Students protest against appointment of university rector

Hundreds of students in Istanbul have protested against the appointment of a new rector for the renowned Boğaziçi University by President Erdoğan. Police used tear gas and water cannons, and two students were forcibly arrested.

Around a thousand students from the renowned Boğaziçi University and other universities in Istanbul protested on Monday against the appointment of a new rector by president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Those involved repeatedly chanted "We don't want an appointed rector" and "He will go, we will stay!" The students protest against 50-year-old AKP politician Melih Bulu, who was appointed by Erdoğan as the rector of Boğaziçi University on Friday. Bulu is one of the co-founders of the AKP's Sarıyer district association and had run for direct AKP candidacy in the 2015 parliamentary and presidential elections in Istanbul. He is referred to by students as a "trustee" in reference to the mayors who have been deposed from city halls in Kurdish cities and replaced by trustees appointed by the government.

Numerous civil society initiatives and human rights groups also participated in the protests against Bulu's appointment, which were overshadowed by massive police violence and the use of tear gas and water cannons. Some of the students returned the police violence by throwing bottles. Two demonstrators were detained by police on the sidelines of the protests, beating and kicking them. Meanwhile, the gate to the Boğaziçi University campus has been cordoned off by security forces. The police siege ring of the university campus has still not been fully dispersed.

Boycott and further protests announced

Meanwhile, in a statement read out on Friday, students at Boğaziçi University have announced that they will boycott lectures tomorrow, Tuesday. On Wednesday, the protest against the appointment of Melih Bulu is to continue.


Students arrested for Afrin protest

In previous years, rectors at Turkish universities were elected internally, but in the wake of the July 2016 coup attempt, President Erdoğan secured access to the universities. Even after that, Boğaziçi University was considered one of the last bastions of intellectual development without fear of reprisals. The university looks back on a long past. It was founded in 1863 under the name Robert College as the first American university outside the United States. In 1971, it was renamed after the Bosphorus River, on which it is located in the European part of Istanbul in the Bebek district.

In April 2018, several students at the elite university were arrested for protesting an Islamist group who celebrated and praised the Turkish state’s invasion and massacres in Afrin. While 15 students were taken into custody by the police, dozens of others were harassed by fascist groups. The university students were then pointed as a target by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who called the anti-war protestors “terrorists, communists and traitors”. Erdoğan also threatened that “these terrorist youths will not be granted the right to study at universities and necessary action will be taken against them.”

While 9 were imprisoned with the accusation of “spreading propaganda for a terrorist organisation”, one of them was sentenced to more than a year in prison in December.