With one foot in Europe and the other one in Asia, Turkey straddles ancient cultures and contemporary aspirations. Contrasting views make Turkey a complex and dynamic country in the headlines, behind closed doors and on the world stage. Activities focus on its ancient civilizations, refugee settlements, role in investigating the murder of Post contributing commentator Jamal Khashoggi and future as a leader in the Middle East.
Download Classroom Worksheets (PDF) 

Turkey is much in the news in 2018. It hosts more refugees than any other country. Its president Recep Tayyip Erdogan appears to position himself in both democratic and autocratic realms through his words and actions. Istanbul, with its young, vibrant population and maze-like bazaars, became the center of media attention and the world’s conscience when Washington Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered in the Saudi consulate there.


Mount Ararat and other places in religious writings, archaeological and World Heritage sites, whirling dervishes and distinct cuisines can be brought into the classroom to bring Turkey to life. Whether studying the ancient civilization, Ottoman Empire or contemporary Turkey, this guide suggests activities, provides reprints and resources and encourages student engagement. Through maps, historic records, cuisine, and news coverage perspectives emerge for study, debate and analysis. Influences from the Middle East, Mediterranean, the Balkan peninsula and Central Asia are apparent.


Three resource guides and suggested activities cover the refugee camps and young people, Byzantine and Ottoman empires, colonialism and world wars, and free expression in today’s Middle East. As Jamal Khashoggi stated in his first column published in The Washington Post, “I have left my home, my family and my job, and I am raising my voice. To do otherwise would betray those who languish in prison. I can speak when so many cannot.”



November 2018

Works by Turkish Author Orhan Pamuk
Resource Graphic 

Study Etymology
Character Education, English, Geography, Reading, Social Studies

Words with Turkish origin have entered our vocabulary through different means: trade, war and the Ottoman Empire expansion, newspapers and contact with neighboring countries with which we then had diplomatic and other contact. Begin with the following words to look at what they add to our understanding and daily life. Ask students to provide a definition, the etymology of each and what each reveals about the life and culture of Turkey.


Aga Khan, Asian, baklava, Balkan, borek, Casaba, Cassock/Cossack, coffee, doodle, fez, kiosk, lackey, oda, ottoman, Ottoman, pastrami, shish kebab, sofa, Tartar, Turk, yogurt, yurt


Syrian Refugees
Art, Character Education, Geography, Journalism, World History

Read and discuss the KidsPost article, “ Syrian refugee kids show the effects of war in their artwork.” This article was originally published in 2016. Do your students expect the same programs to be in place? Share these 2018 figures with them:


According to the UN Refugee Agency, “Turkey hosts over 2.9 million registered Syrians. The majority of them live in urban areas, with around 260,000 accommodated in the 21 government-run refugee camps.  There are more than a million registered Syrians in Lebanon and 660,000 in Jordan. Iraq has also seen a growing number of Syrians arriving, hosting more than 241,000, while in Egypt UNHCR provides protection and assistance to more than 122,000. 


“Palestine refugees are particularly vulnerable with an estimated 460,000 people receiving regular assistance around Syria. School attendance has dropped by more than 50 per cent and roughly one-quarter of schools have been damaged, destroyed or are used as collective shelters. More than half of Syria's hospitals have been destroyed or badly damaged. Water supply has decreased to less than 50 per cent of its pre-crisis levels. An estimated 9.8 million people are considered food insecure and many more are living in poverty.”


Teachers may try to help students understand what it means to be a refugee who has escaped bombing of one’s home or city. Ideas for discussion include:
• What is the population of your town? Your state? Teachers might ask students to locate a city that has a population of 2.9 million or close to it.

• What basic needs and services would be required for this many people? You might compare this to the amount of similar items needed for the students of your school each week — food, water and coffee, paper goods — or find out what emergency agencies use during the first week of a natural disaster in a school shelter.

• Imagine that your home was destroyed by wildfires. You only had time to grab family pets and a few items in order to escape. What would you take? How would you survive in the next weeks — in a shelter, hotel, with friends or family? Should you, or could you, pay for the necessities?

• What kind of class would they organize for refugee students in a tent camp? What activities would they organize? Are any supplies or equipment needed?


