Hemṣehricilik (Turkey)

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Hemṣehricilik 🇹🇷
Turkey map.png
Location: Turkey
Definition: Doing favours for people of one's own origin, especially within diasporic and political communities
Turkey solidarity conformity lock-in effect identity traps of identity kinship network migration clientelism diaspora
Author: Eda Pamuksuzer
Affiliation: Alumna UCL SSEES

By Eda Pamuksuzer, Alumna UCL SSEES

In Turkey, hemșehricilik is a practice of preferential treatment of people of the same origins by doing favours to those ‘near and dear’. Hemșehri refers to people who come from the same location (composed of ‘hem’, same or alike, and ‘șehir’, city). Hemșehrilik indicates the state of being hemșehri with someone else, while with the derivational affix of ‘ci’, the expression refers to an occupation or a practice established from this state. Hemșehricilik denotes the basic notion of belonging in Turkey.

Hemșehricilik is similar to a number of practices from other parts of the world that rely on collective identity formed through a consideration of a geographical location. For example, the Kazakh practice of Rushyldyq is defined as a ‘strong feeling of sub-ethnic identity with and loyalty to one’s ru’, a group sharing a territory and united by actual or fictive kinship. In southern Tajikistan, the village identities resemble hemșehricilik in forming a collective identity based on prioritising a central geographical origin to form useful social networks (Boboyorov 2013: 126; see also Traps of identity, Kinship lock-in and Closed community lock-in). In Russia, people of the same origins are called zemlyaki, in South Korea a similar phenomenon is known as yongo. Concepts referring to shared origins, such as the locality or region, are common worldwide. Practices of giving preferential treatment to a person of the same origins may differ significantly in spread and public perception. In Turkey, the name of the practice is widely used and commonly acceptable, which suggests that the practice is particularly significant.

Relations formed between people of the same geographical origins can stem from a shared experience, common past, or collective identities associated with it. Hemșehricilik gained weight with the industrialisation in Turkey in 1950s, which ignited migration from countryside to the cities (Terzi 2014: 141). In this period of rapid social change, migrants to urban areas held onto their rural roots and thus slowed it down somewhat or adapted to their needs. As rural and urban life continued to transform, the dynamics of social networks have altered as well. Hemșehricilik practices have spread by migration inside or outside Turkey. Although the practice is representative of mobility, it also points to the persistent power of identity and belonging.

The increase in the intra- and international migration led to the rise in the number of hemsehri associations and reach of hemșehri networks, one of the many channels of hemșehricilik (Terzi 2014: 138). Hemșehri associations represent a large proportion of civil society organisations in Turkey and countries hosting Turkish immigrants. Establishing a formal hemșehri organisation is a straightforward process with a clear legal framework (T.C. Icisleri Bakanligi Dernekler Dairesi Baskanligi 2004) and there are many legally registered hemșehri associations with the declared goals of ‘bringing together migrants from same town or district' and of solidarity on the basis of co-localism as their declared goal (Erder 1999: 167). Abroad, these associations provide Turks with a space to maintain their distinct cultural values (Terzi 2014: 142), preserve their local cultures, build new ties among compatriots and expand their personal networks. Hemșehri institutions help Turkish migrants acquire social ties to aid the processes of moving and integration, find jobs and accommodation or overcome similar problems (Erder 1999: 165-166). The associations shape diaspora communities and provide them with exclusive opportunities unavailable to outsiders.

Nurturing hemșehri relations enables these institutions to accommodate both formal and informal practices within their scope. Hemșehri relations may bring voluntarily or obligatory contribution requirements such as the expectation of favouritism (kayırmacılık), such as torpil. Torpil (also known as kıyak) is an informal practice of exchanging favours to get a job, a promotion, a place in school, to jump a queue and other objectives. This act of ‘paving the way’ for a person implies favouring them over others and thus undermines the right of others. The special bonds and relationship of torpil can emerge on multiple grounds. Hemșehricilik can provide such a common ground by producing an ‘identity-based belonging and solidarity,’ characterized by a closed community lock-in effect.

Despite their apolitical appearance, some suggests that the most important function of hemșehri associations is their political reach (Erder 1999: 168). Politically active members can use the associations to disseminate the political viewpoints and expectations of their parties. Hemșehri associations and hemșehri networks appear to be a critical resource in urban and diasporic voting and are frequently used as a tool for voter mobilisation. Diaspora communities in hemșehri associations are also used to determine the results of critical elections and referendums. Another political ramification of hemșehrilik lies in its application in governance, where problems may arise when hemșehrilik starts to entails the practice of hemșehricilik. Unfair appointments and the creation of locked political circles can have adverse effects. If they become an established practice, hemșehri relations in politics may result in political clientelism and favouritism.


Boboyorov, H. 2013. Collective identities and patronage networks in Southern Tajikistan. Munster: LIT

Erder, S. 1999. 'Where did you hail from? Localism and networks in Istanbul,' in C. Keyder, ed., Istanbul between the global and the local, Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 161-172

Terzi, E. 2014. 'Hemsehri dernekleri, hemsehrilik bilinci ve kentlilesme iliskisi uzerine bir arastirma,' Selcuk Universitesi Journal of Institute of Social Sciences, 32: 37-150, http://dergisosyalbil.selcuk.edu.tr/susbed/article/view/920

T.C. Icisleri Bakanligi Dernekler Dairesi Baskanligi. 2004. '5253 Sayili Dernekler Kanunu,' https://www.dernekler.gov.tr/tr/mevzuat/kanun/5253-dernekler-kanunu.aspx