How many kids?
The concepts of birth control or family planning were most talked about in Turkey in the 1960s and ‘70s; the state developed policies on this. Those who were doing them, were they traitors trying to dry up our generation?
Let us take a look at the history laboratory.
Our republic was founded on a “desolate Anatolia.” The entire population was 11 or 12 million. Because of continuous wars since 1912, 1 million people of this population were handicapped. Diseases such as malaria were widespread. There was not enough manpower to cultivate the land. Founders Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and İsmet İnönü encouraged increasing the population as much as they could. They opened doors to all migration demands, with only one condition – that they were Muslims.
Of course these policies were correct.
Our population growth decreased to 1 percent during the years of World War II; it has been increasing since 1950 also because of the advancement of health services. In 1960, it reached 3 percent. The scarcity of the population was no longer a problem, the abundance of the population that we could not educate and employ was a problem.
Why did we send hundreds of thousands to Germany?
The trend in world development literature also called for family planning to increase the income per capita and growth rate. Developed countries constituted a good example; their populations had stability. The population was not growing, but its quality and productivity were increasing.
The fear of an “aging population” that belongs to today was not known in the world then. For this reason, family planning work was done for the fertile segment. These statesmen cannot be called traitors.
The Iran experience
During the shah era, the average number of children per family had gone up to six. The shah imposed family planning. In the 1979 revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini issued fatwas for people to have more children. A bloody war occurred with Iraq and the population growth fell to 1 percent.
When the war was over, a “baby boom” occurred and there was a sharp population growth. Khomeini started debating fertility. Religious scholars issued a fatwa for “family planning.” Birth control methods were supported by the state. In 2009, the United Nations celebrated Iran for becoming “the most successful country in family planning.” The average number of children per family had fallen to two.
Since 2011, they again went back to their population growth policies. Their slogan is “A 150-million Iran in 2050.” Well, this is only a dream indeed.
In the matter of population, the effect of state policies is extremely restricted. In the initial stage of the development of health services and urbanization, there was a population boom. Later, especially with women’s education and joining the workforce, population growth slowed.
Turkey’s past population policies are correct according to the time they were implemented.
Today, Turkey is facing this problem: Fertility in the educated and economically productive segment, which is the locomotive of development, fertility has gone negative. Turkey has an aging population risk in the coming decades. Of course President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is right in his concern. It is accurate that the state introduces advantages for pregnancies and births, especially for working women.
However, fertility in under-educated and poor segments is high. In Turkey, this is the sociological source of the increasing “problematic children.”
According to Semiha Şakir Foundation data, 80 percent of children committing crimes have suburban origins. Children raised at poorly educated, poor environments with the presence of domestic violence have a tendency for violence.
The fact that this segment is more fertile is also a huge injustice for those children.
As a result, population policies should not be regarded with a generalization, but from an analytical point of view.
It is extremely wrong to accuse different opinions, certain policies adopted under different circumstances of history, of “treason.” If there were no differing views, how could we view any subject from different angles?