By Sena Guler
ANKARA (AA) – Last week Turkey’s president presented a proposal to help ignite the habit of reading in the nation’s youth.
Campaigning for reelection on Thursday, Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed to set up public kiraathanes -- reading houses -- in all cities, with both books and treats on offer.
“We’ll build the ‘Nation’s Kiraathanes’… These places will be filled with books and there will be cake, tea, and coffee [served],” he told a rally in the southern Hatay province.
He said people young and old alike would go there to read books and enjoy free treats.
Kiraathanes, literally reading houses, are a traditional place in Turkish culture dating back to the Ottoman era where people drank tea and coffee while reading books, newspapers, and magazines.
Erdogan said that these new kiraathanes, open 24 hours, would become a magnet for young people.
Speaking later that day in the capital Ankara, he said the kiraathanes will no longer be places where people play cards, reversing a shift in which the houses became known for non-gambling games.
He said they would measure around 100-400 square meters (1,076-4,305 square feet), depending on the size of the city.
-Fighting bad habits
Speaking Friday in the central Kayseri province, Erdogan stressed that these kiraathanes would offer books, newspapers, magazines, and Internet access.
Returning to the topic in the western Denizli province on Sunday, he said they are developing a reading culture in the country, adding that they aim to protect young people from bad habits and wasting time on card games.
Visiting a newly built kiraathane in Istanbul’s Zeytinburnu district, Erdogan said: “Students say, ‘We aren’t going home, we study here. Because when we go home, other things occupy our time, but we’re just studying here’.”
In an April 2017 referendum, Turkish voters approved the switch from a parliamentary system to a presidential one.
This April, parliament passed a bill for early elections on June 24, in order to cement Turkey’s move to a presidential system.
Six candidates are running for president, while eight political parties are taking part in the parliamentary elections.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan has served as president since 2014 -- Turkey's first popularly elected president. Before that, he served as prime minister from 2003 to 2014.