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President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s criticism of young people for “getting married late” has stirred the social media, with the hashtag of #EvlenmiyorumÇünkü (‘I am not getting married because’) becoming a trending topic on Twitter.

Several Twitter users said people first need to secure a job and be financially independent before thinking about getting married.

“Only the President was left not to condemn us, and that happened as well,” said a Twitter user, whereas another wrote: “I studied, I cannot be assigned [to a job], I cannot find a job.”

Another wrote people allocate more time for their studies and profession, especially women, so that they can be financially independent. A woman wrote, “As [Turkish intellectual] İlber Ortaylı also said, instead of getting married and visiting furniture shops, I am travelling around the world.”

The Liberal Democratic Party (“Liberal Demokrat Parti” in Turkish) made a reference to Erdoğan’s remarks by posting a picture of his key ally Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) chair Devlet Bahçeli, who has never gotten married and has no children.

“Above age 30; Never got married; What do you think about this issue chief? We are waiting for a statement from you,” the party wrote on its Twitter account.

Erdoğan, who is known for his intrusiveness into private life, from his advice to women on the number of children they should have to his views on abortion, this time criticized the decrease in the number of people getting married.

“The number of those who don’t get married is increasing. A life style without marriage is being tried to be legitimized and even being encouraged through media,” Erdoğan said on Jan. 9, adding that majority of the television channels are campaigning for it.

“The marriage age of our youth is increasing. Unfortunately, they don’t get married at a young age. Most of them get married after the age of 30 or never do so. How can such a thing happen!” he said, adding that he recommends marriage.

The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) criticized Erdoğan’s remarks, saying that first the president should tackle the high unemployment level among the youth before suggesting them to get married.

Turkey’s youth unemployment climbs to 25.3 percent

The unemployment rate for young people aged 15-24 surged 3 percentage points to 25.3 percent in October, said the country’s statistical authority TÜİK on Jan. 10. The country’s general unemployment level stood at 13.4 percent in October, said TÜİK.

CHP vice-chair and spokesperson Faik Öztrak said no one can expect the young people to get married before they “earn their bread.” “How will they find a spouse before the unemployment problem is solved? … You [Erdoğan] previously said that ‘Not everyone has to find a job.’ If you are not in a position to find a job, then you will not interfere with marriage business as well; you will keep quiet,” Öztrak said, referring to Erdoğan’s remarks in September that “There is no rule that says every university graduate will find a job.”

According to a recent report released by the CHP, some 26 percent university graduates in Turkey are seeking jobs – an alarming trend that reflect’s the country’s economic downturn. According to the CHP’s “Youth Report: Unemployed, Hopeless and Futureless,” the number of unemployed university graduates has increased to 1.3 million in 2019. The report is based on data from the Turkish Employment Agency (İŞKUR), the Turkish Statistical Institute (TÜİK) and the Social Security Institution (SGK).

CHP vice-chair Aykut Erdoğdu said that the newly announced unemployment figures were the best “answer” to Erdoğan’s remarks. “This country ruled by those who say ‘Young people should get married as soon as possible’ is experiencing the highest levels of youth unemployment [in its history]…We need to ask, how will these young people, who are both unemployed and owe debts, will abide by the President’s suggestion and get married?” Erdoğdu said.

Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) co-chair Sezai Temelli also criticized Erdoğan’s remarks, urging people to speak and unite against a rulership which “interferes with our right to live.”

“[Erdoğan] He tells young people to ‘get married.’ With what will they get married? Young people are unemployed, poor. The idea here is: ‘Get married, make lots of children, let poverty and unemployment get worse, and then let us maintain our rulership.’ If there is welfare and peace in a country, then people can hold a wedding. If they can earn their living, they can then hold a wedding,” Temelli said.