18-year-old youngsters: Either to prison or to Parliament

18-year-old youngsters: Either to prison or to Parliament

Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ announced the good news Tuesday morning that they will submit a draft law reducing the age to be elected to Parliament to 18 years old to the Parliament this week. It was, in fact, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who first publicized this intention last week, describing the move as a historic step showing the importance this country is paying to its youth.

In principle, there is no need to oppose this idea. As Erdoğan said, this does not mean that all seats at the General Assembly will be filled with youngsters, turning the Parliament into a campus. Parties will sure select one or two very young lawmakers in a symbolic move.

However, questions arise from whether reducing the age to be a lawmaker to 18 is the best way to show the importance attached to the youth? In a country whose nearly of its population is less than 28 years old, this question speaks for itself.

A state duty is to best prepare the youth as the future rulers of the country, providing all necessary education, training and other means as well as let them become an active component of the civil society. That is, it should not focus and spend all of its resources on raising “religious generations” as Erdoğan explained with regard to his government’s new 4+4+4 education system. An education system should be able to give a sufficient educative infrastructure for teenagers to build their own world view without any imposition.

The treatment of a state towards its youth is surely among key determinants of this particular state’s democratic progress. To the extent it can encourage the youth to become an active part of the civil society, it could take benefit of becoming a democratic country with different opinions can co-exist in a peaceful and tolerant environment.

In this sense, government’s plans to reduce the age to be elected to 18 oblige this column to re-direct attentions to the issue of arrested university students. In a response to a Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker’s, Özgür Özel, parliamentary question, the Justice Ministry informed that there were 2,824 students behind bars as of Jan 31, 2012. 1,778 out of them are arrested while 1,046 have been convicted.

Almost one third of them are being accused of being a member of a terror organization like Sevil Sevimli, a French citizen with Turkish descent, who is still being prosecuted on charges of being a member of an illegal organization on the very evidence (!) that she attended the Group Yorum concert and Labor Day protests. No need even to mention the excessive use of force by law enforcement against protesting or rallying students which of course has no place in a democratic country.

To sum up, the government should better find a way between sending youngsters to either prison or to Parliament, if it does really want to do something good for the youth of this country.