In Turkey, a country with more than 83 million people, you must pass an entrance exam, the exam for higher education institutions, or Yükseköğretim Kurumları Sınavı in Turkish (YKS) to enter university. This year, 2.5 million people took the multiple-choice questionnaire in physical spaces, despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
On March 26, the Council for Higher Education announced that the dates for the YKS would be July 25 and 26. On May 4, Turkish President Recep Erdoğan changed them for June 27 and 28.
The changes and uncertainties surrounding the review in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic generated countless discussions in Turkish society and on social media. What effect do changes in dates have on the psychology of students, given the level of tension associated with the YKS for which applicants prepare for months? How would the COVID-19 prevention measures (social distance, l temperature measurements, use of mask) be applied and complied with to 2.5 million people gathered?
In 2019, 74.16% of candidates passed the first part of the YKS, and only 39.4% passed the second part of the exam.
Turkey recorded its first confirmed case of COVID-19 on March 11, and for the July 15, there were about 5,500 deaths from the virus, while there have been more than 200,000 confirmed cases of the disease in the country.
On July 1, the government applied special measures: places such as restaurants, cafes and wedding halls that had been closed for three months reopened with restrictions on social distancing. Clients must now wear face masks and they will also take their temperature.
Students and opposition parties called for the YKS to be postponed, but the government continued with its plans: At the end of June, 2.5 million people ridiculed the exam.
As seen in this tweet, concerns about the application of social distancing in this context turned out to be legitimate:
2.5 milyon öğrencinin girdiği YKS, tüm uyarılara rağmen yapılıyor: Sosyal mesafe ortadan kaybolduhttps: //t.co/OlBVYfGNOE pic.twitter.com/MhuRK45wKK
– # Tele1Susturulamaz (@ tele1comtr) June 27, 2020
With 2.5 million students, the YKS are held, despite all the warnings: the social distancing disappeared.
A new YKS controversy: Morality
COVID-19 is not the only debate around the YKS in 2020. A more passionate discussion began in early July regarding a text chosen for the Turkish exam. One of the questions was about the song by pop singer Mabel Matiz, a member of the LGBTQ + community titled “Fırtınadayım” (“I'm in the storm”):
(embed) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kLGvPVQ7Djs (/ embed)
The question about the meaning of “Gözümün gördüğü, göğsümün bildiği ile bir değil” (which can be translated as “what my eyes see is not what my heart feels”) has made its mark on social media due to Mabel's popularity among young people (some of their videos have 50 million views) and their sexual orientation.
After growing debates on Twitter, Halis Aygün, president of the Center for Measurement, Selection and Placement (ÖSYM), the government entity in charge of preparing the exam, gave an interview to the conservative right-wing media Yeni Akit. In the interview, he said that the matter would be investigated and those responsible for including the text would be fired:
The 2020 YKS was completed safely and successfully in 188 exam centers in three sessions with the participation of approximately two and a half million candidates. The question pool is created with the participation of thousands of academicians from different universities of our country. The sensitivity of the management of our institution about our national, moral values and social value judgments is clear. An investigation has been launched into the content of the relevant question in the Turkish area of the 2020 YKS's TYT (this refers to one portion of the YKS exam) session. The members of staff responsible will be discharged from the process of question preparation.
The YKS 2020 was conducted safely and satisfactorily at 188 test centers in three sessions with the participation of approximately two and a half million candidates. The questions are prepared by a group with the participation of thousands of academics from different universities in our country. The confidentiality of the management of our institution regarding our national judgments, moral and social values is clear. An investigation has been initiated into the content of the relevant Turkish item question for the portion of the YKS 2020 exams. Staff members in charge will be separated from the question preparation process.
For some Twitter users, these measures are not enough:
ÖSYM Başkanı sınav sonrası ilk kez konuştu!
ÖSYM'den Mabel Matiz sorusu açıklaması:
“Sorunun içeriği hakkında soruşturma başlatılmıştır.
Sorumlu kişiler soru hazırlama süreçlerinden çıkarılacaktır. ” pic.twitter.com/jPzbcc0wA5
– hacı yakışıklı (@haciykk) July 2, 2020
The president of the Center for Measurement, Selection and Placement spoke for the first time after the exam!
“An investigation has been launched into the content of the problem. Those responsible will be removed from the question preparation processes ”.
It is not enough, the negligent president must be removed from the management process for it to end properly.
