out important clues on how and to what extend young Kurdish people play a role in and affect determining future socio-politics.
Today young generations mostly live in a digital habitus where they fight with established institutions and demonstrate behaviour that differs from traditional social patterns. Although the implications of digitalization on generations in different parts of the world are not the same, it is clear from many studies and research that the opportunities emerged with the changing communication technology have a major impact on young generations.
On the other hand, it has become a necessity to understand the effects of wars and conflicts, social polarization and political tension which have been going on for a long time in Turkey on young Kurdish generation and to develop solution suggestions. Understanding the opinions of the young generation which constitutes an important part of the Kurdish society on democracy, human rights, ethnical identity, social gender roles, religion and perceived discrimination, their trust in institutions and future concerns, evaluating preferences for social relationships as a result of the developments in digitalization and communication technologies, measuring their political expectations and orientations have become important.
In today’s world where even small age differences have an impact on political and cultural behaviour and attitudes, discovering generation Z’s approach to politics, social and cultural life, identify their similarities and differences with past generations is one of the ways to have a better understanding about them. Understanding, recognizing Kurdish generation Z, one of the actors of social system from production-consumption habits to ways of working, from their life styles to their emotional worlds, and to new political understanding, organization and group relationship as a result of digitalization and focusing on the formation, development and differentiation of this young dynamic have become a major necessity.
This study was done with the objective to understand the effects of heavy political, social and economic problems that Turkey currently has on the young generation and find the determining factors in the young generation’s approach to these problems. The study focuses on the shaping of youth dynamisms affected by the close interest and interaction with digitalization, i.e. “digital habitus”.
In this study we intended to understand what the opinions and experiences of the Kurdish generation Z are in a wide range of matters that are in direct and indirect focus of the politics including identity, belonging, social life, religion, gender, future plan and dreams.
This study is focused on understanding the Kurdish generation Z on five core topics: “demographics, education, employment, income level”, “media preferences”, “daily and social life”, “ethnical identity, religion and discrimination” and “politics”.
Spectrum House conducted a research to understand youth dynamism in the Kurdish society which has a young population, to assess socio-political and socio-cultural orientations of the Kurdish generation Z, to discover their relationship with new communication and media tools, their future plans and expectations, and to measure their concern, anxiety and satisfaction levels.
The study included 1,012 young Kurdish people. The study tried to measure and assess wishes, orientations, satisfaction levels and expectations of these young people in different areas ranging from local administrations to civil society, participation to politics to economic situation, from demographic characteristics to employment and income level, from media preferences to social life, from ethnical identity to language, religion and perceive discrimination.
This field study was conducted using a face-to-face questionnaire in two main regions; Kurdish cities and Western cities. Diyarbakır, Van and Şırnak were chosen as the Kurdish cities. Diyarbakır and Van have been granted metropolitan status and have heterogeneous youth categories. Şırnak does not have metropolitan status and is another Kurdish city chosen for the study sample with a relatively lower population density. Istanbul and Izmir are both big cities with a high Kurdish population and this Kurdish population has a strong interaction and communication with the Kurdish cities.
The face to face survey was done using printed questionnaire forms and smart devices in 26 regions according to the Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics (NUTS2). The field study was conducted between the dates of December 20, 2021 and January 10, 2022. The study sample was determined using a selection method specific to Kurdish youth in the 15-24 age group. The margin of error for the study findings is +/− 1,7 with a confidence interval of 95 percent. The participants of this study were informed that they would fill out a questionnaire about the opinions of the Kurdish generation Z, that the participation was completely voluntary, that they could end the questionnaire whenever they wanted and all the information provided would be kept confidential and would never be disclosed to third parties and no identity information would be required.
- The Kurdish generation Z is not homogenous. On the contrary, as a heterogeneous group with people from different social classes, different cultural variables and different political orientations, they are a generation affected significantly by the consequences of political, cultural and economic developments in the country.
- Although political aspirations of this generation are similar to past generations, their distanced position to politics and policy makers stands out as a noteworthy detail.
- The Kurdish generation Z keeps its distance to playing a role and making an effort to change political, social and economic developments compared to past generations despite being well aware of them.
- The main problems of the Kurdish generation Z are unemployment, future concerns and economic problems and these affect significantly their anxiety, fear and future plans.
- The Kurdish generation Z markedly differs from previous generations and their parents in terms of their education levels and the literacy rate has been increasing.
- Almost 85 percent of the Kurdish generation Z lives with their parents. This data shows that these young people are economically dependent on their parents.
- Forty three percent of the Kurdish generation Z has a monthly income of less than 1,000 TL and 54 percent has a monthly income of less than 1,500 TL. More than half of the Kurdish young people have an income that is not enough to meet their basic needs which could be interpreted as a barrier for them to be independent.
- Political attitudes of the Kurdish generation Z are mainly parallel to those of the Kurdish society. Majority of the factors that determine continuity in political attitudes of young people come from the common culture and collective memory.
- When we look at the media relations of the Kurdish generation Z, instead of TV, radio and print media there is an increasing demand for digital media sources. Almost half of the sources of social and political information for this generation are social media platforms. Young people spend an important part of their time on the Internet and the trend to be a part of digital information has been increasing.
- Participation and involvement of the Kurdish generation Z in organizational structures such as nongovernmental organizations, associations and political parties is quite low. Young people do not trust these structures and do not believe in changing, and transforming power of them and think that these organizations are highly hierarchical and are not comprehensive.
