Page 79 - MIGRATION

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MIGRATION, MEMORY, HERITAGE: SOCIO-CULTURAL
APPROACHES TO THE BULGARIAN-TURKISH BORDER
Life in the residential area – the point of view of its mayor
36
A town is the open space, in which immigrants can find their place or their home. A
town is physical space, controlled and administrated, a specific urban habitat, which fosters the
interiorisation of the norms of co-existence. Yet, a town is also shared space. When new town
sites are being appropriated, the automatic filling up of living space triggers social mechanisms,
which make it possible for differences to co-exist. The migrants, who have arrived in Edirne in
the last 20 years, either from other parts of the country or from the neighbour countries on the
peninsula, keep changing the town but still the question remains of if and how the town changes
the migrants. In the heavily rationalised space of the neighbourhood there are no topoi specific of
the different cultural and religious communities; thus, most things happen in the shared places.
The mayor of the borough outlined the residential area from the point of view of diversity and
difference, and the ways in which they are defined in Turkish society.
I.T. Turkey has different regions, you know. You have them too, say, the Kirdzhali
region, the Shumen region, or the Razgrad region. People in Edirne cannot cope with all the
work [he emphasizes this by repeating it twice], that’s why they come from other places too,
from eastern and south-eastern Anatolia. They come to work here. In this neighbourhood,
we have people who work on construction sites or in the restaurant business. They settle in
compact groups. Our task is to guarantee their prompt adaptation to avoid conflict. We are
quite successful in this. Like Christianity, Islam also has different trends. Their representatives
live in this neighbourhood. The Alevites have their temple, Cemevi, the rest have a mosque.
We celebrate the holidays of each group together, despite the differences. We do not
consider them different, we consider them people from around here. Thus, they adapt to the
circumstances. At school we definitely do not group them together. The children of the settlers
who have recently arrived are distributed in threes and fours in the different classes. Thus, they
are stimulated to measure up to the other children in their efforts. We would like to maintain a
high educational level here with no child falling behind. When there are fewer children in class,
the teachers can engage them better. This is the way to adapt socially. This is the peculiarity
of the neighborhood.
37
The strategies employedby the local government tounite people are in the formof projects,
the goal of which is not simply to become part of the life in the residential area but to take part
in creating shared spaces as well: planting trees, laying out gardens, helping schools, or joining
the initiatives of the numerous women’s associations related to charity or the attainment of skills
and qualifications. Collaborative activities construct shared spaces through projects offered to the
town council for approval and financing.
36 We met the mayor of the residential area (
muhtar
), I.T., in May 2011. The interview was taken in his office in
the presence of B.A., a journalist and a public figure in Edirne, who proved invaluable in assisting our networking in
the new neighbourhoods. The interview was taken in Turkish with Margarita Dobreva as an interpreter.
37 Taken out of an interview with I.T., a
muhtar
(an alderman). The interview was translated from Turkish into
Bulgarian by Margarita Dobreva.