Urbanization and demographic transformation in Turkey have resulted in increased mobility, differentiation, and the formation of new patterns of social life. The geographical distribution of the population has changed entirely, not only with migration from rural to urban areas, but also with migration between cities within Turkey and emigration from Turkey to other countries, especially in Western Europe. Within Turkey, the overwhelming dominance of migration from the inner and eastern parts of Anatolia to the western and southwestern regions has generated a population pressure that has increasingly aggravated regional inequalities (SIS 1996, 1997, 1998; UNDP 1997). 1
Like most other countries with a large population and a rich historical heritage, Turkey has a very heterogeneous ethnic and religious make-up. Studies identify more than forty ethnic groups in Turkey (Andrews 1989). This relationship has also been reflected in migration patterns, which have had a notably composite character. Population movements to western regions have brought migrants who are not only marked by their rural but also by their specific cultural and class backgrounds. As a result, migration has meant that very heterogeneous social and cultural groups have become mixed in the rapidly growing urban areas.
Another important aspect of the urbanization and migration processes in Turkey is that they have taken place in an environment where public administration is notably weak. Traditionally, Turkish urban institutions were organized to fulfil the limited demands of a mainly agrarian society. These institutions are, therefore, insufficient as responses to the urgent and considerable demands of new urban groups. Table 1 gives an example of the deficiency of the public welfare system in Istanbul, the biggest urban centre in Turkey, with a population of 9.2 million (1997). Public homes for children and the elderly serve only those who are “without family, ” i.e., who lack relatives and/or are living alone. 2 Even though
1 The population of Turkey has increased from 24.1 million in 1955 to 56.4 million in 1990 and the urban population has increased from 7.3 million to 31.8 million during the same period. According to the latest census of the State Institute of Statistics, the population in Turkey was 62.2 million in 1997.
2 According to the official figures, for the 18, 000 children living under the protection of the state in Turkey in 1999, there are 95 public homes and 77 public nurseries. These children are either without families or come from families that are not able to raise the children on their own. These families are either single parent (divorced, widowed, etc.) or disabled .) families (with handicapped, alcoholic, poor parents, etc (the Istanbul daily Milliyet,, 1 July 1999). Other data tell the same story: the number of children taken care of by the police in Istanbul has increased from 191 in 1998 and 267 in 1999 to 815 children for the first eight months of 2000. Of these 815 children, 519 were street vendors and beggars, 164 were thinner abusers, 92 were street children, 37 had been abandoned by their families, and 1 had been raped (the Istanbul daily Radikal,, 8 September 2000).