The most important topic of the political agenda in recent days has been the emergence of the possibility of a peaceful solution in the Kurdish question. The statement of a deputy belonging to the “People’s Democratic Party” (HDP), the representative of the Kurdish political movement in the parliament, stating that the main addressee of the democratic solution of the Kurdish question is İmralı (Abdullah Öcalan), triggered a debate in which the government and opposition parties participated. The main opposition party CHP participated in this discussion with its statement that the solution to the problem is parliament and that it is only natural for the HDP to be included in this process. In a new statement made on behalf of the HDP, which was more or less in line with that of the CHP, it was seen that the place of solution is the parliament, provided that “other dynamics” are not neglected. Probably, what was meant by “other dynamics” were “İmralı” and “Kandil” (PKK).
However, the reaction of the ruling bloc, the AKP and the MHP, to these statements seems to have spoiled the relatively hopeful atmosphere. As a matter of fact, the chairman of the AKP’s ruling partner, Devlet Bahçeli, made a harsh statement that categorically denied the existence of the Kurdish question. President Erdoğan, as if to assure his partner, said that there is “no such problem”, while he felt the need to state that they would solve this problem with the understanding of “unity, solidarity and brotherhood”. The Turkish public aware of the fact that Erdogan’s need to point out the Kurdish question is closely related to the critical political situation of his party and himself as the future presidential candidate. In other words, the ruling bloc needs to regain the lost Kurdish votes in order to gain a majority in the parliament in a possible early election and for Erdoğan to be re-elected as President.
However, it is not yet clear to what extent HDP supporters, who seem quite eager for a solution, are conscious of Erdogan’s pursuit of meeting the cyclical needs of his party, that is to regain Kurdish votes, rather than actually solving the Kurdish problem. Moreover, even if the AKP is sincere in this regard, it is doubtful that it is ready to fulfill all the requirements of a genuine peaceful-democratic solution. The most pressing issue, on the other hand, is the fact that it is almost impossible to impose such a solution on the “Turkish state” and MHP.
One of the topics that have come to the fore in recent days is the reaction of the conservative circles and the debate revolving around the sale of alcoholic beverages in a social facility belonging to the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality. The importance of the issue originates from the symbolism that the issue of alcoholic beverages expresses in terms of the lifestyles of different ideological-political groups within the Turkish context. The AKP government has not only forcibly exiled alcoholic beverages from all public places, but also nearly wiped-out social drinking from the field of civil life with the help of prohibitive taxes, and in the last two decades – in the case of Istanbul, almost 30 years – conservative norms and values have dominated the social sphere. It appears to be the case that AKP members see these conservative standards both as a vested right stemming from their own ideology and as the usual civilian practice of the future.
In the meanwhile, the Constitutional Court continues to confirm that torture and ill-treatment have become the usual practice of the AKP-MHP government in recent years. Following the example we detailed in the last Bulletin, this time the Court ruled that allegations of torture against a detained teacher were not effectively investigated. What a bitter irony that all this takes place while the Council of Europe is preparing to initiate the “violation procedure” for Turkey as stipulated by the Convention.
See you in the next Bulletin.
The Selling of Alcoholic Beverages in the İBB’s Social Facilities Created Controversy
Discussions about lifestyle do not fall off Turkey’s current-political agenda. An ordinary issue turns into a lifestyle discussion in an almost impossible and often unconstructive manner. Recently, this debate has flared up again following the sale of alcoholic beverages at a social facility owned by Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality (İBB).
When photos showing people drinking alcohol were spread on social media, those circles close to the government claimed that İBB encourages alcohol and should not do this in public places. News channels close to the government also expressed this situation as “The sale of liquor in facilities owned by İBB after 27 years!” AKP’s MKYK member Mücahit Parlak argued that the issue is not related to lifestyle but that selling alcohol by the public administration falls under the category of ‘promoting alcohol’. He continued to argue that this stands in stark contrast in combatting alcoholism, therefore it is against the article 58 of the Constitution.
It should be noted that the statement in article 58 of the Constitution that the state should take the necessary measures to protect young people from alcohol addiction cannot be broadly interpreted as prohibiting the sale of liquor in enterprises and facilities belonging to public institutions. Therefore, it is not possible to evaluate the attitude of the İBB as promoting alcoholism. From a more practical point of view, it can be said that alcoholism is not a common problem in Turkey. As the Turkish Public Alcohol Policy Watch, a project of the Freedom Research Association, explains, Turkey ranks last in Europe in per capita drink consumption and is one of the countries that consume the least alcohol in the world. This shows that the restrictions and heavy taxes imposed by the AKP government on the sale of liquor in recent years show that the government is all against consumption of alcohol and that combatting alcoholism is not primary object of anti-alcohol policies.
