Fatma Kaplan Hürriyet, the mayor of the İzmit district of the Kocaeli province in northwestern Turkey, said that her municipality was trying to get back the ownership of the student dormitory which was allocated for the use of the Turkish Youth and Education Service Foundation (TÜRGEV) for free in 2017, ANKA news agency reported on Sept. 22.
TÜRGEV is known for its close links with the government as President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s daughter Esra Albayrak and his son Bilal Erdoğan hold executive positions at the foundation.
Kaplan made the remarks in response to a group of university students' question as to why the ownership of the dormitory in question was transferred to TÜRGEV by the Kocaeli Metropolitan Municipality, which is run by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
Mayor Hürriyet, the only mayor from the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) in Kocaeli, said that she had at the time protested the transfer decision and even took the case to the judiciary.
“We had at the time declared that the allocation [of the dormitory for TÜRGEV's use] was unlawful and violated the law. Afterwards, the inspectors who came from Ankara wrote in a report that the decision of allocation was void and unlawful,” Hürriyet said.
In its ruling, the court however told Mayor Hürriyet that she needed the approval of the municipal council to claim the usage right of the relevant dormitory.
Hürriyet said that since the CHP does not hold a majority in the municipal council, it has been until now very difficult to challenge TÜRGEV's ownership of the dormitory, but she will take the case to the municipal council once again.
Hürriyet made the remarks as she addressed Kocaeli University students who have been sleeping out in the parks to draw attention to the housing crisis. Organized under the "We can't find shelter" (“Barınamıyoruz” in Turkish) movement, students have been protesting the astronomical rents and the insufficient number of affordable dormitories in the country.
The mayor said that for the time being, the İzmit Municipality can allocate a specific number of apartment flats under its ownership for free to the students in need. Although this is a temporary solution, the İzmit Municipality is currently looking into other options such as turning a structure into a dormitory, the mayor said.
“Or we can rent a place, turn it into a student shelter and allocate it for your use. Our colleagues started to work today; we have reached a point, but we could not finalize the date, which is why I cannot say anything final for the moment,” she said.
Istanbul police batter, detain four people for protesting rent hikes
Meanwhile, Istanbul police on Sept. 22 detained four people for staging a protest against affordable housing shortages, daily Cumhuriyet reported. A group of demonstrators gathered together at Kadıköy's Altıyol Square and held a banner reading “Shelter is a right, we will take it.”
The group marched towards Söğütlüçeşme Avenue and stopped the traffic, which shortly afterwards led to a police intervention. Four of the protestors have been battered and detained by the police.