Students in Izmit talked about the park protests, being a tenant, and the difficulty of being a student.
On September 19, 2021, students who started school in Izmit by spending the night in the parks joined the “We Can’t Find shelter” movement with demands such as sufficient scholarships, adequate dormitories, and social support. Students stated that they were deprived of these fundamental rights and stayed in the parks as a protest.
We talked with Emin B. Eymen D. and S.K. from We Can’t Find Shelter movement about the demonstration and housing problem in Izmit.
Police say to students staying in the park: “Stay at my house”
Noting that the police came to the protest in the park before the authorities, Emin B. said, “They told us things like stay at my house, disperse from here as if the right to shelter is a blessing.”
Emin B., whose friends are on the waiting list for the General Directorate of Credit and Dormitories Agency’s (KYK) dorms, shared his experiences as follows:
“They left the congregation-owned dormitories as the only option for us, we could not find a place to go, and we knew how those dorms are because of Enes Kara.
“We went to the parks with minimum demands; we delivered our requests to the authorities from every party and many government departments. We left the parks at the end of a week with bags of promises and threats. Promises were about problems, and threats were either dispersal or being detained. They wanted us to disappear.
“After seven days in the parks and threats from the police, we found a home on loan. Its location was an hour and a half away from our school. We had a ‘mafia-like’ landlord who rented rooms to students who were trapped in walls with the indenture. First, he kicked us out of the house, and then he said he would take a year’s wages by force through the deed we had to sign.”
“Afterwards, we spent a year on debts and expenses such as rent and bills. I’ve spent more than half the last year working as a cafe waiter. We are not treated as human beings or taken seriously, let alone as students.
“Today, we are forced to live in dormitories that are no more comfortable than benches, and by paying rent, we cannot afford. Unfortunately, nothing is getting better.”
The promise of “we will not leave you homeless” and the reality of leaving students
Last month, Kocaeli Governor Seddar Yavuz made a statement regarding the housing problem at the advisory board meeting, stating that the number of students enrolled in the 2022-2023 academic year was 15,250, of which six thousand resided in Kocaeli. Furthermore, the Governor noted that the number of available beds is 10,500 and that they can even keep a hotel room if necessary.
S.K., who met with the Kocaeli We Can’t Find Shelter Movement by staying in the parks, responded to Governor Yavuz’s “We said we will not leave anyone out and we didn’t” words as follows:
“I am pretty sure that Mr. Yavuz doesn’t know that my friend, Eymen D., who was waiting on the waiting list’s two thousand-something ranks last year, left the university because of the concerns he was experiencing.”
“I am an associate degree student at Kocaeli University; I went to Kocaeli with some savings; I left at the end of the year with some debt,” said Eymen D., abovementioned. Eymen D. said that his nightmare was also valid for many students and continued as follows:
“I was working in cafes more than I attended classes. My wage was half the minimum wage; no matter how hard we worked, we couldn’t make it enough.
“Our bills were registered under our landlord’s name. Therefore he was on our doorstep every time our due date was late. One day he thought we would flee from the flat without paying the last rent. He turned on our door, forcibly entered our house, and confiscated our personal belongings. He asked us to deliver the month’s rent and new bills within one day. We searched for a loan for hours; we could get our belongings, only we managed to collect the money. Those who put us in this situation and forced us to live it are the ones who did not find a solution and kicked us out of the parks.”
“We just wanted shelter, food, and education”
When we asked if staying in the parks paid off, “Something happened as a result, but not good things,” replied S.K. and continued: “They intimidate us, they provoked us.” S.K. stated their demands: “We just wanted shelter, food, and education.”
Noting that Izmit mayor Fatma Kaplan Hürriyet was among the officials who visited, “We thank them. She kept tea and soup coming. She repeated her promises on the 4th night, and we shared contacts, but we could not reach the number we called the next day. Now, a year passed, and no one called or asked,” said S.K.
Stating that the acts were in the opposite direction of the promises made after establishing the We Can’t Find Shelter movement, S.K. added that the price of many basic needs was raised:
“This year, transportation fees increased three times from January to July. There was a 36 percent increase in university tuition fees. These are just what we saw. The price of the student ticket in the city, which was 2.75 in January, increased to 3.45 in April and 4.10 in July. University tuition fees were increased by 36 percent with the decision of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in July.
“We spent a year but failed to make progress. What did we learn? I learned that our efforts would save us. Even our families cannot pay their rent. So we can say we survived today, that’s all.”