Yörük - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Economic activities vary regionally. Historically, the Yörük were nomadic pastoralists specializing in goat and sheep production. In the mid-nineteenth century, agricultural development meant the restriction of grazing throughout most of their nomadic range. Many settled, taking up agriculture—in particular dry farming of mixed grains and vegetables. Yörük farmers along the fertile coastal plain have ventured into citrus production, irrigated agriculture, and commercial horticulture using greenhouses. In the Maras-Gaziantep region, cotton is a principal cash crop, but pastoralism has also remained a very profitable endeavor, and sheep are raised in large numbers. Sheep and products such as milk, wool, and cheese are sold in the national marketplace and increasingly exported to Arab states. Sheep production had become so profitable by 1987 that some Yörük were renting land that was formerly farmed to use as pasturage.

Industrial Arts. Apart from those who have settled in urban areas or found factory employment in industry, there is little industrial specialization. Some families weave rugs and textiles for sale, but the practice of this craft is not at present particularly common.

Trade. In many rural communities, Yörük specialize in running small business concerns and shops. In some areas, they are among the more prosperous rural dwellers. Almost all pastoral or agricultural production is market oriented—little is used for home consumption. Historically, too, much animal production was for market sale. Prior to the development of the modern grid of railroads and highways, Yörük were active in providing overland transport by camel.

Division of Labor. The Yörük are similar to other rural Muslims in Turkey in that they maintain a fairly strong sense of what is appropriate male and female behavior. Women are not encouraged to work outside of the household, to seek commercial employment or to engage in herding or working in the fields. Nevertheless, the female members of very poor families may be forced to do so. Men tend to dominate public life and to conduct the public activities of the household, as is common throughout the Middle East. Girls increasingly are being sent to public school but rarely beyond middle school. Men are not expected to be active in child care, washing, cooking, or domestic work.

Land Tenure. Arable land is privately owned. Generally, Yörük pasture their animals either on fields owned by others or on grazing tracts held as village commons; in either case, herd owners pay rent for access to grazing. Between the 1920s and 1950s, a number of Yörük villages were established on state-owned lands that were divided up and deeded to Yörük settlers. Yörük are not large landowners in the southeast (where absentee landlordism is common); their holdings range from 2 to 70 hectares.

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