Turkey has one of the largest populations in the region, exceeding 85 million. Of this population, almost one third is below 25 and 15 % is between 15-25 years of age which is defined as youth. Turkey has the highest youth population in Europe. Environmental and social awareness is much higher among educated youth, particularly in urban areas.
However, almost 95% of the youth in Turkey view climate change as one of the most significant dangers that the country faces, as per a report by the British Council. 85% of the 529 respondents from Turkey said they are ready to take part in the climate movement and to act. While 71 percent said they had not taken part in any awareness event, they said they want to change that.
Also, youth in Turkey want leaders and policy makers to include them in the fight against climate change. They also emphasize the importance of education in order to better understand the effects of climate change in Turkey.
The first major protest initiated by youth in Turkey was in 2013 against the Government’s decision of cutting the century old trees in a park in Central Istanbul, namely “Gezi Park protests”.
The protests started anonymously in most major cities following Istanbul. Security forces intervened fiercely and used forced extensively to quell the protestors.
The above photograph showing the direct firing of the tear gas to protesters’ faces had become a protest symbol known as “The woman in red.” Over time the student protests turned more violent, and the actions taken by the Government had become tighter and more forceful.
After protests against a development project in Gezi Park in Istanbul, the legal and political environment for civic activism deteriorated. While some activists chose to lie low, others turned their attention to community support and building civic organizations.
Most inhabitants in the rural areas are rather silent and indifferent towards environmental issues, particularly youth. However, they still raise their voices should there be any issue that directly effects their lives, such as a road or a dam construction destroying their fields.
This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard Turkey Country Manager Dr Semih Ergur