Call to Turkey from the Council of Europe: “Implement the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights”
The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, at its 1411th meeting held between 14-16 September, reviewed the implementation of the violation decisions of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) regarding Osman Kavala and Selahattin Demirtaş. Recalling that in both applications, the ECHR decided that the applicants’ detention was unlawful, the Committee emphasized that the applicants should be released in order to fulfill the decisions. Regarding the Kavala application, it decided to notify the government that it intends to decide to initiate the violation procedure provided by the article 46 of the Convention at its 1419th meeting, which will be held on 30 November-2 December 2021, if the applicant is not released by 30 November 2021. If Kavala is not released by 30 November 2021, it will be the second time in its history that the Council of Europe has decided to initiate the violation procedure. The execution of the violation procedure may cause difficulties in Turkey’s relations with the Council of Europe as well as harm its bilateral relations with European countries.
Regarding the Demirtaş application, the Committee reminded that temporary constitutional amendment that lifted the applicant’s parliamentary immunity was at center of the ECHR’s determination of the violation of the applicant’s freedom of political expression. The Committee stressed that all the consequences of the temporary amendment relating to the article 83/2 of the Constitution should be eliminated. The Committee called for the immediate release of the applicant, the abolition of the conviction by the Istanbul Heavy Criminal Court, and the dismissal of the case pending before the Ankara 22nd Heavy Criminal Court. The committee also asked the government to submit its action plan on general measures by 30 September 2021.
The Constitutional Court Decided that Torture Allegations of a Teacher Detained After July 15 Have Not Been Investigated Effectively
The Constitutional Court decided that in the case regarding the Eyüp Birinci application dated 15 May 2021, the applicant’s allegations that he was tortured while in custody were not adequately examined and that the third paragraph of Article 17 of the Constitution was violated in terms of procedure. The applicant was taken into custody on 24.07.2016, and in his examination on 28.07.2016, he was referred to the hospital with complaints of bruising on his neck and abdominal pain. The applicant, who had undergone abdominal surgery at the hospital, was arrested on 19.08.2016. On 02.08.2016, the applicant’s wife filed a criminal complaint to the prosecutor’s office on the grounds that her husband had been in custody for ten days, that she did not know where he was held and could not receive any news, that she heard of that he had been sent to the hospital, but that no information was given about his health status. In what followed, the prosecutor’s office launched an investigation. Based on the statement made by the law enforcement on 28.07.2016 that the applicant fell down the stairs while going down to the detention room, and on the statements of the doctors who examined the applicant, the prosecutor’s office verdict for non-prosecution.
As a result of its examination, the Constitutional Court determined that there is no dispute on the fact that there were no signs of assault or force on the applicant at the time of his detention, but that there were bruises on his body, swelling and pain in his abdomen while he was in custody. As to whether an effective investigation had been carried out to reveal how these injuries occurred, the Court found the following shortcomings: no statements were taken from any of the police officers involved in the interrogation; although the applicant remained in the custody with ten other persons, none of these persons were questioned; Although no response was given about the custody footage requested from the law enforcement, no effort was made to obtain the footage; In the report of the Forensic Medicine Institute, it is stated that it is not possible to distinguish whether the injuries on the neck and face of the applicant were the result of falling or hitting with a blunt object, that the injury in the abdomen could not have been caused by a simple fall, but whether it was caused by falling on a blunt object from a very high height or by beating; Although it was stated that it could not be determined whether it was caused by falling on a blunt object from a very high height or by beating, the statement in the report of the law enforcement that the injuries were caused by a simple fall was respected, and the contradiction was not resolved. In the light of these findings, the Court decided that the investigation was not made in rigorous manner in terms of the prohibition of ill-treatment guaranteed in the third paragraph of the article 17 of the Constitution. In this vein, procedural obligation was violated in the investigation carried out by the Prosecutor’s Office regarding the collection and evaluation of the necessary evidence to reveal the material truth. The decision of the Constitutional Court in the case of Eyüp Birinci is one of the concrete indications that the complaints of ill-treatment, which have increased in recent years, have not been effectively investigated.
