Polygamous Arab men who buy property in Turkey must choose just one of their brides to carry over the threshold; polygamy isn’t legal in this country which grants residency permits to just one wife.
Seemingly simple events like home buying get entangled in Turkey’s escalating tussle between secularism and religion.
But monogamy is more than a cultural preference, it can be a stabilizing factor in growing populations.
Compared to the Arab world, Turkey’s annual growth is moderate and family size is declining.
Turkey’s 2012 birth rate dropped to an all-time low of 0.12%, despite urging by Prime Minister Erdogan (himself a father of four) that married Turks produce four or five children. Population topped 75 million last year, but median age crept over 30 as women are having fewer children. Refer to the graph from the World Bank, below, updated in April 2013.
So who’s house-hunting? Turk nationals, and increasingly, foreigners seeking holiday property and speculative investment, with demand particularly rising among Arabs. Middle East nations that allow Turks to buy property within their borders are extended reciprocal rights which allow their citizens to purchase in Turkey. Establishing a foothold in the country is especially attractive given Turkey’s looming membership in the European Union.
During the first 10 months of 2013, 15,000 foreigners including Russians, Germans and Brits snapped up 21,691 Turkish properties. But sales to Arabs will surpass all others, according to Hurriyet Daily News. Records indicate that 773 properties have been sold to Saudis, with additional sales to Iraqis, Kuwaitis, United Arab Emiratis, and Jordanians.
Some of those buyers have up to four wives, all of whom want a front door key.
Statistics defining the percentage of Arabs with multiple wives are not easily obtained; the tradition varies per nation and age group. There’s a Facebook page called “We want them Four” for supporters of the practice, indicating its enduring appeal to younger men.
The Ministry of Environment and Urban Affairs are reportedly working to resolve the one-resident-wife issue. “Many Arab men say they want to buy in Turkey, but also ask for help to bring all of their wives,” said Hamit Demir, chairman of Demir Construction. He sees the regulation as limiting exploitation of the Arab buyer market.
Ferhat Bakgör, chairman of Bak Construction, which develops property in Istanbul for wealthy Arabs, views it another way, “Turkish people have not yet become comfortable with living with Arab people in same apartment blocks. They will feel worse if Arab men come to Turkey to live with their all wives,” he said.
The Qur’an permits (but does not command) a man to have four wives, but stipulates that each wife must be equally maintained and provided with separate living accommodation.
If the government can finesse the residency permits without aggravating anti-Islam sentiment, the real winner will be Turkey’s realtors.