Trending: 'You will understand when you have a daughter'
- 6 November 2013
- From the section Magazine
Should unmarried girls and boys be allowed to live together? A battle over mixed-gender student houses has broken out on Turkish social media.
Earlier this week, Duygu Kumru, a PhD student in Istanbul, used her phone to check Twitter. She saw that thousands of fellow students were directing sarcastic messages at the prime minister, using the same angry hashtag: "We Are Girls And Boys Staying In The Same House."
"I went on the internet to check exactly what the prime minister had said," Kumru tells the BBC. "That is when I got really angry."
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had questioned the "appropriateness" of female and male students living together under the same roof, adding, "The mothers and fathers of the country would never allow such an arrangement." His initial remarks criticised mixed-gender student accommodation run by the state. In later remarks he speculated that private housing could also be regulated.
Kumru does not live in a mixed-gender house herself, but says she has many friends who do so happily. "This is a very personal matter," she says. Over 100,000 users tweeted messages to the same effect - many of them satirical in tone. Young people have taken to social media several times in recent months following controversial political statements. It's a pattern that has emerged after the Gezi Park protests in May - which saw young people pitted against the government over the demolition of a park in Istanbul.
Conservatives, for their part, say such attitudes contradict the morality of traditional and Islamic culture. Prime Minister Erdogan has been in power for 11 years and his moderate Islamic party, the AK party, has continued to win majorities. By Wednesday, his supporters had taken to social media too, with a new hashtag: "You Will Understand When You have A Daughter."
One user, @MusapBasar - who has more than 12,000 followers - addressed female Twitter users and told them to "stop trying to be cool, and instead be servants of God", asking: "What if your father heard of this?" The tweet became popular because of the similarity between the word "cool" and the Turkish word for servant of God, which is "kul".
Reporting by Ertugrul Erol