Student Protests against Sky-High Dormitory and Rental Costs
Recently, the main enemy of the government in Turkey has started to become a number of university students. The government sees no problem at all calling people terrorists who are against it for a long time. In this process that has been going on since the Gezi Protests, journalists, artists, workers, Turkey’s largest supermarket owners and many more people, institutions, etc. were labeled terrorist by the government. With the opening of universities, our new “terrorists” became students.
After the universities re-opened, students faced a striking problem: the problem of housing. Students could not find a dormitory or house to stay due to sky-high rental costs of houses and dormitory fees. In response, some students started to protest this situation by lying in front of their universities, on the benches in the parks or on the streets. However, the government showed a very harsh attitude towards these protests from the first day. In the last few days, the police started to respond violently to the protesters. Even the perpetrators of the actions were declared as terrorists. Minister of Interior, Süleyman Soylu, stated that, “these students are the ones who favor left marginal groups. 6 of them were PKK/KCK, 6 of them were MLKP, 5 of them were TKKKÖ, 2 of them were TKP Kıvılcım, 1 of them was FETÖ/PDY, 1 of them is TKIP, 1 of them is DKP, and 4 of them are LGBTI members who love me very much. But is this profile unfamiliar to us? The names of the groups are almost the same. For years, these and similar groups have been carrying out their stereotypical actions in our universities, especially around Taksim, and sometimes outside. You know better than me. It doesn’t exceed 3 or 4 letters.” On top of all this, President Erdoğan touched upon a rather strange point that, “We (the AKP) ascended into the office when we were dealing about the problems faced by university students. The scholarship that university students used to receive was 45 liras. Do have a heart! At the moment, scholarship has increased to 650 liras. We have, indeed, come a long way”. Apart from excluding all kinds of inflation and exchange rate increase calculations, President Erdogan’s statements have no economic rationale indeed. However, there are much bigger problems than the economic reality in these statements. With these statements, the government not only declares students terrorists, but also curses them. In other words, Erdogan explicitly states that they have made so many sacrifices for the students, but their good-will has been betrayed by students. However, every penny spent on students comes out of the pockets of the citizens of the Republic of Turkey, and the government is only responsible for managing the distribution of resources. However, as of the beginning of 2021, the Presidency has 8 private planes in its fleet. This alone is an indication of how unfair the distribution of resources is.
The burning question is that why students could not find a place to live in a metropolis like Istanbul, where the housing stock is quite high? First of all, a policy was followed to open at least one university in every province in Turkey. This policy was pursued regardless of resource efficiency, and many and more “universities” were opened in each province. Thus, as of 2020-2021, there are 3,801,294 formal education students at 197 universities in the country. In other words, the number of students increased inversely with the existing infrastructure facilities. According to the data provided by the YÖK and the Ministry of National Education, there were 306,129 beds in state dormitories compared to 1,323,914 students in formal education in the 2013-2014 academic year. Today, the number of beds has increased to only 695,834. In other words, while the number of formal students per bed was 4.32 in the 2013-2014 academic year, the number of formal students per bed in 2020-2021 is 5.46. This situation is directly reflected in the accommodation costs of the students.
On the other hand, one witnesses that the general economic trend in the world has an effect that increases the housing problem of students. The monetary expansion trend, which started with the pandemic process in the world, also showed its effect on real estate prices. According to the research conducted by Bahçeşehir University in partnership with sahibinden.com, one of the largest advertisement sites in Turkey, the m2 prices of residences in Turkey increased by 38 percent in a year. The increase in rental prices per m2 of these houses was 34.6 percent. However, Turkey was also exposed to cost inflation on the construction side due to the depreciation of its own currency against foreign currencies. As a result, university students experience a housing problem stemming from the in the global economy, the fragility of the Turkish economy, and the inefficiency created by the government in the distribution of resources. Unfortunately, this issue is hardly likely to be fixed in the short-term.
 (CM/Del/Dec(2021)1411/H46-37), https://search.coe.int/cm/Pages/result_details.aspx?ObjectID=0900001680a3c4d0
 CM/Del/Dec(2021)1411/H46-39, https://search.coe.int/cm/pages/result_details.aspx?objectid=0900001680a3c4da
 Eyüp Birinci, B. No: 2018/3691, 18/5/2021, https://kararlarbilgibankasi.anayasa.gov.tr/BB/2018/3691?