University students detained for saying ‘no’ to the constitutional amendment

Police detained 10 students in Kocaeli University as they propagating to call people to cast their vote against executive presidency.

Turkish police have detained 10 students in Kocaeli University as they propagating to call people to cast their vote against executive presidency in upcoming referendum which has been set to be held on April 16, 2017.

Turkish police has systematically used excessive force against critical people who use their democratic rights to make political propaganda by asking people to vote “no” for the proposed radical amendments in the constitution.

According to a report by BirGün daily, the Kocaeli University students who gathered in front of their campus on Monday to read out their statement in opposition to the new constitution have been dispersed by riot police violently. Around 10 students have been detained by the police during the demonstration which was also supported by academics who have been dismissed with the emergency decrees declared by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government.

As both supporters and opponents of the controversial amendment hold public meetings or demonstrations to express their stance on the proposed constitutional amendments, ‘no’ voters have been targeted by government officials, the president and security forces. Following the strict orders of AKP government, police have been using excessive force against those who propagating “no” vote including deputies and academics.

Last Friday, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan approved the 18-article constitutional reform package, which will be put to a referendum on April 16. After his approval, President Erdoğan has said those who will vote against a constitutional reform package which among other things brings an executive presidency in Turkey are actually taking side with the coup plotters who perpetrated a failed coup attempt on July 15.

Speaking at a news conference before departing for Bahrain for an official visit on Sunday, Erdoğan said: “April 16 will at the same time be an answer for July 15. It will be an important move against July 15. The position of naysayers is taking side with July 15. Nobody should derive a different meaning from this.”

In a previous statement, Erdoğan as well as Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım accused the potential naysayers in the referendum of taking side with the terrorist organizations.

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), backed by the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), pushed through the legislation that President Erdoğan says will bring the strong leadership needed to prevent a return of the fragile coalition governments of the past.

The Republican People’s Party (CHP) and pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) fear the reform will fuel authoritarianism.

Also, many people believe that the constitutional amendment will pave the way for a one-man regime under Erdoğan, who has already been criticized for being authoritarian as he has purged and jailed thousands of critical academics, politicians, teachers, doctors, officials, businessmen, artists and journalists.

The reform will enable Erdoğan to appoint and dismiss government ministers, take back the leadership of the ruling party and govern until 2029. The plans foresee presidential and general elections in 2019, with a maximum of two five-year terms.

Feb. 13, 2017

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