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Interview with the We Can’t Shelter Movement “You will see and hear us.”

Following the tragedy at Güzelhisar Girls’ Dormitory of Aydın Credit and Dormitories Institution (KYK), students in many cities protested against the disaster. With their protests, university students expressed their demands for quality housing, including life safety, and healthy nutrition. The We Can’t Shelter Movement, which we have heard a lot about in recent years, is also organized in many cities and trying to put the demands of students on the agenda. We talked to the movement, the demands and achievements of the students with the We Can’t Shelter Movement.

We have been hearing the name of the We Can’t Shelter Movement a lot, especially in recent years. How did this movement come into being and what does it demand?

We Can’t Shelter Movement was founded 2 years ago to make the housing problem visible and to produce solutions for it. Our first activism was sleeping in parks on September 19, 2021. After this mobilization, we had gains that we can exemplify by opening guesthouses in certain cities to students. On October 23, 2021, we organized a forum at Kadıköy Moda Stage, saying “we are meeting in a rebellion without a place, without a homeland”, where we will decide what we will do together. Then, on December 12, 2021, while budget negotiations were taking place in Ankara, we set off from various cities in 4 buses, saying that we were going to the “city of the rulers”.

In January 2022, we organized a demonstration in Taksim for our friend Enes Kara, who ended his life due to anxiety about the lack of a future and the imposition of sectarian dormitories, saying “we have no future in this order, we will live”. When we return to this year, the problems that we have been asking for a solution in the last 2 years have grown and now we say “you will see and hear us”. Saying that these problems can be solved, we went to the institutions (Ministry of Youth and Sports, Ministry of Tourism, General Directorate of Credit and Dormitories) in Istanbul and Ankara and presented the reports we prepared on the problems and our solution proposals. Finally, after the murder of our peer Zeren Ertaş in Aydın Işıklı KYK Dormitory, we organized a mass action in Kadıköy İskele Square, saying “we will live, we will keep alive”.

The Demand is Very Clear: Quality Housing

Following the tragedy in Aydın, students organized protests against negligence and poor housing conditions. In this process, you have been sharing news of the protests, students’ demands and reports from dormitories on your social media. What are the main demands of students and how can these demands be met?

The main demand of students can actually be summarized in a single statement: Quality housing. They want secure dormitories where the roof does not drip, where hot water flows from the faucet, where 6-8 people are not crammed into tiny rooms, where clean, insect-free, nutritious food is served. Currently, conditions in many dormitories are the opposite of this. The death of Zeren, who lost her life in Aydın Işıklı KYK, was also a result of ignoring security measures. Our demand for safety precautions is that all technical details, especially elevators, be inspected immediately and all malfunctions be eliminated and maintenance be carried out. In addition, as the We Can’t Shelter Movement, our other main demands that developed after the death of our student friend and the protests that erupted afterwards:

1) The maintenance manager of the elevator that killed our friend Zeren Ertaş in Aydın Işıklı KYK has been arrested. All those responsible, from the provincial KYK director to the ministry officials who inspect the dormitory, should be immediately suspended from their duties and subjected to investigation and prosecution.

2) Improving dormitory conditions

3) Establishment of a housing commission in the parliament. An independent expert committee, including a student from the dormitory, should inspect the dormitories. 

4) The right to assembly and demonstration is a fundamental right guaranteed by the constitution. Stop all verbal, physical, psychological and law enforcement pressure on protesting students.

5) Changing the KYK dormitory regulations in accordance with the Constitution and fundamental rights, taking into account the students’ demands for a humane life. 

“We don’t have to live in these poor housing conditions”

With the actions taken during this process, gains were actually achieved in many dormitories. Can you talk about these achievements?

After Zeren’s death, protests were organized in more than 100 dormitories to defend Zeren and the right to quality housing of our friends staying in KYK dormitories, to improve the conditions, to hold those responsible to account and to demand the punishment of those responsible. In some dormitories, representatives met with the director of the dormitory, in some dormitories joint demands were conveyed to the dormitory management. 

As a result, in many dormitories where protests took place, all the demands of the students were accepted.

Is there anything you would like to add or call attention to?

We are currently struggling with students in more than 100 dormitories against the bad conditions in dormitories. We call on every student staying in dormitories: We are not obliged to these bad housing conditions. We have seen that we can change it by struggling, we can do more and get what we deserve.