Enstitü President Ateş: We explained July 15th to the World
Yunus Emre Enstitüsü President Prof. Dr. Şeref Ateş was an on-air guest on the show Başkent Güncesi hosted by Mahpeyker H. Aksu Sancar broadcast on TRT Kent Radio Ankara.
Referring to the activities carried out abroad by the Enstitü after the coup attempt on July 15th, Prof. Dr. Ateş said, "We explained the whole world this coup attempt staged in Turkey."
Here is the show...
As we all know, Yunus Emre Enstitüsü is an important institute that introduces Turkey, Turkish language and culture both home and abroad. But we would also like to listen from you. What is the difference of Yunus Emre Enstitüsü from other institutes? We will discuss your vision, mission and details of your operations within the time allocated to us.
First of all, I would like to thank you. As you know, Yunus Emre Enstitüsü is a public foundation founded in 2009 in Ankara. Starting from 2009, it started opening Turkish cultural centres abroad. The first centre was opened in 2009 is Sarajevo. In the early years, a number of centres were opened especially in the Balkans, followed by Arab countries and Turkic world, and in the third stage in western Europe, America and Far East. As you said in the introduction, Yunus Emre Enstitüsü carries out activities to make Turkey's image and perception of Turkey positive abroad. The basic areas of operation are Turkish introduction, promoting all these fine elements as Turkish culture, art, literature, cinema abroad and organising relevant activities. The primary goal is to make people from different nations more familiar with Turkey, to relay the legitimacy of Turkey's arguments to the world to a certain extent, and to establish relations and communication networks with the world. Various operations are held in this regard. Regular courses are organized. Serious activities are carried out in order to teach Turkish as a foreign language and as a result of these activities, people abroad feel familiar to Turkish culture through learning Turkish language.
Actually I consider this as one of the most important feet. Is teaching Turkish as a foreign language carried out in universities abroad?
We have two types of domains. Firstly, we organize Turkish courses in centres we open. Secondly, we send teachers to Turcology departments of universities. We set up libraries and as part of our agreements with them, we encourage the university to open a Turkish Language and Literature Department either academically or to offer Turkish as an elective course. In this sense, we have agreements with 80 universities abroad in various countries. We have an agreement with Turkish Council of Higher Education (YÖK) in these countries, and within the framework of this agreement we carry out projects and send teachers to universities abroad in line with the demand in this field and thus we conduct activities in universities abroad to train students who may work in Turcology field widely raising Turkish instructors. So there are two kinds of operations concerning Turkish. There is a third field that is rapidly opening centres abroad. We have opened 46 centres abroad since 2009, which will reach 50 by the end of December. Our two centres will be opened in Karachi and Lahore in Pakistan. A centre will be opened in Brazil. We are currently in 41 countries, especially in Bosnia- Herzegovina: we have one centre in Mostar, and one in Sarajevo.
Can these be realized also in line with the requirements?
Of course. There are requirements from many places and demands that cannot be met. In this sense, we have a responsibility to establish centres. On the other side, training qualified personnel in centres established because people do not possess such experience yet in the field of culture diplomacy in Turkey. The people who will carry out activities abroad must be cultural diplomats or cultural envoys in Yunus Emre Enstitüsü. In this sense, to complete such a training, we established a unit called "culture diploma academy" in Yunus Emre Enstitüsü and it carried out its first activity. Now we will also intensively organize other activities. At the first stage, we aim the Enstitü personnel who go abroad to adapt to the culture, arts, world of thought and meaning world of that country but at the same time for them to not make concessions from their own values and culture, and to enable communication between the two cultures, who are qualified in areas of political relations or international relations as well as possessing a developed aesthetic sense. At the same time Turks who came here and voluntarily and help people here, making the country their homelands not through wars and conquests, as is the case with Alperen tradition of Turkish culture of the past, how people came to Anatolia and made Anatolia Turkish land in a sense. We also wish the staff in the countries we go to display these sensitivities so we want to train our own staff in cultural diploma academy. We also make efforts to train personnels of other institutions abroad. Because diplomacy is of course conducted by embassies abroad. Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs is an institution that has a long-standing past and a tradition. They train their diplomats extraordinarily however in non-governmental organizations and semi-official state institutions like ours, there are difficulties in raising people in this sense. We made such an attempt to compensate this because we believe that under current circumstances we would like to do our best, and we think that well-trained human resources are of primary importance to duly fulfil the task of publicity abroad.
In which countries do you have centres and what type of activities do you carry out there?
