NGO watch: Reinventing Muş, one step at a time
Muş in eastern Turkey is a remote and little-known city synonymous among most Turkish people with social, geographical and other hardships. In addition to the general difficulties of life in eastern Turkey, there is a further reason behind the city’s reputation for misfortune: During World War I the Ottoman Empire sent troops to fight in Yemen. Reportedly, in an effort to ensure solidarity among the troops to be sent to the front (and thereby reduce the chance of desertion), the decision was given to send men from only one city. That city was Muş, and of all the men sent, not a single one returned. This tragedy is recorded in the folksong “Yemen Türküsü,” which recounts the grief of the mothers, sisters, wives and other loved ones left behind. And so Muş’s place in posterity as a scene of mourning was established. Thus, while many Turkish people might struggle to find Muş on the map, the city’s image is imprinted on their minds through the tragic folksong.
However, Muş need not carry this ill-fated image with it into the new millennium, not least because the younger generation is ready and willing to do its best to change the face of the city. A perfect example of this is the Young Steps association (Genç Adımlar Derneği).
Young Steps was founded in 2006 by a group of young Kurds with the aim of creating projects to contribute to Muş, encourage young people to get involved in the issues facing youth in the region, and enable them to actively participate in politics and decision making processes. In addition, the group planned to take action to contribute to human rights, democratization and intercultural interactions in the region. Initially no-one had a clear idea how to achieve these goals. After a detailed online search, answers began to emerge: EU projects funded through the Turkish National Agency. And that is exactly what Young Steps did.
With the funds provided by the Turkish National Agency it first rented an office in a block used mostly by lawyers, bought the necessary equipment to fit it out and began to organize projects that soon made it a leading youth NGO in Muş.
Youth Exchange Projects were established to develop intercultural and international dialogue