Esra, 22, from Mersin, is even more bored than usual this Ramadan. Universities are closed and Turkey has taken the unusual step of putting those under 20, as well as those over 65, under a curfew, as many Turkish families live in intergenerational households.
As a result, Esra cannot see any of her friends. And a few days before the Muslim month of fasting, like many young people, she now feels even more suffocated by the religious restrictions imposed by her pious parents.
“Normally they don’t know how I dress when I’m not around, but even at home now wearing tight jeans bothers them and they comment on it,” she said. “They think I’m fasting, but I’m not. I have water in my room.
Despite more than a decade of efforts by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to shape a generation of pious Turks, the country’s youth appear to be turning away from religion.
Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk banned religion from public life, creating a secular, pro-Western republic that broke with the Ottoman past. One hundred years later, Erdoğan put Turkey back on a more religious and socially conservative path, aiming to create a “religious generation” which “will work to build a new civilization”. Some members of the opposition call him the “caliph in waiting”.
President triples number of İmam clerics Hatip high schools in the country, steady increase in funding for the Directorate of Religious Affairs of Turkey and increase in the powers of local authorities muktars, or community leaders, who are usually pious men.
Yet a study earlier this year by Sakarya University and the Ministry of Education on religious studies programs in the Turkish school system found that students “resist compulsory religion classes, the government’s plan. on the “religious generation” and the concept of religion as a whole ”.
Almost half of the teachers surveyed said their students were increasingly likely to describe themselves as atheists, deists or feminists, and to challenge the interpretation of Islam taught in school.
A 2019 Konda Agency poll also found that people aged 15 to 29 described themselves as less “religiously conservative” than older and less religious generations than the same age group a decade earlier – the respondents said they do not necessarily cover their hair, please. regularly or on an empty stomach during Ramadan.
The overall drop in the number of people who described themselves as religiously conservative was 7%, down from 32% in 2008, and those who reported fasting during Ramadan fell from 77% to 65%.
The abandonment of religion among the younger Turkish generation follows a trend observed in many industrialized countries. But some wonder if this is also a backlash of nearly two decades of the AKP’s arrogant political Islam.
The 2019 survey found only a slight drop in religiosity overall. In a country where around half of the 82 million people are under the age of 30, however, even small changes in the attitude of society could have a dramatic impact on Turkish politics in the future.