Map It
Geography, Social Studies, World History

Depending on your class, study a map of the Byzantine era or modern Turkey. Locate capital cities and other important sites for the time period of your study. You may also give students the "Turkey Today" activity that asks students to read maps presenting different types of information about Turkey.


Travel to World Heritage Sites
Geography, World History

World Heritage sites are cultural and natural legacies from the past that must be preserved for the future. Although they are found in particular countries or regions, World Heritage designees “belong to all the peoples of the world, irrespective of the territory on which they are located.” UNESCO encourages measures to protect and safeguard the properties. 


In Turkey archaeological sites, edifices and places from different religious traditions, the birthplace of the Ottoman Empire, and natural landscapes are included on its Heritage list.


Teachers might use the archaeological site of Troy to illustrate the information to be found about each of the World Heritage selections in Turkey. The description may be read in different languages. Documentation of its value, meeting of criterion, and authenticity introduce the site, demonstrate concise argumentation and hint to Turkey’s culture. Discuss how the maps, documents and gallery are persuasive and support the inclusion of Troy as a World Heritage identified cultural heritage.


Students may be assigned to learn more about one of the World Heritage sites. Locate on a map of Turkey, introduce it and find a unique way to bring it to life in a class presentation.


Do a Word Find

English, Journalism, Social Studies, World History

In “From Constantinople to Ankara” students must locate 30 terms related to the history and culture of Turkey. After students have completed the word find, teachers may ask students to select a person, a faith or religion-related word, or any term. Do a one-day search in books and online to learn how this term relates to the history and culture of Turkey.


Eat Turkey and More
Character Education, Geography, Home Economics

Check your local phone book or an online source for restaurants that serve Turkish cuisine. What are they named? Do you find Perge, Aspendos, Myra or Kekova? Turkish restaurants are often names for places in the home country.


What dishes are on the menu? Do students recognize some of them? How have they become part of our everyday meals? Teachers might review some of the suggestions in Teachers Notes for using the FOOD section of The Washington Post to introduce Turkish foods. Have students eaten baklava, pastrami, a shish kebab or yogurt? You might even ask about turkey (guinea fowl) that found its way into Europe from North Africa that was under Ottoman or Turkish rule.


Have fun planning — and maybe sampling — Turkish cuisine.

Resource Graphic 

Introduce Reuters and AP News Services
Journalism, Media Literacy, Social Studies

The Washington Post has almost 30 international bureaus with correspondents based in them. Yet, to provide more eyewitness and timely coverage they belong to Reuters and AP News Services.


Introduce students to these news providers in the pages of The Washington Post and online. Give students “Three Stories (and follow-up) From the AP.” Note how clearly a story that comes from an AP writer is indicated. Ask students to identify headline, dateline and byline. Read, categorize and discuss the news briefs and news articles that all provide coverage of activity involving Turkey.


Teachers may wish to show students the video from Reuters to accompany the reading of “US pastor released from house arrest, flown out of Turkey.” What does the video add to the print coverage?


Challenge Five Myths
Government, World History

Five myths is a weekly feature challenging everything you think you know. In this guide, teachers are provided a reprint of “Five myths about the decline and fall of Rome.” In addition to comparisons that some make to the Trump administration and current events,  reference is made (in myth 5) to the Byzantine Empire and its contrast to the Roman Empire. Students might use this essay as a stepping stone to discussion of empires, their inception, expansion and decline.


Play a Role
Government, Social Studies, World History

Students are to use their knowledge (and research) of Middle Eastern history and current events as they play the role of a diplomat from one of the listed countries. Teachers might begin this activity with locating Middle Eastern and European countries on a map.


What do students know of colonial activities of European countries in the Middle East? And how relations changed over the decades? “Four maps that explain the chaos in the Middle East” could be used as background for this activity. Read through the article together, noticing the changing map.


Give students “Diplomatic Relations in the Middle East.” Either assign countries or allow students to select the countries they want to represent. Up to four students may select a country, each with a different time period. Or teachers may do this activity focused on one time period; for example, 1900-1920, leading up to, during and after WWI.


Teachers can decide on the form of presentation. In panels, debates, country forums or press conferences with diplomats.


