“In this way Turks can never really integrate”

Text and photo’s by Sophie van den berg

How Turks keep staying together

Between 1960 and 1973, 65,000 Turkish migrants came to the Netherlands. These were almost all guest workers who wanted to earn money for their families in Turkey. For most, their lives consisted of nothing more than work. For example, they were not given the opportunity to learn the language. Ismail Ercan (70) came to the Netherlands from Turkey in 1982 and had one goal: improve integration.

Most Turkish guest workers have remained in the Netherlands. They got children and built a life. When the Turkish guest workers came to the Netherlands, they received no support from the Turkish and Dutch governments. They were completely thrown in at the deep end. “The only thing the Turks could hold on to was their religion,” says Ercan. As a result, the ability to integrate well has been taken away from them.

Ercan founded STOC (Turkish Education Center Foundation) thirty years ago. The starting point of this foundation is to increase the involvement of Turkish parents and to make them aware of the Dutch school culture. With this foundation he also wanted to reduce the clash between the Turkish home culture and the Dutch school culture. Most Turkish parents of children born in the Netherlands belong to the generation of guest workers. “Because they have clung to Turkish culture for years, they can never really integrate”, says Ercan.

According to him, his foundation was and is desperately needed. “The Turkish government does not give the guest workers anything. They only expect you to hand in the euros in Turkey. There is not a single Turkish institution that has a strong presence in the Netherlands.” According to Ercan, a lot is going wrong within the integration of the Turkish community. “The Turks in the Netherlands simply cannot develop. Because they were thrown into the deep end in the Netherlands, their religion was the only thing that gave them a little bit of guidance. Because of this, most were and are very conservative.”

Even though it is something Ercan would rather not see, according to him it is not so surprising that most Turks live together in neighborhoods. “I recently spoke to a Turkish man, and he said to me ‘why should I learn Dutch? I have a butcher, baker, and greengrocer where I can speak Turkish. And all my neighbors are also Turkish.’”

School culture
Within Turkish culture it is not desirable for women to follow a high education. “When I used to tell the parents of my students that their daughter is doing so well and that she should go to Havo or Vwo, I got the answer that women should not continue studying.”

According to the integration annual report from 2018, the proportion of students with a Dutch background who received at least HAVO advice was 59 percent in 2016/2017. In the same school year, 38 percent of students with a Turkish migration background received at least a HAVO recommendation.

Ercan has about twenty interns at STOC every year. These are mainly girls with a Turkish background. Hamiget (19) has now been doing an internship here for about three months. When she got asked what exactly integration means, she couldn’t think of an answer. “I have a different origin and a different religion, but that does not mean that I am not equal to the Dutch,” she says. “I was born in the Netherlands, so I grew up just like everyone else. So, to the outside world I am no different. Of course, I still get a bit of a Turkish upbringing and I get a lot from the culture. But that’s not because of me, but because of how my parents live,” she adds.

This is precisely the reason why, according to Ercan, there is still a lot to be achieved in integrating. According to him, more Turkish families should live in neighborhoods where many Dutch people live. He also advocates mixed schools. “Because the Turks like to be together, it happens very quickly that Turkish children are put at school together. If a school in Amsterdam has 5 percent Turkish children, that school will be completely Turkish within ten years. Turkish parents put their child at school there and Dutch parents are slowly taking their child out of there. I think that we can only really be a multicultural society if we have everything mixed. No black or white schools or neighborhoods, but grey. That would be truly multicultural.”