- Almost two third of the Kurdish generation Z want to live abroad due to economic problems, unemployment, political uncertainty and polarization.
- The Kurdish generation Z has a rather low level of trust in the institutions such as governments, military, police, justice and bureaucracy. It is interesting that the trust in the President is as low as 15 percent. One of the most striking results is about trust in municipalities. The distrust in municipalities in Kurdish cities is high: Fifty six point eight percent in Diyarbakır, 57.1 percent in Şırnak and 45.3 percent in Van.. One of the most important reasons for distrust could be the appointment of trustees since 2016.
- Three fourths of the respondents in this study reported that they identified themselves as Kurdish. The percentage of those who reported that they did not belong to any ethnical identity is markedly higher in Van than other cities.
- Three fourths of the Kurdish generation Z reported that they were discriminated based on ethnic origin, language, gender and economic status. This seems to be accelerating especially with the conflict and polarization policy which started to be re-implemented since 2015. Fifty percent of the participants in the study reported that there is discrimination in the general society, media, courts, army and police and 49.6 percent claimed that there is discrimination in political parties. This represents one of the important reasons for anxiety, insecurity and dissatisfaction in young people.
- Three fourths of the Kurdish generation Z reported that they belonged to a religion and 97.5 percent of those reported in this way were Muslim. Fifty two point seven percent of the young people (37.5 percent definitely not religious, 15.2 percent not religious) reported that they were not religious.
- Thirty eight percent of the Kurdish generation Z did not feel themselves close to any political party, while 55 percent sympathize with a political party. When we looked at the parties they felt close to, HDP came first by a long run with 57.8 percent. On the other hand, 18.4 percent of young Kurdish people felt close to CHP.
SECTION I: DEMOGRAPHICS, EDUCATION LEVEL, EMPLOYMENT, INCOME
Distribution of Respondents According to City of Residence
The face to face survey was done using printed questionnaire forms and smart devices in 26 cities in Turkey according to the NUTS2 system.
Distribution of Respondents According to Age
The study included a total of 1,012 people. 95,8 percent of the study sample were in the age group of 18-25.
Distribution Of Respondents According to Gender
Gender balance was kept and therefore there were 52 percent female and 48 percent male respondents in the study.
Distribution of Respondents According to Education Level
Fifty seven point nine percent of the respondents were high school students/graduates, 20.4 percent were university students/graduates and 21.7 percent had secondary education or lower.
When we looked at the education levels of the respondents who were students, 45.4 percent were studying for a bachelor’s degree, 14 percent were studying for an associate degree, 31.7 percent were in high school and 5.8 percent were studying to get their elementary school degree.
Distribution of Respondents According to Househould
According to the TUIK data, the household size was 3.3 people in 2020 in Turkey however this increased to 4.11 in Kurdish cities. The mean household size of the sample is 5.3 people. This shows that Kurdish households still have a higher number of people.
Income Level of The Study Participants
The participants were asked about their monthly income. Forty three point one percent of the respondents had a 1,000 TL or less monthly income and 54.9 percent had an income of less than 1,500 TL. Twenty five point eight percent of the participants had an income between 1,500 and 3,000 TL. When we look at the results we see that more than half of the Kurdish youth have an income blatantly insufficient to meet their basic needs.
SECTION II: MEDIA PREFERENCES
Habitus, Digital Habitus and Generation Z
Internet which entered into our lives with the advancement in communication technologies followed by a digital revolution has transformed people, relationships and social life especially in the last twenty five years. In today’s world, which is heavily dominated by technological revolution, ability to choose dynamic, buyable and multiple identities have resulted in a variety of orientations and pursuits in the digitalized world.
Today detecting and understanding “internalized orientations” within the “digital habitus” seems to be a necessity with the digitalization of culture, social relationships and feeling economy.
The term habitus which was conceptualized by Pierre Bourdieu as a new social field overlaps with the digital area which is created and used as a new cultural concept by the generation Z, defined also as digital natives. Therefore addressing the concept as a whole and conceptualizing it with the digital environment would facilitate things. The concept, even in this state, compels us to consider a new social field not included in the conventional social theories while opening a new world of thinking.
Today the digital environment or digital culture is both an environment created based on perceptions of the generation Z and also an environment where this generation feels at home. Although generation Z, defined as an exceptional generation due to its many unique characteristics is actively involved in many production and consumption areas in the society, they have a connection and sense of belonging to the digital environment based on their world of perception.
Habitus is created by one’s upbringing, time spent, education and character. Therefore it is possible to say that digital relationships on the internet, an environment where almost all of these factors are affected and reshaped create a new habitus. This digital habitus is a new invisible but determinant reality which affects trends, preferences and perceptions of young people who are the biggest and most frequent users of the Internet.
Based on these facts, it is possible to claim that majority of the generation Z are “digital natives”, in other words “active subjects of the habitus” newly emerging. As a matter of fact, the main reason why generation Z feels better in the digital world is not only that this is the environment they are familiar with. Since it is a world they themselves have created, they feel like natives there. Accordingly, while on the one hand, habitus is a direct product of the social structure, on the other hand it also appears as a structure of social practices which recreates social structures.
Based on the above, contextualization between “habitus” and “digital nativeness” would be important and useful both to understand young generations and the Kurdish generation Z. The Kurdish generation Z uses digital communication tools in a way which is different from past generations and shows internalized trends within the digital habitus. Young people spend most of their time not by watching television, listening to the radio or reading print paper but on the Internet. One fourth of young people use the Internet to follow the news and politics and remaining use it to watch movies-shows, to socialize, to listen to the music and for other purposes.
