June 18, 2014

AK Party cancels construction licenses for religious groups in Antalya

The Antalya Metropolitan Municipality has cancelled the construction licenses of a Hizmet-affiliated school and a dormitory belonging to another religious community following a recent speech of the Turkish prime minister telling his party's mayors to take property back that they might have allocated to the Hizmet movement, a social and religious grassroots movement in Turkey.

The two communities' construction licenses were discussed when the Antalya Metropolitan Municipality City Council met on Monday to debate 28 articles items of business. The council revoked the licenses of the religious communities that it believed did not support the Justice and Development Party's (AK Party) local candidate who was elected on March 30.

The license of the private Toros High School, which was under construction by an institution close to the Hizmet movement, was cancelled. The construction of the Arapsuyu student dormitory, which is supported by the Süleymancılar religious community, was also halted.

The mayor of the Konyaaltı district of Antalya, Muhittin Böcek from the Republican People's Party (CHP), opposed the decision saying that the ongoing construction projects are legal. According to Böcek the construction projects are being halted because of the lack of support for the AK Party in these religious communities.

Another CHP politician from Antalya, Mustafa Reşat Oktay, said there is no court order that authorizes the municipality to revoke licenses. He warned the city council of the risks of encouraging a lawsuit against the municipality.

The AK Party mayor of Antalya, Menderes Türel, argued that a previous court order does not allow for new construction in the region. He added that the land that the dormitory is being built upon belongs to the metropolitan municipality and that the Konyaaltı local municipality has no authority in this decision.

The decision was agreed by a majority of the AK Party members and passed with 45 votes to 44. The license to construct the student dormitory was revoked despite the project's impending completion.

Published on Today's Zaman, 17 June 2014, Tuesday

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