Safak Pavey, Istanbul’s representative on the Turkish Parliament and a NATO parliamentary member, advocated for decreasing cultural conflict between Syrian migrants and Turkish citizens at a talk Monday.
In a lecture titled “Humanitarian Disasters and the Refugee Crisis: Turkey-European Struggles for European Consensus,” Pavey discussed her experiences as a humanitarian and politician and ideas about the Syrian migrant crisis.
Pavey said she became interested in the migrant crisis after traveling to Syria in March 2003 to contribute to peace-building efforts. While crossing back over the border to Turkey, Pavey said she saw women praying to her and her colleagues asking for peace, a scene she said she “will never forget.”
“Global crisis of security is wiping away our dream of living together,” Pavey said.
A prominent cause of continued conflict in migrant regions is the lack of inclusion and cohesion — on the part of both migrants, who are reluctant to be included, and host communities, which are reluctant to accept outsiders — according to Pavey.
“Belief comes first among some migrant cultures, and adapting to the new cultures is understood as losing one’s own culture or turning into an infidel,” Pavey said. “Migrant communities do not only build walls to each other, they also build walls to the host country.”
Pavey said this rejection of unity across cultures turns social values into weapons that migrant and host communities use against each other.
“As long as these barriers are not discussed openly, attempts at inclusion face strong resistance on both sides,” she said.
Ineffective intervention by the Turkish government — including its use of refugee camps, which are not regulated by members of Parliament or humanitarian organizations — has compounded the problem, according to Pavey.
She offered suggestions as to how host communities, including Turkey, can more successfully offer assistance to migrants.
“We should stop investing in ideas such as separated neighborhoods, but instead invest in occupation training, equal education [and] opportunities that bring us together and protect migrants,” Pavey said.
Pavey quoted Hamdi Ulukaya, founder of Chobani Yogurts and U.S.-based migrant, discussing his argument that offering migrants opportunities for employment is a key part of encouraging inclusiveness.
“Once you employ a migrant in a host country, they stop being a migrant in that host country,” he said.
Involvement in local agriculture is one possible solution to the migrant crisis, according to Pavey.
“Agriculture gives people peaceful roots with better results than local humanitarian aid, also reducing the need to migrate further,” Pavey said. “We can use the great knowledge [migrants] bring, knowledge of land and growing and being part of the farming society.”
Pavey compared the creation of integrated migrant-host communities to ashura, a Turkish dessert that is also an element of Syrian cuisine.
“This soup is made by the contributions of all the town’s people — it represents shared abundance,” she said. “I think it’s time we make an ashura together with whatever we have in our homes and share our ashura together. What we need more than anything right now is compassion for each other.”