Almost half of the Kurdish generation Z (48 percent) reported that they prefer social media tools as a social and political source of information. Another finding that support this data is that almost no one prefers print media. Young people who have social media as the main information source follow websites of television channels and newspapers on the Internet.
Half of the Kurdish generation Z reported that they play online games. With regard to membership based social media platforms, the percentage of the respondents who use Instagram was 87.7 percent, Facebook and Twitter was 50 percent and TikTok was 30 percent. This data indicates to new orientations, habits, perceptions which are created and reshaped by the digital habitus due to the effects of internet based digital platforms in which young generations are actively engaged. In the process of the upcoming election it should be noted that the young generation especially with these orientations and perceptions differ in their political, social and economic preferences and approaches.
Television Watching Habits
When asked how much time they spent daily watching television, 28 percent of the respondents reported that they did not watch television. Fourteen point two percent of the respondents watched half an hour to an hour and 24 percent watched less than 2 hours of television daily. According to the 2018 survey of RTUK, average time spent daily per person to watch television was 3 hours 34 minutes in Turkey. Considering the above, it is possible to conclude that there is a significant decline in time spent watching television among young Kurdish people.
Print Media Reading Habits
When we asked young Kurdish people whether they read newspapers, 86.1 percent told that they never read print newspapers. The declining percentage of people who do not read newspaper in the general society is even lower among young people.
Majority of the respondents who read newspapers follow Yeni Yaşam newspaper which is one of the platforms of the Kurdish media. Most of the respondents did not prefer Kurdish newspapers and the fact that 40 percent of the respondents read newspapers that favour government represents a noteworthy detail.
According to the survey of the TUIK on the use of information technologies at home the percentage of people within the age group of 16-74 who use Internet is 82.6 percent in 2021. According to the results of this study, only 5.4 percent of the respondents never used Internet. Based on this data and the relationship Kurdish young people have with the media, it can be concluded that they spend most of their time on the Internet rather than television, radio or newspaper. This data represents one of the most important factors that differentiate generation Z from past generations.
Half of the respondents reported that they used Internet to watch shows, movies etc. and one fourth of the respondents used it to follow news and politics. This shows that Internet users have a higher interest in politics than television viewers. This also demonstrates that source of information about politics for young people is the Internet.
Majority of the postings on the Internet include photos and videos. Contrary to these kinds of posts, people do not often prefer to share posts about current political or social developments. The reason for this finding, considering frequent use of Internet as a source of information for political and current events could potential risks of facing trial for sharing such posts or depolitical attitude of young people.
When we looked at the membership based social media platforms, most of the respondents have a WhatsApp account (93.4 percent). Following WhatsApp, Instagram is the second most used platform (87.7 percent) by young people. Considering the fact that young people mostly prefer to post photos and videos, it is not surprising that Instagram is their favourite social platform. The percentage of respondents who use Facebook and Twitter is 50 percent. The percentage of Kurdish young people who use TikTok is 30 percent. These percentages indicate to the media which should be used for advertisement for the political institutions and the considerations for content creation.
Almost half of the respondents (48 percent) reported that they use social media as a social and political information source. Another finding that support this data is that almost no one prefers print media. Television channels and newspapers are the second preferred source of political and social information for the respondents.
When we looked at reading habits, as high as 35 percent of the respondents reported they never read books. According to the results of Turkey Trends Survey 2021, 59.5 percent of the general public never read books. Compared to the general public, higher percentage of young Kurdish people read books but nevertheless an important percentage of them never reads. Those who read books prefer to read novels. It is an interesting finding that 45 percentage of those who read books preferred to read books about politics, history, philosophy, sociology, psychology and social sciences.
When we asked for their online game playing habits, more than half of the respondents reported that they never play online games. Respondents who play online games mostly prefer games that contain violence. This data is associated with the reality of the digital game industry in the world; this is not something preferred only by young Kurdish people. Because most games are developed with a military story and includes wars, fights, survival and violence.
SECTION III: DAILY and SOCIAL LIFE
Satisfaction in Life
This section of the study assessed how satisfied young people are with their life. Majority of the respondents reported that they are not satisfied with their lives. The percentage of the respondents who are satisfied with their lives was only 20.8 percent. When we look at the satisfaction levels of the respondents according to the cities they lived, we found that majority of the respondents were not satisfied with their lives apart from those who lived in Izmir. Şırnak has the highest percentage of respondents who are not satisfied with their lives (70.6 percent) followed by Diyarbakır with 66.3 percent. TUIK in its Life Satisfaction Survey 2020 found that 47.1 percent of people in the 18-24 age group were satisfied with their lives and this clearly shows that young Kurdish people are less satisfied with their lives compared to their peers in Turkey. The reasons for this can be mainly the characteristics of the Kurdish conflict, the conflict conditions which have been escalated especially in the last 7 years; supervision, control and inspection of Kurdish cities and Kurdish society, income distribution and socioeconomic indicators.
Satisfaction with The City of Residence
When we asked the respondents about how satisfied they are with the city they are living in to understand their position within urban sociology, and find out their relationship with the city, we found that only one fourth of the respondents were satisfied with the city of residence, except for those in Izmir. Three fourths of the respondents reported that they are not happy with the city they live in. The highest dissatisfaction percentage is found those living in Şırnak with 58.8 percent. Şırnak is followed by Diyarbakır with 51.2 percent. The city with the highest satisfaction rate is Izmir. Similarity between satisfaction from the city of residence and satisfaction with life provides us an important idea that not being satisfied with the city of resident has an effect on their general satisfaction with life.
