Turkey, though, mostly recognized by many as a Middle Eastern nation, is actually a country spanning two continents; Europe and Asia. This is evident from its strategic placement between Southeastern Europe, and Southwestern Asia, in a fashion that it borders the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea, thus, exposing the truth about its geographical existence.
This modern-day secular republic, once touted as the headquarters of the Ottoman Empire, was founded in 1923, by the nationalist leader Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, also popularly known as, “The Father of the Turks.” According to the Central Intelligence Agency, is currently home to approximately 79 million people, 99.8 percent of whom are Sunni Muslims, and the rest are mostly, Christians, Jews and Kurdish people. A majority of Turks speak Turkish as their mother tongue, alongside Kurdish, which is the minority language.
Considered one of the most beautiful and exotic locations on earth by the Huffington Post, Turkey, according to the Central Intelligence Agency, was originally a democratic nation, using a free-market economy with 75 percent of its employment concentrated in the industrial and service sectors. These sectors primarily consisted of traditional textiles, clothing, automotive, petrochemicals and electronic industries. Only 25 percent of the jobs were reserved for the traditional agriculture sector. The intelligence Agency also appreciates the country’s well-regulated banking and financial market system that helped it sustain through the global economic slowdown of 2007-08. This is evident, not only from its strong GDP figure, of nine percent recorded post-recession in 2010-11 but also a relatively low public sector debt to GDP ratio of 33 percent registered in 2014. Not only this, but the nation’s stock value of Foreign Direct Investment had increased to almost $195 billion toward the end of 2014.
However, unfortunately, the above positive signs fail to hide the true picture of Turkey’s weak economic health, which is constantly plagued by a high deficit in the current account. Turkey heavily relies on often volatile short-term sources of finance and investment, along with a lack of commitment toward implementing structural changes and reforms. In addition, frequent incidents of the Kurdish people and the existing Turkish government facing off, which has often been blamed by the former for denying them access to full and fair economic advantages and human rights at par with the normal Turks. They only seem to project the country’s economy in a poor light, sufficient to shake an average investor’s confidence.
Talking about Turkey’s foreign relations, an equally discouraging picture emerges. According to BBC News, the country’s EU membership continues to be a far-fetched dream to date, given its recalcitrant nature of not complying with a series of membership criteria laid down by the international body, most of which deals with the issue of human rights, something that has always been challenging for Turkey to manage successfully. It has a track record of either constantly fighting with the minority Kurdish population over denial of unfair treatment meted out to them, in terms of restricting their access to all around social and economic development, as the rest of the Turks, or being at loggerheads with their own neighbor. They fight with Greece, an EU member, over the island of Cyprus, given its disputed nature as a full-fledged EU member in the eyes of Turkey. All these areas of difficulty have only increased the levels of skepticism in the European world, with respect to Turkish EU membership.
Finally, notwithstanding the dismal situation highlighted above, there are a bunch of exciting unknown realities about Turkey, as claimed by the Huffington Post, which makes it not so bad place to visit.
First, when the whole world is clamoring about gender inequality; Turkey guarantees gender equality by not only having a separate constitution, which mandates equality for women but it is also the first country, before the U.S., and most of the European world, to give women the right to vote.
Second, Turkey also houses the legendary fabled city of Troy, making it a must place to visit for fans of history.
Third, the Turks, instead of using Arabic alphabets for communication, use familiar Latin-based letters to display what is written on signs, menus and other printed literature, thus, busting the myth that traveling to a Muslim country would pose as a linguistic challenge.
By Bashar Saajid
Edited by Jeanette Smith
Central Intelligence Agency: The World Fact Book – Middle East: Turkey
BBC News: Turkey Profile – Overview
The Huffington Post: 10 Things You May Not Have Known About Turkey
Image Courtesy of Percy Germany’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License