7th November 2013 – In his time in power, more than a decade now, Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has alienated large portions of the population for his seeming intrusions into private lives. He has told women how many children they should have, has sought to outlaw abortion and adultery and to limit alcohol consumption and once, oddly, went on a public tirade against white bread.
Many Turks who had once supported Mr. Erdogan’s democratic overhauls, like securing civilian control over the military, came to see such pronouncements as grating and abrasive, even evidence of a rising authoritarian style. That contributed to the sweeping antigovernment protests over the summer that presented the gravest crisis to the leadership of Mr. Erdogan and his Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party, known by its Turkish initials, A.K.P.
Now Mr. Erdogan, who had largely tempered his divisive language in the months after the unrest, has raised a storm of protest, saying this week that he wants to outlaw coed dormitories at state universities, and even extend the crackdown to off-campus housing shared by male and female students. Once again, Mr. Erdogan, with his words, has pushed Turkey’s culture wars to the fore, underscoring deep divisions between the secular and the religious, and prompting the sort of controversy many even within his own party had hoped to avoid in the aftermath of the protests and just before Turkey enters an election cycle.