Reasons for Being Dissatisfied with The City of Residence
When we looked at the reasons why respondents are not satisfied with the city of residence, “economic distress” (38.4 percent) stands out as the determinant factor compared to other factors, similar to the general situation in the country. The factor that comes after this is the “city crowdedness” and associated increasingly difficult living conditions. When we combine factors for dissatisfaction such as “crowd”, “dislike for people”, “being unsafe” with individual pursuits and loneliness, these manifest themselves as common characteristics of young generations.
What Would You Want to Change in The City You Live in?
Since the things they would want to change could vary depending on the size of and possibilities offered by Western cities and Kurdish cities, we classified and examined Kurdish and Western cities separately. Among the things the respondents wanted to change in the Western cities, “transportation” comes first followed by “job opportunities”, a major problem within the country. “Increasing green areas” is also an important issue for young people.
In the Kurdish cities, “job opportunities” comes first by a wide margin (57.3 percent) followed by “accommodation conditions”. In this finding which shows that limited number of jobs is a major problem for young people, their desire to change accommodation conditions demonstrates that they want to be independent from their parents.
Do You Think Turkey Is Safe to Live?
When we asked the question “Do you think Turkey is safe to live?” to young Kurdish people, a high percentage of the respondents (63.2 percent) reported that they do not think Turkey is safe to live. Only 22.8 percent of the respondents finds Turkey safe which is interesting in that it shows the outcomes of security policies of the country.
Do You Prefer to Live Abroad Rather Than in Turkey?
Another data supported by many studies is that a very high percentage of young Kurdish people prefer to live abroad similar to young people in other ethnic groups. Sixty four point eight percent of the Kurdish respondents whom we asked the question “Do you prefer to live abroad rather than in Turkey” preferred to live abroad. This percentage is 57.4 percent in the Kurdish cities and 66.8 percent in the Western cities.
The answer to this question and the answer to the question “Do you think Turkey is safe to live?” complement and support each other. Although satisfaction with the Western cities was higher than the Kurdish cities, a higher percentage of the respondents in the western cities preferred to live abroad which is noteworthy. Although this looks like a contradiction at first glance, it can be related with discrimination towards and distrust against young Kurdish people in the Western cities or interpreted as a desire to achieve better living conditions and opportunities in those who benefit relatively more from the advantages of living in metropolitan cities.
Trust in Institutions
Trust in the Turkish Presidency is 15 percent among young Kurdish people. The percentage of those who distrust the Turkish Presidency is 64 percent. Twenty five percent, i.e. one fourth of the respondents answered “I neither trust nor distrust” which can be an interesting finding. The highest percentage of distrust for the Presidency is in Istanbul with 74 percent. Diyarbakır with 62.1 percent and Van with 59.3 percent follow Istanbul.
Trust in Municipalities
One of the most striking results is the answers of the respondents to the question about trust in municipalities. Distrust in municipalities in the Kurdish cities is very high (56.8 percent in Diyarbakır, 57.1 percent in Şırnak and 45.3 percent in Van). The reason for such high distrust in municipalities can be the appointment of trustees which started after 2016 and the quality of local municipality services. In parallel to the votes of HDP in the Kurdish cities, young Kurdish people have a strong distrust in trustee appointed municipalities. On the other hand, the city with the highest percentage of respondents trusting the municipality is Izmir with 42.8 percent. Again when we look at the percentages of satisfaction in the city o residence, trust in municipalities is low due to several factors such as lack of municipal services, lack of recreational areas. Another important finding in the study is the percentage of respondents who trust in the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality being as low as 18.9 percent and the percentage of those answered with “I neither trust or distrust” being 41 percent.
Trust in The European Union and ECHR
The percentages of the respondents who chose the answers “I trust”, “I don’t trust “ “I am indecisive” to the question about trust in the European Union and ECHR were almost equal (one third). The reason for this distrust / lack of trust in European organizations could be the impact of positive judgements of the ECHR about Selahattin Demirtaş and Osman Kavala not been executed by the Turkish government. It is also possible to conclude that lack of effective response and reaction from the organizations such as the European Union and ECHR to the authoritarian tendencies of the current Turkish government, problems in basic human rights and freedoms can play a role in the increase in distrust. The reason why 40 percent of the respondents gave the answer “ I neither trust nor distrust” could be that these organizations do not practice what they preach.
What Is Your Biggest Dream
Close to 70 percent of the respondents gave the following answers to this question: “a good career” and “moving abroad” (44.4 percent + 24.9 percent). The percentage of the respondents who answered with “to be away from ethnical, political, economic and patriarchal pressures” is 10.4 percent. Although the percentage of those who gave the above answers are higher among young Kurdish people, these also are in parallel with the current sociological trends.
Considering that career and moving abroad answers are personal choices, we could say that political orientation has become less organized (individual) compared to past generations. Looking at the answers to the biggest dream results, aspirations of young people are parallel to the remaining of the society and have a rational tendency. When we combine this finding with the biggest source of distrust, we find that “unemployment”, “future concerns (for the country and personal), “health problems”, “economic crisis” and “environmental problems” come at the top. The fact that these two findings support each other can be interpreted as the increasing importance of personal concerns.
