Several university students were removed from public dormitories and deprived of their scholarships for attending a parade to support LGBT people, the Cumhuriyet daily reported on Wednesday, citing a parliamentary question by an opposition lawmaker.
Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker Utku Çakırözer said students were penalized for taking part in protests in Eskişehir, in a parliamentary question addressed to Youth and Sports Minister Mehmet Muharrem Kasapoğlu.
“The aim is to intimidate young people. Dormitories and scholarships are being used to threaten them,” Çakırözer said.
The state-run Higher Education Credit and Hostels Institution (KYK) launched investigations into several students for attending the Pride Parade, held in June in Eskişehir in support of LGBTI people, eventually punishing them with removal from the KYK-run dormitories and cancellation of the scholarships provided by the institution.
Disciplinary investigations were even launched into some high school students who were later punished with temporary suspension from school.
In his parliamentary question Çakırözer asked the number of students who have been removed from the KYK’s dormitories or deprived of a scholarship during the last five years as well as the reasons for such penalties.
“Do you approve of the removal of students from dormitories or their deprivation of a scholarship for exercising their constitutional right to protest?” the opposition lawmaker asked.
Referring to ongoing protests staged by university students across Turkey demanding affordable accommodation, Çakırözer said: “The state is not only unable to come up with a solution for tens of thousands of students who can’t find accommodation, but also evicts students who attend protests from their dormitories and cancels their scholarships.”
A group of university students calling themselves the “We Can’t Shelter” movement have been sleeping outdoors in protest of high dormitory and rental prices.
Punishing students with removal from dormitories or canceling their scholarships has been a common practice during President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s increasingly autocratic rule.
Students have previously been thrown out of dormitories or denied scholarship on charges of attending a May Day parade, protesting state of emergency legislation or issuing a press release demanding the inclusion of Turkey’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, in the curriculum in Eskişehir.
The students who protested the newly appointed pro-government rector of Boğaziçi University faced the same fate.
Homosexuality is not illegal in Turkey, but homophobia is widespread. After a spectacular Pride March in İstanbul drew 100,000 people in 2014, the government responded by banning future events in the city, citing security concerns.
Turkey was ranked 48th among 49 countries as regards the human rights of LGBT people, according to the 2021 Rainbow Europe Map published by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA)-Europe in May.
According to the index, a large number of hate speech incidents and campaigns took place again in Turkey in 2020 against LGBT people, and in some instances the government or public figures blamed LGBT people or gay men for the COVID-19 pandemic and for spreading other illnesses.