Turkish government to act on accommodation housing female and male students

Turkish government to act on accommodation housing female and male students

Turkish government to act on accommodation housing female and male students

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. DHA photo

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has stood behind his objection to mixed-sex student accommodation, making public that governors had already been “intervening” in certain situations upon “intelligence” about houses where male and female university students live together.

The prime minister said the government was already on a mission to “segregate” girls’ and boys’ buildings in dormitories operated by the state, adding that this segregation had already been completed in around three quarters of all dorms.

“There are some troubles concerning the share of houses in some places since we could not meet dormitory needs,” Erdoğan was quoted as saying by Anadolu Agency, addressing a parliamentary group meeting of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) on Nov. 5.

“It’s not clear what is going on in these places. They are all mixed up, anything can happen. As a conservative democratic government, we have to intervene. In these places, there is intelligence received by our security forces, the police department and the governorates. Acting upon this intelligence, our governors are intervening in these situations. Why are you annoyed about this?” he added, citing complaints from neighbors living in the same apartment buildings as students.

Erdoğan portrayed such actions as part of the government's responsibility, stressing that this had nothing to do with “intervening in people’s lifestyles.” 

“Mothers and fathers cry out, asking ‘where is the state?’ These steps are taken to tell them that the state is here,” he said, adding that he knew that parents would be uncomfortable allowing girls and boys to live together.

Reiterating that it was not possible for them to ignore intelligence about mixed-sex accommodation, he emphasized: “We are assessing this intelligence with our governorates and the police department and we are coming down on it.”

The prime minister’s stance regarding the issue first became public when his remarks during a closed-door party meeting on Nov. 3 were published on Nov. 4 by Zaman daily. 

“We witnessed this in the province of Denizli. The insufficiency of dormitories causes problems. Male and female university students are living in the same accommodation. This is not being checked,” he was quoted as saying by Zaman.

His remarks triggered a strong public reaction, though Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç said the government had no plans in place for students currently sharing mixed private houses.

“The Credit and Dormitories Institution has built perfect dormitories throughout our government’s 10 years in power. But the number of dormitories is not sufficient. The prime minister has instructed [the institution] to increase the number of these dormitories. He said it would disturb the students if the protests in the streets entered the dormitories,” Arınç told reporters on Nov. 4.

“We have not had any conversations about raiding private houses where students are residing. Private houses are not the area of our interest,” he added, in remarks that seem to be contradicted by Erdoğan’s Nov. 5 indication that the issue was in fact on the government’s agenda.

Last August, a provincial education director in Trabzon caused public outrage after lamenting that female and male students were using the same sets of stairs on the way to their rooms.

Meanwhile, daily Aydınlık reported on Nov. 5 that the refectory of a high school was allocated to girls and boys in different hours of the day. The practice at Isparta’s Ahmet Melih Doğan Anadolu High School has been ongoing since Oct. 21, the daily noted.

PM Erdoğan hints at Cabinet reshuffle

The prime minister has signaled that a Cabinet reshuffle could soon take place, without elaborating on the exact timing.

When reminded of the approaching deadline for the ruling AKP members to run in the general elections in 2015, Erdoğan denied that this was a factor.

“The revision has nothing to do with elections. But a revision in the Cabinet may take place at any moment. However, I don’t have such plan. But after candidacies become clear, if some of our ministers are needed to run, then … we will see the results and will take steps accordingly,” he said.