Causes of Insecurity
When we look at the causes of insecurity for young Kurdish people, almost 50 percent of the respondents answered with “unemployment” and “personal future concerns”. “Concern for the future of the country” come right after personal future concerns. This indicates that although young people try to keep themselves away from the political environment, they actually follow the issues that affect and determine their preferences and living conditions and they have concerns about these. When insecurity is evaluated together with the answers given to the questions about satisfaction and future plans and dreams, it shows that socio-economic factors have a significant impact on security-insecurity status in young people.
Causes of Concern
When we look at the causes of concern for young Kurdish people we see that leading causes of concern are “social polarization” (47.1 percent) and “wars and conflicts” (24.6 percent). This can be interpreted as the reflection of the current polarized environment in Turkey on young men. Avoiding posting political opinions and contents in social media as a result of this situation can mean that they do not want to be involved in the polarization and conflict environment and are trapped in a turmoil of silence. The first two among the causes of concern for young women are “women murders” (46.8 percent) and “sexual harassment” (28.8 percent).
This finding clearly demonstrates the anxiety caused by increasing women murders and sexual harassment cases and legitimization and lack of punishment of male violence by the patriarchal system on young Kurdish women. When we assess these findings together, it is possible to conclude that social gender roles partially apply to young people.
Since global climate crisis is one of the most important problems that concern the entire world and directly affects everyone and every creature and would probably be felt the most by young people, we asked the respondents whether they have taken any action against climate crisis. Instead of political activism against climate crisis, young people prefer social /digital platforms to create awareness and convince and inform people. However, environmental problems and climate change are far from being at the top of causes of concern for young Kurdish people. Therefore, we see that informing young people about environmental problems especially climate crisis, increasing their awareness on the subject and developing solution oriented policies has become an important necessity.
Problems About Social and Daily Life
We asked some questions to the respondents about social life and told them whether they agreed with the statements.
- Three fourths of the respondents told that men should take as much responsibility at home as women do.
- More than half of the respondents (55.2 percent) did not agree with the following discriminatory statement: “men should be favoured in recruitment”.
- Almost half of the respondents (48.4 percent) agreed that family should be the main influencing factor in one’s life. A surprisingly high percentage of respondents at 30 percent did not agree with this.
- Although majority of the respondents lived with their parents, 36 percent did not agree with the statement “parents should stay together despite marital problems as long as their children live with them” which shows that young people want to live independent from their parents.
- Another variable which shows that individualism gets stronger is that 51.6 percent of the respondents agreed with the statement, “Everyone should be an individual and live his or her life as he or she desires”.
SECTION IV: ETHNICAL IDENTITY, RELIGION and PERCEIVED DISCRIMINATION
Three fourths (75.9 percent) of the respondents reported that they feel themselves belonging to an ethnical identity. High percentage of sense of belonging to an ethnical identity among young Kurdish people indicates that they have strong relationship with this identity and identify themselves with this identity. Strong emphasis on identity in young people is also a factor that determines their political attitudes, future plans and dreams, worries and satisfaction. It is also noteworthy that one fifth of the respondents do not feel that they belong to any ethnic group.
When the participants asked about the language(s) spoken at home, 86 percent gave Kurdish as the answer. However this cannot be interpreted that only Kurdish is spoken at home because 84 percent also gave Turkish as the answer. Here it is possible to conclude that interfamily communication for young people is bilingual.
The Kurdish generation Z seems to be much more bilingual (Kurdish-Turkish) than past generations. The use of Turkish as much as Kurdish in daily life and in the family is an interesting finding.
Three fourths of the respondents reported that they have been discriminated and 61.9 percent of the respondents have been discriminated because of their identity. They are exposed to discrimination mostly because of ethnic identity with 70.2 percent and language with 30.6 percent. This result shows that young Kurdish people are largely discriminated because of their language and ethnic identity and the perceived discrimination for their ethnic groups is high.
Sixty one point nine percent of the respondents answered yes to the question whether they feel they belong to a group which is discriminated or abused in the country, which is an important finding about perceived discrimination.
Young Kurdish people report that they are often discriminated because of their ethnic identity and language. In addition to the above, almost one third of the respondents reported that they have been discriminated because of their gender. The percentage of those who believe that they are discriminated due to economic conditions being higher than one fifth of the respondents indicate that young people have economic problems such as unemployment, financial difficulties, job opportunities.
Discrimination in Institutions
According to the answers to the questions about discrimination in institutions, the percentage of respondents who reported that there is discrimination in the “general society “ is 67.3 percent, in “media” it is 57.5 percent; in “courts” it is 56.9 percent, in the “military” and “police forces” over 50 percent and in political parties the percentage is 49.6 percent. In addition to the above, over 30 percent of the respondents thought that there is discrimination in many institutions including “schools/universities”, “workplaces” , “government offices, “municipalities”, and “NGOs”. Respondents believe that there is high level of discrimination almost in all parts of life, which can be one of the reasons why they have a low level of trust. This discrimination perceived by the respondents in all parts of life can be a determinant factor for them to feel unsafe, worried and dissatisfied.
When the respondents were asked what they do to reduce discrimination, 41.5 percent told that they do “nothing”. When the reasons were asked to those who do nothing, 47.2 percent gave the answer “nothing will change” and 28.7 percent said “not necessary”. The fact that a high percentage of respondents choose not to do anything provides an important insight about their despair found in the study. Just like in the climate crisis, the highest percentage of the respondents gave the answer “I would first change the opinions of people around me.” However we also see that there are active participations/reactions against discrimination: 23.4 percent of the respondents chose the answer “I have been in protests”. Additionally we see that close to 30 percent would vote for the people who they believe can make a change in the discrimination problem. This indicates that the words and actions of political institutions about discrimination are positively received by young people.
