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POLITICS > Ruling party deputies also question Erdoğan’s motives behind ‘student house’ move

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Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s vow to crack down on mixed-gender student accommodation has created a reaction from his own party. DHA photo

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s vow to crack down on mixed-gender student accommodation has created a reaction from his own party. DHA photo

Göksel Bozkurt Göksel Bozkurt goksel.bozkurt@hurriyet.com.tr

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s vow to crack down on mixed-gender student accommodation – even in private houses – has not just riled the opposition, but even created a reaction from his own party amid speculation about the premier’s motives for the call.

According to Justice and Development Party (AKP) Ankara deputy Zelkif Kazdal, the issue has two dimensions, one about values, and the other about the law.

“There is something called the ‘inviolability of the domicile,’ which humanity created 1,000 years ago. For any body of the state to be able to intervene in a domicile, there should be a crime. If there is no crime, complaint or order from a prosecutor or a judge, nobody can intervene in a domicile,” Kazdal told the Hürriyet Daily News yesterday.

“You cannot make a classification such as a ‘student house,’ if you are talking about people over 18, the age of maturity,” Kazdal said.

In a message posted to his Twitter account on Nov. 5, Kazdal referred to an anecdote about Umar bin al-Khattab, the second caliph of the Muslims. Speaking to HDN, Kazdal said that although Caliph Umar, as the then-head of the state, witnessed something which he maintained that was a crime, he did not take any action because he witnessed the act while violating the privacy of a person.

Another AKP deputy, İdris Bal of Kütahya, raised question marks over future steps that might violate people’s private lives.

“Is the next step intervening in the lives of couples who live together without getting married?” Bal asked, speaking to a group of reporters in Parliament. “Will we also intervene if a university student couple continues living together after they graduate?”

Although choosing his words carefully, Parliamentary Speaker Cemil Çiçek questioned the legality of the government’s proposed move.

Speaking late Nov. 5, Çiçek declined to make a comment, noting that he had not yet read Erdoğan’s remarks. However, he lent support to Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç’s remarks on Nov. 4 in which he said: “We have not had any conversations about raiding private houses where students are residing. Private houses are not the area of our interest.”

Çiçek, however, was drawn into the debate on Nov. 5. “But there is one thing that I know. In a state governed by the rule of law, if an action is not forbidden, then it is free,” Çiçek said. “If rules and acquis in force are not sufficiently meeting matters that are regarded as problematic, then related legal arrangements are done. If have we agreed on that, the rest is a political assessment.”

For his part, Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ suggested taking measures to prevent male and female students from living together was a duty assigned to the government by the Constitution, while also claiming that a prime minister has the right to make the change he wants if he does not like something.

Bozdağ cited Article 58 of the Constitution covering the protection of the youth for his argument; opponents, however, have cited Article 21 of the same Constitution which covers the inviolability of the domicile.

The deputy prime minister, meanwhile, downplayed prospects for a legal arrangement as mentioned by Erdoğan, saying Erdoğan was referring to a possibility which would become real “if needed.”

Gülen movement and incentive for foundations

Various ideas have been floated concerning the motives for Erdoğan’s move, with many suggesting the ruling party is attempting to solidify its grassroots through an appeal to a conservative lifestyle ahead of local elections in March 2014.

The AKP needs such push particularly after the peaceful handling of the headscarved deputies’ issue, observers say. The ruling party did not find an opportunity to exploit the headscarf issue due to the mature atmosphere of the Parliament and now needs another polarizing element which can be used to solidify its grassroots, observers have said.

Some say Erdoğan’s move is closely related to ongoing tension between the government and Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen’s movement (also known as the “Community,” “Cemaat” in Turkish, or “Service,” “Hizmet” in English) since the movement is known to have provided private accommodation for young people which function like dormitories.

The issue first erupted after remarks delivered by Erdoğan at a closed-door party gathering in Kızılcahamam over the weekend were leaked to the press. During the same gathering, Erdoğan voiced a determination to close down private tutoring schools, called “dershanes” in Turkish. The issue has been a key source of tension between the government and the Gülen movement.

Erdoğan’s remarks stating that the government had already shut down mixed accommodation in 75 percent of state-run student dormitories, meanwhile, could be tied to a possible job-creation scheme ahead of the elections as more dormitories would entail more work for construction companies.

Reportedly, the government has also been planning to increase current incentives for dormitory construction, which could also be used by foundations, and thus create an alternative to accommodation by the Gülen movement.

Still, a senior executive of the AKP has ruled out such link, saying: “This issue has nothing to do with the Cemaat. The lack of sufficient dormitories is an important problem in Turkey and we are trying to resolve this.”

November/07/2013

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