The skilled youth quitting Turkey

Ankara (AFP) – When Dilara left Turkey for Dubai five years ago, her friends said she’d made a mistake. The economy was flourishing, the cultural scene was vibrant and relations with the West warm.

But now, “most of my friends are sending me their CVs because they don’t want to stay in Turkey anymore, especially after the referendum,” said Dilara, a pseudonym as she did not want to be identified by her real name.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan won a landmark referendum in April on expanding his powers, which critics fear will lead to one-man rule in an increasingly polarised nation.

Dilara, a specialist in digital marketing, is one of an increasing number of highly-skilled Turks to leave the country, a trend that has grown in recent years, according to Ulas Sunata, sociologist at the University of Bahcesehir in Istanbul.

Lamenting a lack of data, she said the issue represented a potentially damaging brain drain.

“It’s a genuine problem for the country,” she told AFP.

“But it’s not just the sociocultural aspect, there’s the economic aspect, too… their departure is a real disadvantage for the country.”

A dozen Turkish citizens interviewed by AFP, who have left or areplanning to leave, cited dwindling job prospects for graduates and complained of a rising conservatism under the Islamic-rooted government and an erosion of civil liberties.

The Turkish government insists it is building a strong economy, based on innovation and investment, with the aim of becoming one of the world’s top 10 economies by the 100th anniversary of the modern Republic in 2023.

The economy has remained robust after the July 2016 failed coup, even expanding by 5.1 percent in the second quarter this year. Yet critics point to high unemployment — especially the 20.6-percent rate among 15 to 24 year-olds — and an uncertain future outlook as reforms stall.

Erdogan claimed in July that a “brain drain” was taking place throughout the Muslim world. “We are losing our most intelligent students to the…

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