Bosnia’s Turkish Debate
Yazar: Sosyal Psk. Dr.Ufuk Süslü · 28 Haziran 2017
Bosnia’s Turkish Debate
Just a few days ago the Association of Parents in the Canton of Sarajevo complained to the canton’s education minister that the promotion of the Turkish language as an elective class had been taking place without prior consultation with parents. Parents say they should be the ones to decide what class schoolchildren will select.
The first impression is that the complaint is fair and square. The impression is one of caring parents minding the future of their children, and certainly they are; but what is striking is the fact that parents have been turned into a ‘lobbying machine’ that sees a “civilizational threat” to their children, as they are complaining about allegedly a “lobbying campaign of Turkish language teachers”.
Since when has a parent whose child is taking, for instance, a German language course or any other as an elective class begun to worry that some parents and their children prefer the Turkish language? It has been obvious since the beginning that this case contains a politicized dimension.
Primarily, it is important to look at some of the key facts here. Turkish has been only an elective class since 2015, when a small number of schools across the Bosniak part of the country incorporated it into their curriculums. Soon after it became part of curriculums, we witnessed the launch of an unfair campaign against the language.
A campaign against a language? It sounds weird that some would be ready to lead a campaign against learning ‘a language.’ Is there anything more useful and harmless than learning a language in the life of a student? Is it not a bit strange for parents to react so furiously against someone else’s child learning another foreign language? After those parents’ paradoxical reactions, it should be admitted that it is just a politicized campaign.
If we take a look at some statistics regarding the teaching of Turkish in Bosnia and Herzegovina according to Yunus Emre Institute’s annual reports from 2015, in that year, around 6,000 Bosnian children chose Turkish as an elective course.
When the recent crisis on choosing Turkish happened, the language’s teachers officially shared a statistic that more than 7,000 students are learning Turkish at the moment. So there has been a rise of almost 20 percent in just two years in the number of students. Apparently, some people became alarmed at the rising popularity of the Turkish language.
It seems even stranger considering that other foreign languages are taught in Bosnian schools as well. Arabic and German, for instance, are taught, with Arabic holding a marginal place in terms of numbers, and German dominating the scene.
Unofficial statistics show that more than 200,000 children are learning German as an elective course. German has been in curriculums far longer than Turkish, and yet no one has so far complained that around half of Bosnian kids are learning German as an elective course. On a few occasions, representatives of Turkish institutions have complained that some pro-German media outlets and institutions are spreading anti-Turkish campaigns. So, this begs the question: do we now have pro-German parents as well?
This issue will be clear over time. But to better understand these weird campaigns — such as those spreading unfounded fears of a perceived ‘Arab invasion’ or putting words into Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s mouth, or as this recent case shows, where a language has come under attack –, we should be taking a look at the bigger picture, which is a geopolitical one.
Fight for geopolitical dominance
Sadly, not many locals are aware that the Balkans peninsula is a playground for geopolitical dominance and that the fight for the soul of its citizens started a long time ago.
I suggested in a writing some time ago that in the near future this area would be divided among three competing geopolitical ‘tectonic plates’ under the influence of the West, the East and the Middle-East.
Of course, I was not alone in these predictions as many other analysts predicted the same for the future of the Balkans. If we put on ‘geopolitical glasses’, then it would be easier to see why even the simplest daily social activities, like learning Turkish or an Arab buying real estate, can become a problem in the Balkans.
It is important not to forget to have this dimension in mind when similar campaigns happen in the future.
There are those who are and will always be uncomfortable with the fact that someone would choose Turkish over German as an elective class. Only those with claims over the region would be uncomfortable with this fact.
The popularity of the Turkish language has risen dramatically in recent years, especially thanks to Turkish soaps, which still dominate local TV channels. These dynamics have had a direct impact on the number of those willing to learn the language of the soaps.
The German language, which held a dominant position for some time, now has a competitor on the rise. Losing attendees to any language other than German has a directly negative impact on the German economy, as its significantly shrinking labor demographics depends on the region’s brain drain.
The whole of the Balkans are slowly turning into a German economic ‘lebensraum’ as its economy directly depends on future potential ‘Germans’, and as the schools teaching German as an elective class have turned into ‘recruitment centers’ for the country’s economic future.
So, in other words, Turkish as an elective class will be making dents in the ‘German labor potential’ in the long run.
Statistics demonstrating the emigration rate of youths primarily to German lands in recent years proves this thesis. And of course it would be wrong to ignore the recent tensions along the Ankara-Berlin axis, as slowly the two countries are turning into open rivals locked in a geopolitical competition. The Balkans will be the first to feel the consequences of this rivalry, as both countries have historical aspirations towards it.
Living between ‘the tectonic plates of geopolitics’ can sometimes make life unpredictable. A local willing to learn a foreign language or wanting to sell a property to a foreigner can be seen as committing an ‘act of treason’ while leaving the homeland in multitudes to fill another country’s labor deficit can be laudable.
Building ‘a consistent stance in the Balkans’ is very hard. Having a destiny of being a centuries-old rift between geopolitical tectonic plates forces some to become a political tool in the hands of power centers, as apparently someone has turned these parents into.
Source: Anadolu Agency/analysis-news