University students spend night in park to protest high accommodation prices

A group of university students began sleeping in a park in İstanbul on Sunday to protest the high price of accommodation, while the Turkish president has dismissed the criticism as exaggeration, Turkish Minute reported on Monday.

A group of university students calling themselves the “We Can’t Shelter” movement staged their first vigil in Yoğurtçu Park on Sunday night, sleeping outdoors in protest of high dormitory and rental prices.

“Good morning. We have completed the first night of our ‘We can’t shelter’ vigil. Thanks  to everyone who stands with us and shows solidarity. If there is a crime, it is condemning millions of young people to sleep on the streets. We will be on the streets every day for our right to shelter,” a student from the movement said on the morning of the protest.

Kemal Yılmaz, a member of the movement, told the Bianet news website that their demands were “to be able stay in quality dormitories without paying huge prices, or to stay in cheaper and larger houses or apartments by paying affordable rents and without compromising on quality of life.”

Locals lent support to the protesting students by bringing food and drinks to them.

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker Mahmut Tanal went to Yoğurtçu Park to support the students.

The students’ complaints, however, fell on deaf ears as President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan referred to them as “exaggerations.”

Commenting on the students’ demands before he flew to New York to attend the UN General Assembly, Erdoğan argued that his Justice and Development Party (AKP) has made investments that no other government has ever made in university dormitories.

“We currently have dormitories with a capacity of approximately 1 million beds,” Erdoğan said, proceeding to characterize news stories about the accommodation woes of university students as a smear campaign.

“This is no problem to exaggerate,” he said.

Nizameddin Aşa, head of the İstanbul Chamber of Real Estate Agents, told Tele 1 that rental prices in İstanbul have increased due to a slowdown in new housing construction, adding that the average increase in rental prices across Turkey is 26 percent despite regional changes.

House prices in Turkey rose by 29.2 percent annually, according to the Global House Price Index, issued by leading UK real estate consultancy Knight Frank on Sept. 15.

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