The answer with the highest percentage to the question, “Which Institutions Make An Effort To Reduce Discrimination” was “NGOs” (51 percent). The answer with the second highest percentage was democratic mass organizations with 37.7 percent and political parties came third with with 24.3 percent. As high as 43 percentage of the respondents answered “No” to the question “Do you believe that the institutions that make an effort provide any solution?”. Only 17 percent of the respondents answered “Yes” to this question. Here it is possible to say that the respondents generally feel hopeless about potential solutions to perceived discrimination.
When we looked at the effect of digitalization and technological development on the Internet use of the young people, digital habitus seemed to be acting as a new way of resistance, protest and action and providing a platform to show their personal dissatisfaction and resistance. Interactions on social media platforms such as like, comment and retweet have replaced conventional resistance styles such as protests, walks, and demonstrations and become the new platform for public reaction and sensitivity. These new circumstances also show their motives as individuals to be a part of a community with like-minded people and new organizational mechanisms and the virtual communities which they belong to.
Three fourth of the respondents answered that “they belong to a religion” to the question about religious identity. However when the respondents were asked whether they were religious, 52.8 percent reported that “they are not religious”. The total percentage of the respondents who answered “I am religious” was 23.3 percent. When asked “How often do you go to a house of worship” 54.7 percent said “never”.
Turkey is considered as one of the countries with a highly religious population, yet more than half of the young Kurdish people do not consider themselves as religious and the high percentage of respondents with 54.7 percent, who told that they never go to a house of worship supports this data. With the apparent decrease in religious beliefs in young people in general compared to past generations, a strong similar trend is also seen in young Kurdish people. Despite the attempts to create a religious youth profile using madrasas, religious orders, religious communities and religious institutions especially as a result of the government’s actions to achieve for religious generations, young Kurdish people show a more secular approach.
SECTION V: POLITICS
Kurdish generation Z: Political, apolitical or depolitical?
Politics which can be defined as the total of opinions and actions about governance in every area that affects social life can be considered as the tool and execution area for social demands. Problems faced by people can be solved with the inclusion of such people in the decision making mechanism. This is a framework that is valid for all groups comprising a society including young generations. Therefore active inclusion of the youth as a group in decision making processes requires them to provide new approaches in both social and individual problems.
Similar to their peers in the world, young Kurdish people can also be evaluated under categories such as political, apolitical and depolitical within this framework. First of all important historical, political and social factors that affect interest and participation of young Kurdish people in politics should be discussed.
It is possible to see what kind of political attitude and political orientation this generation has by reviewing the answers/ findings to the following questions: “Are you a member to any political party?”, “What would you like to change first in the country?”. While 89 percent of the respondents answered “I am not a member to any political party” to the first question, the percentage of the respondents who answered the “government system” to the second question was 52.5 percent and this percentage is relatively high compared to their answers to the first question. Therefore as understood from the answers to these two questions it can be concluded that this generation is not apolitical but rather prefer to be depolitical. However while the term apolitical is defined as “politically neutral position without any political attitude, content or prejudice” , depolitical is to intervene what is going on with one’s own will outside of the current political arena. In this sense, it can be concluded that it would be correct to refer to the Kurdish generation Z as depolitical since this shows the characteristics of this generation and relationship with the politics.
Being apolitical is a culture equivalent to being uninterested in social or political matters or not having a disagreeable approach. This culture is both a fictional and reculturing process within the digital habitus due to the communication strategy. The most important difference between political and depolitical becomes clearer right in this context. Because whether to react as an active subject to what is going on is within the realm of this reculturing and how it would be materialized is related to its expression. . Although their ideological and class reflexes are limited due to historical and social reasons, a clear anti-authoritarian culture which is characteristic to this generation is also apparent. Another interesting finding is that 55 percent of the respondents did not associate themselves with any political identity although they feel themselves close to HDP.
Therefore it would not be correct to straightforwardly define the Kurdish generation Z as apolitical. Instead of defining this generation as apolitical based on the sociological facts in which this generation is formed, it would more accurate to define it as a depolitical generation. It seems as an attitude of rejecting current policy making styles due to sociological facts. Accepting the depolitical image as a symbol for orienting towards main problems and concepts would be a more correct approach. Therefore the answers to the questions “Do you feel close to any political party?” and “what would you change?” show that the respondents are not indifferent to social events and facts.
Even these answers show that the generation Z is proportionally interested in politics (52.5 percent “not interested, 19.3 percent “interested”), but would not be actively involved in the political world and therefore prefer to remain depolitical. On the other hand, the bond they have with their cultural and ethnical identity (75.9 percent) and mother language (86 percent) indicates that this group is not apolitical but is depolitical. This can also be explained by digital habitus which has never been experienced providing possibilities and comfort which can change the forms and conditions of being political.
Additionally, a high percentage of respondents who wanted change government governance clearly demonstrates that this attitude is something about being anti-authoritarian. This corresponds to a political attitude for what is ideal but a depolitical attitude as a reflex and attempt to achieve what is ideal.
Although 74 percent of the respondents felt like they belong to a religion, a high percentage of residents (54.7 percent) was uninterested in performing religious practices which corresponds to another sociological fact. Therefore, religion and conservatism which are effective parts of the sociology of the Kurdish society seem to be on decline with this generation and even transforming into a secular environment.
