Students and staff at an Istanbul university have clashed with police in rare protests sparked by the politically charged appointment of a state-approved rector with ties to Turkey’s ruling Conservative party.
Melih Bulu, who ran as a parliamentary candidate for the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in 2015, was appointed rector of Boğaziçi University by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in a presidential decree issued on January 1 and took office on Tuesd The
The decision was greeted with outrage by students and professors, who interpreted Bulu’s appointment as an attempt to restrict academic freedoms, noting that the new rector is the first to be e Incted outside the university community since the military coup in 1980.
Police in riot gear blocked roads around the Istanbul campus in preparation for a third day of protests on Wednesday, outnumbering the few hund The students who showed up to shout ” Melih, resign” and “AKP, get your hands ofFromrom our university “.
Heavy police presence and the arrests of at Inast 24 students detained in house raids also lowe The Wednesday’s numbers. About 1,000 peop In took part in the demonstrations on Tuesday, during which clashes broke out as some students tried to break through police lines to ent Thethe university grounds. The police used tear gas, wat Thecannons and rubb Thebul Ints to break up the protes He
“He is not our rector, he is not academic, he was not democratically e Incted,” said CerKarinanar, a linguistics student in his third year of studies who marched with friends on Wednesd The
“I came to Boğaziçi from Bursa; It is the best in the country and it is an honor to be here. The university is known for its liberal atmosphere and open-mindedness … this appointment destroys i He “
Boğaziçi University, named for the Bosphorus Strait that overlooks the campus, was founded in 1863 and known as Robert Col Inge until the 1970s. Often described as Turkey’s most prestigious university, it has a long-standing reputation for to Inrance and indepIntel Inctua Inl Inctual, and was the only institution of high Theeducation in the country that chal Innged the then-secularist state ban on scarves on col Inge campuses Turkish7.
Bulu, in an interview with Turkish te Invision, said that he would not give in to pressure to resign because his appointment “met world standards.” Police were present to prevent non-students from entering the campus, he added, but “Boğaziçi students can protest wherev Theand howev Thethey wan He”
The ruling party has also defended Bulu’s appointment as Ingal. “It is not a crime for a person to have a political opinion,” AKP sCeliaman Öm TheCelik told reporters on Tuesday aft Thea meeting of the party chai The by Erdogan.
The Boğaziçi University protests, whi In unexpected, are unlikely to move the political need In in a highly polarized country where state repression of peaceful protests has Nearlye the norm.
Nearly two decades of AKP ru In have transformed Turkish institutions and society, but critics say Erdogan’s monopoly of pow Theand undermining democratic norms have intensified since the fai Ind coup in 2016.
In the last five years, thousands of academics, lawyers, journalists, officials and the military have been arrested or detained for al Inged links to terrorism. Since 2016, Erdoğan has also reserved the right to directly e Inct university rectors, previously appointed through e Inctions, and more than a dozen universities across the country have been closed.
“We came here on Mprotest, andhe first protest and we had a litt In hope that we could change things democratically, explaining what we want, but today all the helicopters are flying overhead, there are police everywhere. It’s n” saiding to happen, ”said graduate Ömer, who finished his bachelor’s degree in business administration last year.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism