Polarization in Turkey is ‘only on the surface’: Begümhan Doğan Faralyalı
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The values that unite us are greater than the ones that divide us, says Begümhan Doğan Faralyalı, the founder of Turkey’s ‘Common Values Movement. Despite many divisions, a deeper look shows that everyone has the same dream for the future of Turkey, the chairwoman of Doğan Holding tells the Hürriyet Daily News.
Polarization in Turkey is only on the surface and does not go deep, according to Doğan Holding Chair Begümhan Doğan Faralyalı, speaking ahead of World Values Day, marked on Oct. 19.
Despite all divisions, Turkish citizens all long for the same values like “justice” and “trust,” she said, stressing that “the values that unite us are far greater than we think.”
Doğan Faralyalı is the founder of the “Common Values Movement,” which aims to increase awareness about shared commonalities in Turkey’s polarized society.
How did the movement “Turkey’s common values, let’s discover them and walk together to the future” start?
I come from a large Anatolian family that is deeply fond of Turkey. As four sisters, we grew up in the climate of a warm Anatolian family. But I studied and worked abroad for 20 years after high school. When I came back in 2009, Turkey was enjoying a prosperous economy and had acquired a strong position in the world as a brand name. But I observed that our society had started to become highly polarized. I felt the need to understand the difference between the society I observed when I was a child and the current situation. I believed that deep down the values which made us are also our shared commonalities. But I found it hard to understand how we had turned into a society with very low trust levels against each other. I felt disconnected from people, so I decided to do carry out so visits “incognito.”
How did you do that?
I accompanied a foreign friend of mine who was conducting home visits for a United Nations project. I saw that regardless of people’s socio-economic situation, hospitality and the concept of family were still alive for all of us. I saw that whatever the educational level, women are the essential pillar of the household. I saw that our people build their dreams on their children. I discovered that our shared commonalities are what make us in these lands. I saw that the polarization on the surface does not go very deep. Values unite us but beliefs divide us. That’s why we wanted to start a big conversation to talk about our shared values. We believed that this conversation could help widen the environment of confidence and goodwill in Turkey, which has been getting weaker.
Considering the current polarized situation in society, what makes you so convinced that our common points are more than our differences?
I have seen that one of our commonalities is the dreams about our country and society. If I as Begüm, a businesswoman, Ömer, a taxi driver, and Ayşe, a teacher, from three different parts of Turkey, were to sit down and talk then we would see that we have many common points in terms of what we want for our children. We all have the same dream for Turkey.
We commissioned a survey on values last October with 1,806 participants. The most striking result of the survey, which was conducted in over 20 different countries, was the extraordinary overlap in the values that people want society to have. Justice, respect, morality and trust are values that we all long for and want to prioritize. The survey showed that these values are desired by everyone, regardless of gender, ethnicity, education level or socio-economic situation. Another important point is that when you look at the shared values they are all about “living together” - they are values that strengthen social conscience and the concept of “us.”
What is the most important common value that we particularly need to cherish?
Trust is very important. Societies where people trust each other are happy societies, and happy societies are successful. But in a survey conducted in Turkey, nine out of 10 people said “no” when asked if they trust other people they do not know. Respect and affection are also important. Everyone does not have to be the same, but all deserve respect. Differences are our richness and diversity in a society is very important. The more we discover our commonalities, the more we will also start realizing that our differences are richness and not something to be afraid of.
If concepts like “justice” and “respect” are named as the most important values, does that suggest that these are actually values that have been weakening in Turkey?
Look at the scandals elsewhere around Enron, Madoff, Libor and Volkswagen. At their gist, these show that people have stopped giving importance to values. The pace of change has increased and this brings with it anxieties and polarization. In response people have started to talk about a value-focused society. We talk about polarization in Turkey but in other parts of the world there are even more dramatic processes taking place.
What have you done over the past year on this subject?
We started with a series of articles asking 24 different people the question: “What are our common values?” The responses were published in daily Hürriyet, and this was followed by the values survey. We then started to organize workshops, where we have 50 young people and 50 women from different walks of life coming together in İzmir, Adana and Van. We spoke with participants about the common values revealed by the survey, how these values are reflected in our lives, and how we can keep alive values that we care about. We also developed a game called “Value Stone,” which helps us discover and discuss values while having fun at the same time.
What is your experience in these workshops?
120 people in the same room being able to connect with each other. You can feel the energy when you see that we are talking about the same things. At one point a girl with a headscarf came forward and said “I can’t believe that we’re actually talking about the same things.” At another point a woman came forward and said she was hopeful because she found that she wants the same things as a woman wearing a black veil. The beliefs in our heads divide us but when we sit down to talk there is nothing we cannot overcome.
It might be easy to build bridges on the micro level but things change when it comes to the macro level.
Value-based individuals create value-based societies. It is important to fight against prejudices and increase awareness among individuals. But indeed it is like digging a hole with just a needle. Still, someone has to dig that hole and try to spread awareness. So the next phase is to organize a contest for projects that will answer the question as to what should be done in order to spread values. How can we increase trust in a neighborhood? Trust, respect, affection and helping each other are the values that this competition will focus on.
What are the other future steps?
We want to present the game “Value Stone” to the public. I believe it is the only game in the world about values. We are currently in touch with the Education Ministry about it and we are planning to share it with our teachers. We have had very positive feedback until now.Talking about values and trying to realize them in life is a long journey but we intend to continue on that road.
Who is Begümhan Doğan Faralyalı?
Begüm Doğan Faralyalı received her bachelor’s degree in Economics and Philosophy from London School of Economics and earned her MBA degree from Stanford University. She started her professional career as a consultant at Arthur Andersen New York office and moved to London Office of Monitor Group, where she worked as a consultant for restructuring European media and technology companies. She joined Doğan Media Group, which owns the Hürriyet Daily News, in 2004. In 2007 she led the startup process of Kanal D Romania, a national entertainment channel in Romanian. She became the CEO of Star TV in 2009 and also the president of Doğan TV Holding. Doğan Faralyalı has been serving as a Board Member at Doğan Holding since 2011 and became Doğan Holding chair in 2012. She is the President of the D&R Retail Group, the Dogan Egmont Publishing Group, the vice-president of the Doğan Burda Magazine Group, and a board member at Dogan TV Holding and the DTV Broadcasting Company. She is also on the Advisory Boards of the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University and Unicredit Bank. Doğan Faralyalı is a commissioner at the U.N.’s Business Sustainable Development Commision (BSDC), is on the board of trustees of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), and is the “dream partner” of the Young Guru Academy (YGA).