Rights teams, world politicians urge launch of pupil protesters in Turkey

Members of the European Parliament and worldwide and native human rights teams known as on Turkey to launch two college college students who’ve been behind bars for greater than three months for taking part in protests in opposition to the government-appointed rector of considered one of Turkey’s prime public universities.

The calls come because the protests at Bogazici University, the place college students and lecturers have been preventing in opposition to the reach of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, mark their first anniversary. Since Jan. 3, 2021, the picturesque campus overlooking the Bosporus has been crammed with safety guards and iron obstacles which have prevented entry to the workplaces of the rector. Nearly a thousand college students have been detained and a couple of hundred misplaced their scholarships for taking part within the protests. A dozen lecturers sympathetic to the scholar protests have been faraway from obligation. 

“We have been observing with great concern the arbitrary repression of the state security forces against the students of Bogazici University in Istanbul … protesting against the arbitrary appointment of the rector by President Erdogan,” 4 European Parliament members mentioned in a joint assertion this week, forward of Friday’s trial of 14 college students going through six to 32 years’ imprisonment.

Claiming that the scholars had merely been utilizing their constitutional rights, the lawmakers added, “They have been paying a very high price for exercising their fundamental right to protest and demonstrate for some time now: the students are being clubbed down, terrorized, arrested, and, in some cases, tortured.”

The European Parliament’s Turkey rapporteur Nacho Sanchez Amor additionally tweeted, “Peaceful protests should not be criminalized … Watching closely from the European Parliament.” 

In the same vein, an announcement from 22 nongovernmental associations and rights teams, together with Bogazici help and alumni teams, mentioned the arrests have been “arbitrary” and “used as a device to suppress college students’ motion and to intimidate and scare college students.” They called on the courts to acquit the students.

Among the 14 students who will be standing before the court, two in particular have become symbols of Turkey’s heavy-handed treatment of the student protesters, who have been called “terrorists” by Erdogan and “venomous snakes” by his political ally, ultra-right leader Devlet Bahceli. Ersin Berke Gok, a senior in the physics department, and Caner Perit Ozen, a student of history, have been behind bars for 94 days, about half of it in solidary confinement. According to their lawyer Burcin Sahan, they have been denied access to medicine, their school exam papers and visits by friends. 

“We are curiously waiting to see just what the prosecution would submit to the court on Gok and Ozen, because when we look at the videos of the events on Oct. 5, what we see is the security forces shoving the students, not the other way around,” Sahan said. “Though Ozen is detained for inflicting injuries on a security guard, there is no medical injury report. On the contrary, Ozen’s shoulder was injured and he suffered for 10 days without any medical treatment.”

The charges against Gok include hijacking an official vehicle. During a protest Oct. 5, the slim young man with huge eyes and disheveled hair jumped on the rector’s car, and shouted for academic freedoms and made a victory sign. Hours after the images went viral, Erdogan said, “Students who try and stop a rector’s car, those who disrespect their teachers, that is unacceptable. These cannot be students, but terrorists who have infiltrated our universities.” 

Asked her expectations from the trial on Jan. 7, Sahan said, “Acquittal would be the right thing to do, but we think it is unlikely and that the case will drag on. So we would at least like to see the release of the two so they can continue with their lessons.”

“Nearly 1,000 students have been detained, some over and over, ever since we first started the protests,” Doruk Tunaoglu, a graduate student and a member of the Bogazici Watch group, told Al-Monitor.  “Many of the students who have participated in the demonstrations were deprived of their scholarships. We are trying to provide scholarships for them through the help of our alumni.”

The public university, the only Turkish institute to be listed among the top 200 international universities, has been a liberal bastion where the bright-but-poor kids of Anatolia rubbed elbows with the children of Turkey’s economic and cultural elites for generations. Its alumni and faculty have long been key personalities in the Turkish political and cultural scenes, including two of Turkey’s former prime ministers.

The university has a tradition of choosing its rector among its own academics through a peer vote, but the ruling Justice and Development Party has been undermining the practice since the mid-2010s. The final straw came on the last day of 2020, when Erdogan appointed Melih Bulu, a party man whose academic credentials were tarnished by allegations of plagiarism. Since then, the university has become a scene of demonstrations calling for academic autonomy and police suppression with gas and rubber bullets. Following months of protests on campus and around Turkey, the unpopular Bulu was faraway from the publish, solely to get replaced by his iron-fisted deputy Naci Inci regardless of fervent protests from the Bogazici academia.

“Inci proved to be more repressive than Bulu,” Tunaoglu instructed Al-Monitor. “It is he who brought the specialized combat police to the campus and got them to shred our resistance tent to pieces.”

“Those who are currently governing the university seem to be deliberately destroying the institutional basis of Bogazici,” Biray Kolluoglu, a sociology professor and former dean of pupil affairs on the college, instructed Al-Monitor. “Not only do we see increasing brutality toward the students, but also toward academia and the institutional structure that made the university special.”

Inci has ended the contracts of varied lecturers who’ve overtly supported the scholars’ actions, together with documentary maker Can Candan, and banned him from getting into the college’s grounds. He has additionally ended the contracts of the college’s coordinator on sexual harassment affairs and the editor of the college’s publishing home, making each our bodies defunct. The LGBT membership was shuttered.

“Just look at what is done in Bogazici and you’ll get a good idea how many institutions in Turkey are undermined or their autonomy is structurally destroyed,” mentioned Seren Selvin Korkmaz, the manager director of IstanPol Institute, an Istanbul-based suppose tank. “It is similar to what is done to the Central Bank or the Turkish Statistical Institute. It has become a power game, a way of replacing merit with loyalty and extending control on institutions that should be autonomous.”

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