Dutch Turks involved in Turkish referendum

ISTANBUL – The Turkish government on Sunday won a referendum over constitu- tional changes. A majority of 58% voted in favour of changes to the judicial system and less power for the military.
Dutch Turks today also cast their vote during the referendum on constitutional changes in Turkey, some of them even taking a plane to Turkey especially to vote.

His Yes vote cost Tolga Teker (21, student at VU University in Amsterdam) 200 euros: he flew to Istanbul on Friday and will return to Holland on Sunday night. ‘I never lived in Turkey’, he says, ‘but I feel connected to the country. Turkey still has a military constitution, written by the military in 1982. This is the moment to vote against that constitution, to make change possible.’

The constitutional changes (ranging from prosecution of coup plotters, more rights for women and children, and radical changes to the way judges are appointed to judicial boards) were presented today as one package to the Turkish people. Taking  coup plotters to court s important for Teker, but he also supports the article that ensures parliament will get a bigger say in appointing judges to judicial boards. ‘It works like that in the Netherlands too.’

Dutch citizens holding Turkish passports can only vote at the airport, unless they ar registered on the electoral roll in Turkey, and they could even vote earlier than today. Lale, (31, not her real name), could have voted last weekend, when she was in Istanbul. ‘But I only had my Dutch passport with me. Although I think I wouldn’t have voted anyway. I don’t live in Turkey, I don’t pay tax there, so who am I to express an opinion about Turkish politics? And besides, I wouldn’t know what to vote. Some changes I support, others I don’t. How could I say Yes or No?’

It’s a complaint that is heard more often: many Turks think it would have been better if the changes were presented to the voters in several packages. Nevertheless, for Eser Tozum, (30, interpreter), making a choice was not difficult: ‘I voted No, of course.’ She has been living in Istanbul for four years, and lived in the Netherlands between the ages of four and twenty-seven. ‘The most important reason is that I see secularism in danger. Turkey is getting more conservative, more religious. I’m from a social-democratic family, and I want Turkey to stay modern. And the judicial changes I don’t like either. The judiciary is not something you should change so drastically, because as a citizen you have to be able to trust the judicial system.’

Oya Capelle, (57, actress), found it hard to really comprehend the proposed changes to the constitution. She lived in the Netherlands for 35 years, is still often in Amsterdam, and mainly voted No because she doesn’t trust governing party AKP, which wrote the changes. ‘I think religion and politics should stay separated. That’s why I voted No.’

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