The survey, titled “Elites and Social Divisions,” was conducted by two academics at İstanbul Bilgi University among 40 well-educated individuals in high-level professional positions. The survey aimed at understanding the views of such individuals, seen as “elites” in Turkey, regarding other people in Turkish society, including conservatives, minorities and non-Muslims.

Professor Füsun Üstel and Associate Professor Birol Caymaz discussed a wide range of topics with the 40 participants. Among these topics was the popularity of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), the murder of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, minority groups in Turkey, steps taken to solve the Kurdish question and a closure case against the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP).

According to the survey, the elites divide society into two camps: “us” and “others.” They see others as threats to their own existence.

The elites see themselves as the carriers and protectors of the republic and its values. The survey revealed that the participants considered AK Party deputies “occupiers” who did not deserve to be represented in Parliament.

One of the respondents said she abhorred seeing a woman wearing the headscarf in the Çankaya presidential palace, referring to the wife of President Abdullah Gül. Almost all of the participants in the survey said they objected to the election of Gül as president.

One respondent said she does not like to see so many covered women around: “I try to act as if there were no women wearing the headscarf around me. But there are too many.” Another respondent said she avoids any contact with covered women. “I don’t have any business with them. I don’t meet them. I don’t support the idea of allowing covered students to attend universities. I detest that idea,” she emphasized.

Many participants supported last year’s closure case against the AK Party, saying that although they don’t like the closure of political parties in democracies, they would find closure justifiable for the AK Party.

A closure case was filed against the AK Party last year on the grounds that it had become a focal point of anti-secularist acts. The Constitutional Court, however, refused to shut the party down.

Elites point to economic reasons as cause of Kurdish question

The survey also asked participants for their views on the causes behind the long-standing Kurdish problem.

Respondents pointed to economic problems as the main factor in the Kurdish issue. They said they were disturbed by the representation of the DTP in Parliament. Others said the Kurdish question arose with the foundation of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in 1984.

“The reason I don’t like Kurds is that they lead a tribal life,” said one of the respondents. Another participant said he was afraid of educated Kurds more than uneducated ones. “I know some Kurds who are university graduates. I think educated Kurds are more dangerous than uneducated ones. They become more dangerous based on their capacity for thinking,” he explained.

Another individual surveyed said the DTP had become more popular after it was promoted and supported by the AK Party. “The DTP is an artificial formation. It is backed by the AK Party. If the AK Party hadn’t backed them, the DTP would not have existed and there would not be any gap of authority in northern Iraq,” he argued.

Another question directed at respondents was how they feel about non-Muslims and minority groups in the country.

Almost all the respondents said they have non-Muslim friends and friends who belong to minority groups. “But we prefer not to talk about the problems of minority groups. We are afraid our relations may get tense if we do so,” many of the respondents said.

Those surveyed also said they would not support broader rights for those groups. “They may have been subjected to injustice in the past, but the situation is very different now. They are buying and selling the country. They don’t pay taxes, either,” one participant said.