We currently have centres in 41 countries. We have more than one centre in some countries. For instance, in Bosnia Herzegovina and Egypt. We aim to reach 50 centres by the end of the year. Our aim is to increase this number to 100 as part of our 2023 vision. Of course, our goal here is to go to a country and open a centre and it is possible in the framework of an agreement between the two countries. This process is also challenging. Sometimes difficulties arise in countries we do not have a culture agreement with. In that case, we usually establish an association or foundation in accordance with the country's laws, and launch operations in this way. Presently there are status differences in the Netherlands, Belgium or London. In these centres, we basically aim to operate in accordance with the needs of people there. For that reason, we design activities that suit the conditions of each country. For example, an activity organised in Tokyo may not resonate in Albania the same way. This is particularly an important achievement for Turkey. In our opinion, Turkey has also learned the sensitivities, cultural characteristics and details of other societies by way of us. Of course, it is necessary to develop projects in line with these specifics because a project we plan in Turkey, in Ankara or Istanbul may not draw as much interest in Berlin or London. Therefore, suitable activities for the people, and social structure there are carried out. In this regard, our employees make evaluations in this subject. At the end of these evaluations, we approve the projects and carry out operations abroad.
So quality over quantity with regard to cultural centres?
Of course. Actually, it is possible to rapidly open centres in different countries if we wanted to. From the building to the equipment and quality of the personnel there, all is important. Turkish Republic is in fact late in this sense. These are operations other countries have carried out for centuries. The British Council, Goethe Institute have a minimum of 50 years of history. You can not communicate with other countries only through diplomatic channels. Diplomacy was carried out behind closed doors in the past. But in modern societies, now people can communicate with each other one-to-one, and because world is smaller now, someone in America or in another country can listen to this interview now. Even these were very important tools in the past. Therefore we must utilize these channels in order to influence other people in a cultural sense and turn negative thoughts into positive. In order for these channels to be utilized, we also need to respect the people, mentality, and political structure of the country we operate in. There can be different opinions and points of view. Truth may also look different due to these perspectives. So our truth may not be true for others. We organize activities keeping this in mind.
We are expected to follow a faster, clearer strategy in some countries. There is such an expectation particularly in the Balkans. For this reason, we carry out activities more actively. For example, we developed "My Preference Turkish" project. Thanks to this project, children start learning Turkish as a second foreign language from elementary school level. Here is of course a choice in question. You also need to continuously maintain contact with the relevant schools to make them prefer Turkish. Currently this project is implemented so well in seven countries including Egypt, Poland, Georgia... Of course we would like to take it one step further. We also aim to teach Turkish in kindergartens. Target audience here is not the Turks abroad. Our goal is to familiarize Bosnian children living in Bosnia Turkish through music, games. With "My Preference Turkish", we have the goal of promoting Turkish culture, enabling contact with Turkey, introducing with Turkish schools, introducing with Turkish families at first stage rather than offering academical Turkish. This way Turkish is preferred in schools. Of course training instructors to teach there is a separate field. We offer them a training to improve their professional skills. We provide training and certificates not only for professional skills but also for teaching Turkish as a foreign language. This certificate training has been carried out in collaboration with Turkish universities for years. A certification program will be launched soon in collaboration with Gazi University. Candidates who participate and successfully complete this certification program have the opportunity to be employed in field of Turkish education for foreigners.
We support around 80 Turcology Departments abroad. We make efforts to recruit these graduates. This constitutes an important incentive for student candidates there to choose this department. Graduates of these departments can get jobs through Yunus Emre Enstitüsü. They are employed as Turkish teachers in secondary schools. This is a major reason of preference. However not only Turkish departments or Turkish instructors, but also teachers from other areas are demanded. Because Turkey has taken major steps in the last decade. A good Turkish model has been formed. Despite the extraordinary propaganda that has been carried out abroad to manipulate the image of Turkey negatively... Especially in Western countries there are two kinds of public opinion; a public opinion against Turkey guided by the international media, and public opinion of the people. Because it is more important to reach people one-to-one. Turkey is seen as an alternative model not only in Middle East or Arab world – that we should also mention – but also in Western countries. Because the social democratic movements in the West have been debilitated, and they are constantly losing. A more populist, more egalitarian discourse is never the trend in the West. Such movements are also being suppressed.
Therefore peoples, especially in the West and those who follow Turkey in America, see there is an alternative discourse here. They see the country distributes its income more evenly between people. Therefore such a political affinity towards Turkey emerges. In this sense, learning Turkish, doing business with Turkey, defending Turkey's arguments is an important distinction even in the West. On the other hand, there is extraordinary support especially from Muslim countries. Lastly when I visited Jerusalem, opinion leaders there said, "We prayed until morning on July 15th. We will become more than soldiers, bullets for Turkey." There are many who say that. In this sense Yunus Emre Enstitüsü has a major role to play. We take it as our duty to bring people from different countries together with people in Turkey. This is why we do not only provide support to Turcology departments, but we also want to send teachers to those countries in different fields. We must get in contact with the universities and youth there. In other words, we have to tell our arguments not only here but also abroad. Because Turkey has developed a distinct model and achieved this. It proceeds on its path consistently even if there is bloodshed around. Economic development moves continue. It develops its own original model.