Debate European Union Entry

Economics, Government, World History

Admittedly moved to the back burner of many topics concerning Turkey is the question of whether it would be a good decision for Turkey and the European Union for Turkey to become a member state. Given that it applied in 1987, is it now too late? 


Debate: Should Turkey become a member of the EU?


Preparation for debate would include research:

• What is the purpose of the European Union? What are its goals for member states?

• What requirements must a nation meet to join the EU?

• In what ways would Turkey benefit from being a member of the EU? Explain how the EU might benefit from Turkey’s admittance?

• Although Turkey is a candidate to join the EU, what issues need to be resolved before that could happen?

• Which current EU countries might vote against Turkey’s admittance? For what reasons?

• Turkey applied to join the EU in 1987. Do the Turkish people still support EU entry?

• Why is the United Kingom (UK) leaving the EU (Brexit vote)? Does Brexit have any influence on the question of Turkey’s entry?


Form debate teams, complete research and prepare for the debate. You might invite individuals from your school community or town to act as judges or to comment on the debate and the issue.

Confrontations and Conscience

Jamal Khashoggi a Saudi journalist and author, and a columnist for Washington Post Global Opinions, was not been heard from since he entered a Saudi consulate in Istanbul for a routine consular matter on the afternoon of October 2, 2018.


Meet the Commentary Writer
Government, Journalism, Media Literacy

Jamal Khashoggi had been working for The Post as a contributing writer in the Global Opinions section since September 2017 before he disappeared on October 2, 2018, in the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. Read “His calls for reform grew into a shout” for an introduction to him before he came to The Post — his family background, his changing political views and work in media. This provides how others saw him.


You can also get to know Jamal Khashoggi through his writings. What was it that made him such a threat to the Saudi heir apparent and others in Saudi Arabia? Read and discuss “By blaming 1979 for Saudi Arabia’s problems, the crown prince is peddling revisionist history,” “Saudi Arabia’s reformers now face a terrible choice” and Khashoggi’s last commentary, “What the Arab world needs most is free expression.”


Follow a Changing Story
Government, Journalism, Media Literacy

Jamal Khashoggi, a veteran Saudi journalist, was killed in Istanbul after walking into the consulate of Saudi Arabia, according to Turkish officials. In a statement released Oct. 6, Fred Hiatt, The Post’s editorial page editor, said that if true, this would represent “a monstrous and unfathomable act.”

Teachers might have students read the news articles in chronological order to follow the unfolding and changing story. What was the first report from Saudi officials? When and how does this claim change?

 Another approach would be to read a story after news of Khashoggi’s murder was released, for example, “Erodgan demands that Saudis prove missing journalist left their consulate alive.” 

Discussion questions could include:
• What details made the first report that Khashoggi had left the consulate questionable?
• Who pursued a truthful answer to the question of where was Jamal Khashoggi?
• What might have motivated the changing stories from Saudi officials?


See How The Post Responds
Ethics, Journalism, Media Literacy, Government

• On October 4, 2018, when Jamal’s column should have appeared in The Post’s op-ed section, white space appeared.

• Columnists wrote about Khashoggi, a free press and Middle East leaders’s responses: David Ignatius, Jason Rezaian, Ali Adubisi and Hana Al-Khamri, and Manal al-Sharif.

• Wrote editorials. Read the editorial included in this month’s resources, "The future of the Middle East depends on justice for Jamal Khashoggi." Teachers might lead students through The Post’s View to locate editorials related to Khashoggi.

• Printed full-page advertisements seeking the truth.


What Should Others Do?
Ethics, Government, Political Science

• Saudi Arabia and Turkey have a friendly relationship, according to Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. It is a complicated relationship. What should these two countries do in response to the revelation of Khashoggi’s death? How do their human rights records compare?

• How do the countries of the Middle East relate to each other? Political, religious, economic, cultural and other partnerships, shared experiences and rivalry? Teachers might find reading “Five Myths: Saudi Arabia” helpful.

• What actions should the U.S. Congress take in response to the murder of this journalist in a consulate? What are the duties of a consul? What should its citizens expect when they enter the doors of their country’s consulate? What complicates U.S. response? Which is most important: human rights or economics?

