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Members of CSO fined for hanging banner criticizing high prices

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Members of a civil society organization (CSO) in central Turkey have been fined for hanging a banner on their office complaining about economic hardship and demanding a rollback of recent price hikes in the country, the ANKA news agency reported.

The banner hung by members of the Eskişehir branch of the Halkevi, (People’s House) a left-wing CSO that works for the improvement of healthcare, education and the environment as well as promotion of the rights of women and the disabled, said: “We can’t make ends meet. Price hikes should be cancelled.”

Only 45 minutes after the banner was hung on Saturday, it was removed by the Eskişehir police, and members of the Eskişehir Halkevi branch were fined TL 18,000 ($1,330) based on a circular from the Eskişehir Governor’s Office.

Turkey’s wage earners are overwhelmed by increasing prices and are finding it even harder to make ends meet since inflation surged to 36.1 percent in December in the wake of a currency crisis sparked by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s unconventional economic policies.

The Turkish lira lost 44 percent of its value against the dollar last year, with the losses accelerating at the end of the year, leading to a significant loss in the purchasing power of the lira.

Yet, Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) denies the existence of an economic crisis, saying the changes in the exchange rate are superficial and temporary.

Eskişehir Halkevi branch President Cevat Aydemir told ANKA that the government wants everyone to keep quiet about the price hikes affecting all areas of daily life. He said the same banner remains outside Halkevi offices across the country and that Halkevi will file an objection to the fine imposed on its members.

It’s common for the police to remove banners that include criticism of the AKP government and its policies. The government is being widely criticized for curbing the free speech and silencing its critics.

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