10/05/2021, 11.35
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University students challenge Erdogan and sleep in public parks to avoid sky high rents

Since September 19, young people have been sleeping outdoors in protest against unsustainable rent prices. The president has threatened the protesters and the police have made at least 80 arrests. But the students will not back down. The Turkish government orders cooperatives to open 1,000 new markets in response to rising food prices. 



Istanbul (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Defying President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's threats and police raids, with beatings and arrests, Turkish university students continue their revolt against high housing prices, which make renting an apartment unaffordable.

The protests began on September 19, at the resumption of the academic year and see young people spending the night 'sleeping rough in the parks of over a dozen cities across the country. 

At the end of September, Erdogan had also intervened, threatening an iron fist against the university students who he called "another version of the Gezi Park events", with a reference to the street demonstrations of 2013 in which millions of people had joined.

The Turkish leader strongly attacked the young people, branding them "liars" and "so-called students.

After the words of the "sultan", the police carried out a series of raids in the parks of Istanbul and Izmir, dispersing the young people by force and making dozens of arrests.

Some sources report almost 80 university students have been arrested. However, the young people have defied the authorities, and continue the peaceful protest, sleeping in the parks at night wrapped in protest banners calling for a reduction in rental prices.

In Turkey, a nation of 83 million inhabitants, there are around eight million university students living away from home, studying in a city other than their own. In the last year, due in part to inflation and the economic crisis, rental prices have soared throughout the country, but especially in large cities.

According to a study by the University of Bahçeşehir, rents in Istanbul, the economic and commercial capital of Turkey, increased by more than 50% in August compared to the same month in 2020. The rate of increase in Ankara, the capital, and Izmir, the country's third-largest city, is more than 30 percent.

The housing crisis has affected students who, after a year and a half of distance learning due to the Covid-19 pandemic, were looking for housing in order to resume in-person classes. The problem is exacerbated by high fees and insufficient dormitories.

Meanwhile, the government has ordered agricultural cooperatives to open about a thousand new markets and food in the country to ensure "sustainable" prices of basic necessities to consumers.

Erdogan himself intervened on the matter, stressing that "the markets managed by agricultural cooperatives are convenient in terms of prices and quality [...] We have ordered the opening of a thousand of these activities throughout Turkey, of at least 500 square meters each. Construction work, he assured, will start soon to provide "cheap and very high quality products" for a move that aims to "rebalance the market." 

To date, Turkish co-ops operate about 500 grocery stores scattered across the country. 

Turkey has an annual food inflation of almost 30% linked to the spike in commodity prices and the depreciation of the lira. Prices of unprocessed food products have risen by around 35% year on year. Fresh fruit and vegetable prices increased 40% in August compared to the same month in 2020.

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