Statement of Interest

By Faruk Arslan

For over thirty years, many traffickers and smugglers have considered Turkey to be a transit country for human trafficking because of its globally strategic position between the Middle East, Asia, and Africa and the prosperous countries of the west (UNODC, 2006).  Turkey has therefore emerged in recent years as a destination country for the purposes of slave labour and sexual exploitation on account of its improved living standards and stable economy (Shahinian, 2008).

Forced and voluntary migration is becoming a huge issue worldwide. Issues of human trafficking and slave labour, forced migration, gender inequality and increasing instability have been following this influx of refugees into Turkey. Children and women increasingly face a variety of human rights violations and are targets in the global economy, as they are trafficked into slave labour, and forced to become child soldiers or sex workers. They can also become targets of systemic rape, ethnic cleansing, malnutrition diseases, and injuries from land mines, the victims of torture, of being displaced refugees, and even of genocides (UNHCR, 2009).

My MA research will focus on the issues with the current refugee movement in Turkey. It will involve the Iraqi refugee struggles, which are important trends that have highly affected Turkey’s political, economic and social development. This research will extend the work conducted for my thesis on Turkey’s experience with recent refugees, by analyzing Turkey’s performance in respect to the international refugee regime and identifying areas of practice.

My MA research will scrutinize the conditions of this abandoned and desperate population of refugees and the effects on Turkey of their arrival in substantial populations.
My interest in this research arises from previous research and personal journalism experience that has allowed me to be a successful reporter and correspondent, and a researcher-writer with 11 published books, mostly on migration and refugee issues in Azerbaijan, Armenia, Turkey, Germany, and Canada.

My academic preparation for graduate work includes York undergraduate courses in Global Migration and Diaspora Culture, Human Rights and Global Economy, Social Movement and Political Economy, Globalization, Social Movement and Change, and Historical Sociology.  In addition, courses on Social Theory and Methodology have given me excellent conceptual and methodological tools for the successful completion of my MA thesis.  Furthermore, I will critically examine three main theoretical concepts and provide compare and contrast analyses on the Refugee Movement in Turkey with social theories and politics derived from the Marxist economic class struggle, Weber`s political legitimacy and Baudrillard’s hyper-reality of culture.

I will strengthen my theoretical framework on this topic with which these theories are involved and make mention of how these theories have impacted the recent refugee movement, as they are concerned with political, cultural and economic factors that have sparked the rising of the social movement and influenced it because people are either proponents or opponents of current situations. My quantitative and qualitative research will use the scientific and objective methods that rise in desirability, credibility and validity. For my research, I will conduct a survey and interview with refugees in Turkey using structural interview questionnaires. The cross-sectional design is the best option for my study with the usage of scientific approaches of both positivism and objectivism. This social reality can be measurable with the consistency of empirical study and a cross-sectional research design that focuses on sampling at a single point in time and preparing a comparison and analysis with other studies and documents.

This research is important because the situation has changed in such a way that it has become an unmanageable and uncontrollable problem for the last two decades. The size of forced and voluntary migration has enlarged since the Iraqi War in 2003 so that Iraqis have been included among the already high numbers of refugee Palestinians who live in such neighbourhood countries as  Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, whereas Afghani, Syrian, and Iraqi refugees among many other refugee groups live in Turkey and Iran.

Since the 1990s, multinational corporations (MNCs) have been weakening the nation-states that were created in the twentieth century artificially and that triggered the notion of fascism, nationalism, imperialism and colonialism. MNCs have also been playing roles in the functioning of nation-states in the growth of the culture of capitalism, which has caused the deaths of 170 million of the human population and violated human rights (Robbins, 2008). However, the recent rising of the economies of the world such as those of China, India, Turkey and Brazil has caused such countries to invite MNCs capitals into their economies to meet their economic growth goals to alter the US’s dominant cultural, economic, military and political superiority over peripheral countries. I will first explain Turkey’s continual power growth—and its economy, culture and foreign politics—and then argue that Turkish influence is the sole mediator in the Islamic and non-Muslim world by presenting evidence. Political scientist and academic George Friedman (2009) argued that “as Turkey’s power grows—and its economy and military are already the most powerful in the region—so will Turkish influence as the sole mediator in the Islamic world that could bring peace to the Middle East” (Friedman, 2009: 11[1]).

Several prominent academics are writing on the refugee situation, including Deborah Ellis (2009) and Michael Haas (2009).  However, not much has been written specifically on Syrian, Iranian and Iraqi refugees living in Turkey and I intend that my research will contribute to this gap in academic research.

Michael Haas argues that the US army, national governments, and rebellion groups are currently still violating Iraqi children’s human rights according to Iraq’s national legal system (Haas, 2009: p 57). They are being trafficked by organized networks or family members in Turkey, Jordan and Syria. The size of forced and voluntary migration of Iraqis has enlarged since the Iraqi War in 2003 so that Iraqis have been included among the already huge numbers of Syrian and Iranian refugees who recently arrived to Turkey in 2011.

I am especially interested in the York Development Studies programme because of its interdisciplinary aspect, its field work component, and academic approach. This combination of academic theory and field work is especially suited to my research. The field work for my thesis will be conducted in Turkey on Iraqi refugees. I am particularly interested in continuing my academic career at York because I have established, and wish to build further, a productive network of faculty mentors. There are several outstanding faculty members in the Development programme doing research in my chosen field. I have already consulted with Dr Fahim Quadir and he has suggested that there are faculty members in the department who might be willing to supervise my MA research.

I feel that I have the time and resources necessary to complete an MA degree in development studies if I am accepted into your programme. My biggest passion in life is to continue learning and doing research. I believe York University’s Development Studies has the perfect, fast-paced international learning environment with its popular active faculty that will enable me to develop and apply my research skills in an effective manner. I am aware of the total commitment and hard work that graduate study demands and am willing and able to make such an investment.

I did apply to your programme last year in 2011 and was on the waiting list, but unfortunately was not offered a place. I am still particularly interested in your programme because I want to continue my journey of hard work, research, curiosity, and exploration; and your Masters’ program will enable me to continue this academic journey.

[1] 21. Century Belongs to Turkey, USA, Poland, Japan and Mexico (2009).