Conservative segments of society also question the intention behind choosing that question:
Bugünkü # yks2020 sınavında @halis_aygun gençlere eşcinsel ve LGBT savunucusu Mabel Matiz (Matiz resimde ‘Velev ki İbneyiz’ pankartı taşıyan kişi) den başka örnek gösterecek kimseyi bulamadınız mı? Ne yapmaya çalışıyorsunuz?@Akparti @MHP_Bilgi @AKKADINGM @ pic.twitter.com/VitWijUxkg
– Sema Maraşlı (@Semamarasli) June 27, 2020
At today's YKS 2020 exam, couldn't they find anyone else to show teens that gay and LGBT advocate Mabel Matiz? (The sign says “we are fags.”) What are you trying to do?
Public opinion is still divided, other Twitter users point out the success and popularity of Mabel Matiz:
Mabel Matiz'in kliplerini izlemenizi tavsiye ediyorum sevgili inceleme kurulu uyeleri .. zira uzun yillardan beri bu derece kulturumuze sahip cikan baska sanatcimiz yoktur.o yuzdendir ki #mabelmatiz bu topraklarin değeridir .. özgün bir “sanatçımızdır”.
– Tuğçe Akşit (@metalikebe) July 3, 2020
Dear members of the board of investigation, I recommend that you watch the videos of Mabel Matiz. Because we have no other artists who have accepted our culture like this for many years. That is why Mabel Matiz is the treasure of our land. He is a unique “artist”.
This cybernaura drew attention to the fact that by focusing on a gay singer, politicians avoid addressing real problems:
Kimse tecavüzcüye tacizciye ses çıkarmıyor Mabel Matiz sorusuna inceleme başlatılmış hay Allah'ım yaaa
– H E L E N A💫 (@HelinBaskin) July 3, 2020
Nobody makes noise about rapists, but Mabel Matiz's question becomes a matter of investigation.
And this concludes:
‘Toplumsal değer yargılarımız’ diyosunuz ama kültürümüzü yaptığı işlerde in iyi yansıtandır Mabel Matiz. Asıl or inceleme Mabel Matiz'e hakaret edip bu ülkede her konuda ayrımcılık yapanlara başlatılmalı# MabelMatizYalnızDeğildir pic.twitter.com/2NDfdQgkmn
– SEHER (@kimennee_) July 4, 2020
They say “our judgments of social values”, but Mabel Matiz is the one who best reflects our culture. Therefore, the investigation should be about those who insult Mabel Matiz.
Mabel Matiz is not alone.
Mabel Matiz's response to the controversy
On July 3, the debate became more heated: Matiz finally broke his silence:
Hey, hayatın sınavları bitmez demiştim:) Bi ’yoklama da burdan geldi.
– Mabel Matiz (@mabelmatiz) July 3, 2020
Hello 🙂 I was very happy to be the subject of an important exam questions with my music. Now, I see with amazement that my personal values are the subject of the same exam. Look what I was testing while I'm stuck with the geographical sign logo next to my name.
Well I said life tests are not over 🙂 Bi bi surveys came from here..
Müziğimi yapmaya, hikayeler anlatmaya ve bu ülkenin bir parçası olmaya gönülden devam edeceğim.
Bir başka sınavda görüşmek üzere…
– Mabel Matiz (@mabelmatiz) July 3, 2020
Grow up and read your intensive support and love messages. I understand well what I understand, what I want to tell my music so far from what they wrote and I feel even stronger.
I will continue making my music, telling stories and being part of this country.
See you on another exam.
Matiz is still very popular: One day after Aygun's statement, he received two awards in a popular vote competition. He won in both categories, “Best Video” and “Best Male Singer” in the XLVI edition of the Golden Butterfly Awards. This seems to indicate that many people support him against homophobia expressed by the Government and conservative citizens.
On July 5, Mabel Matiz tweeted again:
46.Altın Kelebek Ödülleri’nde “En İyi Erkek Sanatçı” see “En İyi Video Klip” ödüllerini aldık, mutluyum! Layık gören tüm dinleyici dostlarıma teşekkürler!
Mendilimde Kırmızım Var klibinin değerli yönetmeni Erhan Arık’a ve DOP Meryem Yavuz’a ayrıca teşekkürlerimi sunuyorum. pic.twitter.com/87wjv8Zmen
– Mabel Matiz (@mabelmatiz) July 5, 2020
I received “Best Male Singer” and “Best Video” awards at the XLVI edition of the Golden Butterfly Awards. I am happy! Thank you to all my dear listeners. I would like to extend my thanks to Erhan Arık and DOP Meryem Yavuz, the esteemed directors of the video (of my song) “I Have a Red in My Wipe”.