On the other hand, it is necessary to maintain close relations with press organizations of the countries. We must not cut off contact. Because they can tell and present the truth differently. There are constantly negative publications and broadcasts against Turkey. Best response to this is to use such organs in their own countries. In this sense, Turkish Republic has made extraordinary efforts in recent years. Of course July 15th coup attempt created a jolt abroad as well as in Turkey. So we have to stand up quickly and tell them again. We have also kept these channels open from July 16th as the Yunus Emre Enstitüsü. We have told the whole world about this coup attempt Turkey went through. These organs must be open in this regard.
Current process considered, how will your activities continue abroad?
It is important for people to be informed. In the countries we are active as Yunus Emre Enstitüsü, we primarily carried out activities aimed at July 15th. We especially brought people, academics, journalists from Turkey who speak the language of both countries. We have not only made presentations at our centres, but also brought them together with the media and universities of those countries and made efforts to inform on the events in Turkey abroad through various activities because intensive propaganda against this issue are being carried out in different countries. Because we were caught unprepared, I wish Turkey could tell its arguments all over the world on July 15th and this disaster we went through within a week or two, Turkish Republic recovered as well as its institutions. We, as Yunus Emre Enstitüsü have not only carried out activities related to July 15th abroad but also have supported all the projects about July 15th in the form of information and publication abroad. I am convinced that we have intensively reached the target audience. The last activity was held in Brazil. There was a great turnout because people heard of the events in Turkey only through the Western media. Of course it was of utmost importance to explain this correctly. We have been carrying out similar activities in European countries as well. They have begun to gradually see the facts because July 15th had not been explained correctly.
Another activity that we hold in this context is the Global Public Diplomacy Network (GPDNet) and on behalf of Yunus Emre Enstitüsü Turkey, we undertook term presidency of this network for 3 years shortly before June 15th, as of June 2015. On this occasion, we immediately developed a project and invited the presidents of the GPDNet member institutions, and important academicians and journalists of those countries to Turkey. We organized an Anatolian Civilizations Tour for them and showed them how TGNA was bombed, an important centre damaged in the coup attempt on July 15th. Upon seeing the damage in the Turkish Grand National Assembly building, they said, "There really was a military coup attempt in Turkey." Because we live in a virtual world, people do not experience the truth by seeing and touching it, people view it as international media and social media define it. This is why institutions such as Yunus Emre Enstitüsü are also important. An institution that contacts people from abroad. Our advantage is that we can reach people abroad. It is a network that cannot be achieved through diplomatic channels. People can interact with Turkish people and Turkish culture. We realize these in various projects. From time to time both in the Balkan countries and Arab countries, we organize Turkish lessons for different groups. These are held through various channels be it military authorities or Ministry of the Interior. As an outcome our contacts with them, many groups come to Turkey from time to time. This way, they maintain contact with institutions in Turkey and permanent friendships are formed.
Within the scope of My Preference Turkish Project, we established sister schools together with the Provincial Directorate of National Education in the Balkan countries, and students from Turkey went to Bosnia-Herzegovina. Students from Bosnia-Herzegovina came to Turkey. This still continues. When we trigger such events, the relationships become more lasting. You do not organise a one-time activity and leave it there.
What kind of activities are carried out in Turkey?
At home, we usually carry out activities to improve the quality of our overseas staff. We especially carry out joint activities with the embassies and consulates in countries where we have centres We recently held a photo exhibition with Pakistani Embassy. Again as a project we have consistently carried out in this process of 6 years, we select successful young people both from our centres and Turcology Departments in universities, and bring them every summer to Turkey. They receive an intensive training that last for one month under the name Turkish Summer School and they participate in activities related to Turkish culture. This is a project that has been going on for 5 years. Despite July 15th this year, 540 university students came to Turkey. It was an extraordinarily successful summer school. After a month-long Turkish Summer School, we organize Turkish Festival. After Turkish Festival, they return to their countries. This year we organized the second one. I hope we will organize a larger Turkish Festival next year with broader participation.
We make efforts to make Turkish more widely spoken in international arena. We encourage learning Turkish in primary school, junior high school, high school and university levels and also support projects abroad for Turkish to be accepted as a science language. For example, we made an agreement with Istanbul University Health Sciences University. In this context, we will teach Turkish to the Somalians in schools opened in their own countries so Somalians can offer training in the health field. With teachers we send to Somalia, we teach Turkish to both students and teachers who will teach there. Education language will be Turkish. Medical faculties to be opened on the second stage will also provide education in Turkish. On one hand, while our universities in Turkey offer education in English, we convince universities abroad and encourage Turkish education. Compared to our activities abroad, we do not carry out activities at home. Be it Cultural Diplomacy Academy or the Certification Program to Teach Turkish to Foreigners, collaborations with universities, Turkey is our kitchen in a sense, and we realize projects produced in this kitchen sometimes in Istanbul or Ankara but generally abroad. Maybe the most recent example in this sense is our activities aimed at Syrians in Turkey. We provide both Turkish and material support and support projects to enhance their various skills. Taking the success rates of these projects into account and by developing them, we offer them abroad.