• Before Khashoggi’s death cultural and entertainment venues had reached out to Arab artists, performers and musicians for cross-cultural events. Should these continue? What are the benefits and drawbacks of these activities?


EDITOR: Carol Lange
ART EDITOR: Carol Porter 

Resource Graphic 
In The Know 

Byzantine Relating to Byzantium, the Byzantine Empire or the Eastern Orthodox Church; excessively complicated and typically involving a great deal of administrative detail

Official appointed by a government to live in a foreign city and protect and promote the government’s citizens and interests there


Consulate Place or building in which a consul’s duties are carried out
De Facto In fact, or in effect; actually
Dissenter Dissident, nonconformist, protester
Echelon Particular level or rank in an organization, a profession or society
Eurasia From Abkhazia and Moldova to Turkey and Uzbekistan, countries located where the continents of Europe and Asia meet. Others define Eurasia as Turkey and countries that were part of the former U.S.S.R. and Balkan countries. The Ural Mountains are often considered the dividing line between Europe and Asia, and consider Eurasia to be all the countries in Europe and Asia.
Impunity Exemption from punishment or freedom from the unpleasant results of something that has been done wrong; indemnity
Iron Curtain Symbolic or metaphoric barrier to understanding and the exchange of information and ideas created by ideological, political and military hostility of one country toward another; political, military and ideological barrier erected by the Soviet Union after WWII to seal itself and its dependents from contact with the West
 Notoriety Widely known for some bad quality or nefarious deed
 Ottoman Relating to the Ottoman Empire, Turkish, a Turk of the family or tribe of Osman; a cushioned footstool
Temblor Earthquake, shaking and vibration at the earth’s surface
Tenable Able to be maintained or defended against attack or objection; is able to be held against criticism
Transnational Extending or operating across national boundaries, involving more than one country

Most of these terms are found in “His calls for reform grew into a shout.”

District of Columbia Public Schools Academic Content Standards 

ERA III. Ancient and Classical Civilizations to 700 C.E.
1.     Describe the circumstances that led to the spread of Christianity in Europe and other Roman territories. (G, R)

2.     Describe the legacies of Roman art and architecture, technology and science (e.g., roads, bridges, arenas, baths, aqueducts, central heating, plumbing, and sanitation), literature and poetry, language, and law. (I)

ERA IV. Early Modern Times to 150

9.7. Students describe the rise of the Ottoman Empire in the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries.
1.     Explain the importance of Mehmed II the Conqueror and Suleiman the Magnificent. (P, M)
2.     Recognize the importance of the capture of Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire, in 1453. (P, M)
3.     Describe the expansion of the Ottoman Empire into North Africa, Eastern Europe, and throughout the Middle East, and describe the importance of the Battle of Lepanto in the 16th century limiting Ottoman ambitions in the Mediterranean. (G, M)
4.     Summarize the rise of the Safavid Empire.
5.     Describe Shah Abbas and how his policies of cultural blending led to the Golden Age of the Safavid Empire 

ERA V. Modern Times
10.15. Students analyze the major developments in the Middle East since World War II.

1. Identify the weakness and fragility of the oil-rich Persian Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and others. (P)

Academic Content Standards may be found at http://osse.dc.gov/service/dc-educational-standards.

Maryland Academic Content Standards 

Students will understand the diversity and commonality, human interdependence, and global cooperation of the people of Maryland, the United States and the World through both a multicultural and historic perspective.

1. The student will analyze advantages and disadvantages of various types of governments throughout the world (2.2.1).
• Types of political systems including: democratic (parliamentary, presidential) and authoritarian (absolute monarchy, oligarchy, dictatorship and totalitarian).
• Forms of government: unitary, confederationfederal.
2. The student will evaluate the effectiveness of international alliances and organizations from the perspective of the United States (2.1.2)
a. Explain the various roles of the United Nations (UN) such as maintaining international peace, enforcing international law, addressing human rights violations and solving international problems
b. Explain the role of the International Federation of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent and other agencies, such as United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the World Health Organization (WHO) in addressing humanitarian issues


Social Studies. 2. Evaluate how ancient governments around the world protected or failed to protect the rights of individuals and groups (Grade 6)

World History. Students will evaluate the regional reactions to the collapse of the interregional stability by:
• Analyzing the interregional impacts of the bubonic plague and the collapse of the Mongol Empire (2, 3).
• Summarizing the achievements of the Ottoman Empire (2, 3, and 5).
• Explaining the causes and effects of Islamic expansion and Eurasian trade routes on political and cultural life in West African Kingdoms (1, 2, 3, 4,). 

