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PoliticsMiddle East

Turkey: Students protest against Erdogan-appointed rector

January 5, 2021

Hundreds of students criticized the appointment of the new rector due to his close ties with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling party.

Students protesting in front of the Bogazici University in Istanbul, Turkey
University students regard the move as a bid by Erdogan to curb academic freedomsImage: Ozan Kose/AFP/Getty Images

Turkish police on Tuesday detained at least 17 people and raided 24 homes in connection with student protests against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's appointment of a new director at Istanbul's renowned Bogazici University.

Hundreds of students held a rally on Monday, criticizing the choice of rector as undemocratic.

Some clashes with police were reported by local media, as protesters tried to break through a barricade placed at the university entrance. Security forces used tear gas and plastic bullets on the crowd.

Political ties to ruling party

The new director Melih Bulu ran for Erdogan's ruling conservative Islamic Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the 2015 parliamentary elections. As president, Erdogan has the right to appoint university rectors.

Police in riot gear clash with students of Bogazici University, in Istanbul
Clashes broke out between some protesters and policeImage: Zeynep Kuray/AP/picture alliance

Students are demanding the right for the university to elect its own rector, criticizing Bulu's proximity to the ruling party. They've also viewed the move as a way for Erdogan to curb academic freedoms.

Chants of "AKP, take your hands off our university" were heard among demonstrators. Some academics also joined in the protests.

A spokesperson for the AKP, Omer Celik justified the appointment by saying: "It is not a crime for a person to have a political view."

The newly appointed rector Bulu had issued a statement that he wanted to make Bogazici a world class university. 

More protests have been planned for Wednesday.

tg/rs (dpa, AP)