Regulation on mixed-student houses would be ‘unconstitutional’

Regulation on mixed-student houses would be ‘unconstitutional’

Vercihan Ziflioğlu / Sevim Songün - ISTANBUL
Regulation on mixed-student houses would be ‘unconstitutional’

Prime Minister Erdoğan says if legal regulations are necessary to prevent female and male students from staying at the same house, they will be passed. DAILY NEWS photo, Hasan ALTINIŞIK

As the government’s recent statements on the “legal, psychological and sociological” sides of mixed-sex student accommodation continue to draw reactions, legal experts stress that the right to privacy is guaranteed by the Constitution and international conventions signed by Turkey.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan made clear on Nov. 5 that the government was ready to pass legal regulations to prevent both state accommodation and private housing from being mixed-sex for university students, saying it was “against society’s values.”

“How appropriate would it be for a young woman and man to stay in a private house together? Can you tolerate this for your daughter? If a legal regulation is necessary, we will do it,” said Erdoğan upon a reporter’s question regarding whether he was referring to private houses or just dormitories.

Turgut Tarhanlı, a professor in the faculty of law at Istanbul Bilgi University, said interventions into the private lives of people without legitimate reasons, such as crime investigations, would not only be unlawful but also a violation of rights.

“The present laws allow such interventions with a legitimate reason, such as in cases of criminal elements or public security or even moral cases. But the methods of these interventions should be within the scope of a democratic state and criteria of pluralism,” Tarhanlı told the Hürriyet Daily News yesterday. “The prime minister mentioned something beyond such an intervention, which would result in an intervention violating rights. Article 20 of the Turkish Constitution would then have to be removed. And that would be very ironic for a country preparing a new Constitution,” he added.

‘Students blacklisted’

Article 20 of the Constitution states: “Everyone has the right to demand respect for their private and family life. The privacy of private life and family life is indispensable.” Tarhanlı also said the move would not comply with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which states: “Everyone has the right to respect his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.”

Öztürk Türkdoğan, the head of the Human Rights Association (İHD), said Erdoğan’s remarks revealed that students were being “blacklisted” for their private lives. “We must question how this information [that female and male students stay in the same house] is submitted to the prime minister. These are clearly violations of private life. They remind us of the Sept. 11 [military coup] practices,” Türkdoğan told the Daily News.

He said Erdoğan’s remarks would cause social pressure on young people when they try to rent a house in rural areas or pave the way for the intervention into people’s lifestyles. “It is very dangerous to make politics over young people,” he said.

“Women are attempted to be described with ‘honor’ and this is also dangerous when it is taken into consideration that the government has not yet solved ‘honor’ crimes” Türkdoğan added.

Erdoğan’s remarks received broad and mixed reactions from social media and even journalists who have previously supported his conservative stance.

Journalist Nazlı Ilıcak said she was ashamed of his recent remarks, as someone who openly declared that she had voted for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). “The state cannot intervene into the relations between two people, this is unlawful. Such a law cannot be passed by Parliament. It would create huge polarizations and I believe that the president would veto such a law,” Ilıcak, a columnist for daily Sabah, told the Daily News.

Another Sabah columnist, Mehmet Barlas, who is known for his support for Erdoğan, said during a TV program that “conservatism could be very dangerous when it is backed by the state.”

Meanwhile, Adana Gov. Hüseyin Avni Coş said yesterday that what was necessary was being done in the city upon the prime minister’s instructions.