Modern World History. Students will evaluate the regional reactions to the collapse of the interregional stability by:
• Analyzing the interregional impacts of the bubonic plague and the collapse of the Mongol Empire (2, 3).
• Summarizing the achievements of the Ottoman Empire (2, 3, and 5).
• Explaining the causes and effects of Islamic expansion and Eurasian trade routes on political and cultural life in West African Kingdoms (1, 2, 3, 4,). 

The slow decline of the Byzantine Empire from the 6th to 14th centuries.


The Maryland Voluntary State Curriculum Content Standards can be found online at http://mdk12.org/assessments/standards/9-12.html. 

Virginia Academic Content Standards 

Classical Civilizations and Rise of Religious Traditions, 1000 b.c. (b.c.e.) to 500 a.d. (c.e.)

WHI.7    The student will apply social science skills to understand the development of Christianity by

a)   describing the origins, beliefs, traditions, customs, and spread of Christianity in time and   place;

b)   explaining the unifying role of the Church in Europe after the collapse of Rome; and

c)   sequencing events related to the spread and influence of Christianity and the Catholic Church throughout Europe.

Postclassical Civilizations, 300 to 1000 a.d. (c.e.)

WHI.8    The student will apply social science skills to understand the Byzantine Empire and Eastern Europe from about 300 to 1000 a.d. (c.e.) by

a)   explaining the influence of geography on the establishment of Constantinople as the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire and describing the Byzantine Empire in time and place;

b)   describing Justinian and his contributions, including the codification of Roman law, and the expansion of the Byzantine Empire and economy;

c)   characterizing the role Byzantine art and architecture played in the preservation of Greek and Roman traditions;

d)   explaining the disputes that led to the split between the Roman Catholic Church and the Greek Orthodox Church; and

e)   analyzing and explaining the influence of Byzantine culture on Eastern Europe.

Regional Interactions, 1000 to 1500 a.d. (c.e.)

WHI.14  The student will apply social science skills to understand the social, economic, and political changes and cultural achievements in the high and late medieval periods by

a)   describing the emergence of centralized monarchies (England, France, Spain, and Russia) and distinctive political developments in each;

b)   explaining conflicts across Europe and Asia, including the Crusades and the fall of Constantinople;

c)   explaining patterns of crisis and recovery related to the Black Death (bubonic plague); and

d)         evaluating and explaining the preservation and transfer to Western Europe of Greek, Roman, and Arabic philosophy, medicine, and science.


World History and Geography: 1500 a.d. (c.e.) to the Present
The Modern Era

WHII.14  The student will apply social science skills to understand the global changes during the early twenty-first century by

a)   identifying contemporary political issues, with emphasis on migrations of refugees and others, ethnic/religious conflicts, and the impact of technology, including the role of social media and chemical and biological technologies;

b)   assessing the link between economic and political freedom;

c)   describing economic interdependence, including the rise of multinational corporations, international organizations, and trade agreements; and

d)   analyzing the increasing impact of terrorism.


WHII.15  The student will demonstrate knowledge of the influence of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism in the contemporary world by

a)   describing their beliefs, sacred writings, traditions, and customs; and

b)   locating the geographic distribution of religions in the contemporary world.


Academic Content Standards may be found at http://www.doe.virginia.gov/testing/index.shtml.

Common Core Standards 

Key Ideas and Details:

Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, attending to such features as the date and origin of the information.

Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.

Analyze in detail a series of events described in a text; determine whether earlier events caused later ones or simply preceded them.


Integration of Knowledge and Ideas:

Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem.

Evaluate an author's premises, claims, and evidence by corroborating or challenging them with other information. 

Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources.


Common Core standards may be found at www.corestandards.org.