Based on this and similar facts, it is possible to conclude that social and political orientation of the Kurdish generation Z is formed in a “social environment” outside the current socio-politics. This fact both affects socio-cultural, socio-economic behaviour and social and political orientation of this generation. Without doubt, in addition to political preferences and voting habits, we can also clearly see differences between generations. This direction the transformation of the generation Z takes can both challenge the Kurdish society and provide new mission options for the political elites.
Therefore in today’s Turkey it shows that political identities cannot be built on a severe religious tension but ethnical identity and cultural sensitivity still plays an encompassing role. As shown by other studies, Kurdish identity is built with a motive similar to the “nationalism” notion on which Turkish identity is built. Therefore the Kurdish generation Z which has been growing on a direction parallel to their peers in the world demonstrates behaviour outside conventional political patterns and building its ethnical and cultural identity on a identity sociology similar to the rest of the world. While mother tongue, ethnical identity and religious aspects show the new scale of orientations, sense of belonging is developed in line within the identity framework similar to the rest of the world. Available data shows that contrary to the claims of some studies, today’s politics in Turkey grows in a direction where instead of surpassing group and political identities it becomes more inclusive.
The Kurdish generation Z that has a depolitical attitude shows an identity similar to past generations when it comes to ethnical identity and language. Therefore what they distance themselves from is not ethnical identity or cultural identity but its old forms and ways of use.
Additionally, radical changes in socio-economic demands, cultural orientations and preferences in life indicate “post-materialistic” production and consumption relationships in parallel to the rest of the world.
Twenty two point seven percent of the study sample reported that they would continue to support all candidates -regardless of who they are – of HDP that they sided with which indicates that “ethnical identity is even a more important factor and the effect of this factor still continues strongly. The findings here also demonstrate the following: the new generation feels and believes that they have discovered a new domain of artistic freedom and could express themselves and determine their own destiny there. The new generation has discovered new areas of truth, most notably digital environment to define and express and even solve problems despite not totally detached from social contexts which matches with the findings of this study.
Interest in Politics
Only 19.3 percent of the respondents answered “interested” to the question “How interested are you in politics?”. More than half of the respondents (52.5 percent) told that they are not interested in politics. Considering young Kurdish population living in the Kurdish cities and Western cities, such low level of interest in politics is another finding worth mentioning. Factors such as despair and lack of solution may also play an important role here. Although young people are willingly uninterested in politics, they are well aware of the country agenda and politics. Social media platforms provide a new domain that shows this interest and relationship.
Based on the findings that show low interests in politics, young people are classified as depolitical. The findings also show that although young Kurdish people are informed about political developments and have distinctive awareness about political attitude and political conscious, their distanced attitude towards politics is a sign of them being not as apolitical but as depolitical. At the same time, it can be also concluded that increasing average age of policy makers, party leaders, important political actors who have influence on the society and their resulting inability to communicate with young people due to young people’s different codes, languages and concepts is a factor in this distancing.
When respondents were asked “whether they feel close to any party”, more than half of them (55 percent) reported that they feel close to a party. When we looked at the parties they feel close to, HDP comes first by a long run with 57.8 percent. HDP is followed by CHP with 18.4 percent. This shows that CHP has a rising popularity in young Kurdish people. The reason for this rising popularity can probably be the “make them lose strategy” of HDP in Western cities in the election for local governments in 2019. The majority of the young Kurdish people responded to the survey feel close to HDP which is in parallel with the political attitude and preferences of the general Kurdish society.
How Democracy Works in Turkey
More than three fourths of the respondents (76.6 percent) answered not satisfied to the question “How satisfied are you about the way democracy works in Turkey?”. Increasing authoritarian approach, polarization policies and lowered democratic standards are main factors that determine satisfaction levels of young people about democracy in the country.
Presidential Election (1st Round)
Thirty nine point four percent of the respondents answered with “Selahattin Demirtaş” to the question “Who would you vote for in the Presidential election?” This percentage shows that even Demirtaş who is very popular among Kurdish constituents cannot pass the election threshold of 50 percent for young Kurdish people and also shows the political level of young Kurdish constituents and that they are aware of the mathematics behind elections.
On the other hand their attitude towards Demirtaş also indicates that young Kurdish people are open to be consolidated in the direction led by HDP. The second choice of the Kurdish people is the candidates of the Nation Alliance (“Millet İttifakı”). Among these candidates, Ekrem İmamoğlu is the first choice with 46 percent. This shows that the framework offered by HDP during 2019 elections continues to convince young Kurdish constituents.
The reason why Imamoğlu is still popular despite lower trust index for the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality (IBB) could be explained by the above. On the other hand, these findings demonstrate that HDP’s policy to make the government lose votes and use strategic votes is quite rational and convincing. Twelve percent of the respondents were indecisive and 11.2 percent reported that they would vote for Erdoğan. Considering the support Erdoğan has from Kurdish constituents, it is possible to conclude that support for Erdoğan is still in decline among young Kurdish population.
Presidential Election (2nd Round)
When we asked the respondents who they would vote for if the candidate they supported in the first round was not elected and the election went to the second round, we found that support for Demirtaş falls to 10 percent in the second round and recommendations by the party are effective for 22.7 percent. We can conclude that approximately 8 percent from this percentage choose Ekrem İmamoğlu on their own accord. Three point three percent of the respondents told that they would vote for Erdoğan in the second round. Although young people are disorganized in some matters such as government regime and system, authoritarianism, unemployment, future concerns they do react and this shows itself in the consolidation for the candidates of the Nation Alliance.
