Erdogan in a tight spot over move against mixed-sex dorms

Updated 08 November 2013

Erdogan in a tight spot over move against mixed-sex dorms

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s crackdown on mixed-sex student dorms has been condemned by critics as a fresh attempt to force conservative values on the staunchly secular country.
Just days after four female lawmakers from his party broke a decades-old taboo by wearing head scarves in Parliament, the prime minister fired a fresh salvo at secularism in the majority-Muslim nation.
“We will not allow girls and boys to live together in state-owned student residences,” Erdogan told lawmakers from his party this week.
“The values I hold on to do not allow such a thing,” he said.
“Anything can happen when it is mixed. We have received complaints from families who asked us to intervene and it is our duty to intervene.”
Swatting aside a barrage of criticism, Erdogan ordered the governors of the country’s 81 provinces to monitor student residences and speak out against immoral behavior.
Three-quarters of state-run student residences already separate the sexes, and the remaining mixed dorms are to be done away with by early 2014, an official source told AFP.
Huseyin Avni Cos, governor of the southern province of Adana, promised to heed Erdogan’s call.
“It is up to the state to protect the youth from bad habits,” he told the Dogan news agency.
But Erdogan’s move has touched a nerve among those who accuse him of trying to force conservative values on Turkey, where laws on alcohol sales and advertising have also been tightened.
Furious Twitter users denounced the move as an attack on private life. One, Wim van Wegen, said: “The ‘democratization’ of authoritative Erdogan’s Turkey is a joke. Ataturk would turn over in his grave,” a reference to the revered founder of secular Turkey in 1923. Erdogan has also made it clear he plans to clamp down on private mixed residences.
“We already have separate apartments with separate entrances and nothing abnormal has happened when we eat together in the canteen,” said amused 22-year-old student Ahmet, who lives in an Ankara residence.
“We are adults and we have the right to vote but not the right to be together, men and women. It’s ridiculous!” he added.
Erdogan’s government faced an unprecedented wave of protests in June over its repression of critics and growing imposition of conservative values on the private lives of Turks.
The main pro-secular opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) said Erdogan’s real aim was to “put a stop to mixed-sex education in general.”
“In a democracy, the state cannot play the voyeur. Stick to your own business,” party spokesman Haluk Koc said Wednesday.
The issue also appears to have troubled some within Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP). Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc, seen as more moderate than Erdogan, on Tuesday tried to temper the debate.
“We have absolutely no intention of carrying out checks” on students’ living arrangements, he told reporters.
Legal experts have also questioned how the state would intervene against adults living under the same roof when the constitution protects equality of the sexes and fundamental freedoms.
“This isn’t interference in private life,” said Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag, adding that Turks were “opposed to their sons and daughters boarding together.”
Despite the criticism and possible legal obstacles, Erdogan remained resolute: “If the laws must be changed, we will change them,” he told journalists Tuesday.
The comment came the same day Turkey reopened talks on joining the European Union. Democratic reforms have been a stumbling block in the longtime EU hopeful’s membership bid.
Peter Stano, spokesman for European Union Commissioner Stefan Fuele, said the choice on whether to live in mixed residences “should in principle be one exercised by the students and their families.”
“A core element of the recent democratization package announced by the prime minister himself was the protection of lifestyles and private choices of every citizen, and this is an element which we wholeheartedly welcomed,” he said.


South Korean cafe hires robot barista to help with social distancing

Updated 25 May 2020

South Korean cafe hires robot barista to help with social distancing

  • It is believed the robots could help with social distancing as the COVID-19 pandemic continues
  • The manufacturer and the scientific institute aim to supply at least 30 cafes with robots this year

DAEJEON, South Korea: The new robot barista at the cafe in Daejeon, South Korea, is courteous and swift as it seamlessly makes its way toward customers.
“Here is your Rooibos almonds tea latte, please enjoy. It’s even better if you stir it,” it says, as a customer reaches for her drink on a tray installed within the large, gleaming white capsule-shaped computer.
After managing to contain an outbreak of the new coronavirus which infected more than 11,000 people and killed 267, South Korea is slowly transitioning from intensive social distancing rules toward what the government calls “distancing in daily life.”
Robots could help people observe social distancing in public, said Lee Dong-bae, director of research at Vision Semicon, a smart factory solution provider which developed the barista robot together with a state-run science institute.
“Our system needs no input from people from order to delivery, and tables were sparsely arranged to ensure smooth movements of the robots, which fits will with the current ‘untact’ and distancing campaign,” he said.
The system, which uses a coffee-making robotic arm and a serving robot, can make 60 different types of coffee and serves the drinks to customers at their seats. It can also communicate and transmit data to other devices and contains self-driving technology to calculate the best routes around the cafe.
An order of six drinks, processed through a kiosk, took just seven minutes. The only human employee at the two-story cafe was a patissier who also has some cleaning duties and refills ingredients.
The manufacturer and the scientific institute aim to supply at least 30 cafes with robots this year.
“Robots are fun and it was easy because you don’t have to pick up your order,” said student Lee Chae-mi, 23. “But I’m also a bit of worried about the job market as many of my friends are doing part-time jobs at cafes and these robots would replace humans.”