How Should A Country Leader Be
When we asked about the most important characteristics of a country leader, over 30 percent of the respondents gave the answers, “fair”, “impartial, “freedom supporter” which were followed by “well-educated” and “young”. The percentage of those who thought that a country leader should be “authoritarian” was 6.7 percent and “religious” was 3.5 percent. The respondents gave their opinions about ideal political figures being “fair”, “impartial” “freedom supporter” and “well-educated” which also gives us information about their orientations and approaches. Therefore although young Kurdish People are not actively involved in politics, they actually have political aspirations. This is something that should be considered by the policy makers in the country. On the other hand, increasing secular, liberal, environmentally conscious behaviour in young people and only a small percentage of 3.5 percent religious group despite all the attempts of the government to create a conservative and religious society seems to be a distinctive finding.
What Would You Change First in The Country If You Had The Power?
More than half of the respondents (52.3 percent) answered with the “government system” to the question “what would you change first in the country if you had the power?”. It is a finding of note because it shows that the Presidential Government System which was introduced in 2017 is not embraced by young people and seen as a cause of their problems and therefore the first thing they would change in the country is the government system in the country. Even the participants who declared a low level of interest in politics wanted to change the government system, a finding that should be further evaluated in detail. The percentage of the respondents who wanted to change the “government system” and the “Constitution” was 82 percent which is very important because it demonstrates that 8 out of 10 young people see it as the cause of their problems. Additionally these preferences should be considered together with concepts such as “justice” and “discrimination”.
CONCLUSION and RECOMMENDATIONS
- This study attempts to understand socio-cultural, socio-economic and socio-political dynamics of young Kurdish generation and examines the relationships and interactions of this generation with past and future generations, and the effects of digitalization and communication technology on the Kurdish generation Z by focusing on five core subjects: “demographics, education, employment, income level”, “media preferences”, “daily and social life”, “ethnical identity, religion and discrimination” and “politics”.
- Similar to their peers in the world the Kurdish generation Z does not represent a homogenous group and stands out as a group of people from different social and economic classes, different cultural variables and different political orientations, which are affected significantly by political, cultural and economic developments in the country. This is important in order to take into consideration the priorities, and sensitivities of these young people in parallel to the current picture in Turkey.
- The main problems of the Kurdish generation Z are economic problems and these affect significantly their anxiety, fear and future plans and dreams. This requires policy makers, political parties, associations and non-governmental organizations to take actions which focus on the main problems of the youth such as unemployment, future concerns while building the future.
- The first two among the causes of concern for Kurdish young women are “women murders” which reveals the impact of increasing gender inequality on women. Lack of sufficient punishment for perpetrators of crime of violence against women in recent years, abolishment of Istanbul Convention which is the most detailed and binding international convention concerning prevention of violence against women and domestic violence have increased women’s worries and left them insecure. Strong norms should be established, laws should be enacted and policies should be developed to achieve justice, equality and fight with violence so that women can feel safe in the society.
- Lack of solution for the Kurdish issue affects all parts of the society while causing multi-dimensional impacts especially on young people. Lack of solution for the Kurdish issue, war, conflict and polarization policies stand out as important problems that affect young people’s daily lives, social relationships, personal developments, and their reactions against problems that affect them.
- The Kurdish generation Z tend to be more reserved and show personal reactions due to the conflict conditions which have been promoted especially in the last seven years. In an environment where there is increased inspection, control and supervision mechanisms and perceived discrimination affects daily life, the relationship of young people with politics also changes.
- The Kurdish generation Z affected significantly by the developments in digitalization and communication technologies shows “internalized orientations” in several areas including such as the society, culture, politics and organizations within a new digital habitus. Different from conventional reflexes, this young generation develops new reactions, creates new codes and builds a new production-consumption and emotion economy within this habitus. This represents an important parameter to understand young generations, especially generation Z.
- When we look at the relations of the Kurdish generation Z with the new media and digital platforms, instead of TV, radio and print press there is an increasing demand for digital media sources. This change in social and political information sources shows the importance of digital media tools to communicate and interact with young people. This represents another important development in building youth policies and creating new political communication strategies.
- Both due to the authoritarian policies implemented and new ways of socializing as a result of digital communication, new group relationships and new politization notion, young people’s relation with politics in a classical sense has been transformed. We notice that a depolitical attitude has been developed in young Kurdish people as a result of this. Young people largely avoid politics and show reactions towards political conscious. This makes it very important for policy makers to understand the dynamics of this change.
- In parallel to young generations both in Turkey and in the world, the Kurdish generation Z has also been transforming and changing with regard to religion and worship. This situation which differs significantly from past generations is noteworthy because it shows that young people have a more versatile and pluralist approach towards different opinions, faiths and identities.
- Gerontocracy in hierarchy and the role age plays in decision making process which is a core and structural problem between young and past generations reveals itself as one of the problems the Kurdish generation Z has with past generations. This structural problem, especially as a result of change in the digital communication technology, new socializing platform and change in group relationships also transforms the relationship of the Kurdish generation Z with organizational structures such as non-governmental organizations, associations and political parties. This shows that it is important for organizations to be more comprehensive and reduce the anxiety for example about conservatism and insecurity in young people.
- Our study found that the trust of Kurdish generation Z in the Presidential Government System and this new system’s police, military, judicial institutions and bureaucracy as a whole is quite low. This lack of trust has a significant impact on future plans of young people and results in a situation where most of them want to go and live abroad.