Student protest Turkey

A group of protesters make a human chain as they wait outside the courthouse in Istanbul, Turkey. (Osman Sadi Temizel / Getty Images)

Tensions had been running high for weeks at Bogazici University, Turkey’s top-ranked institution of higher learning, but it was a student-organized art exhibit that brought about a police crackdown on the university’s campus.

The art exhibit, one of many events that students organized amid weeks of protests, included a poster of the Kaaba, the center of Islam’s most symbolic mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, adorned with four different LGBTI pride flags in each corner.

The piece, which was anonymously submitted, quickly circulated online after the show opened on January 22. On January 29, Turkish authorities raided the campus and arrested the four student organizers of the exhibit. “4 LGBT perverts who committed the disrespect to the Kaaba-i Muazzama were detained at Boğaziçi University!” Turkey’s Minister of the Interior Suleyman Soylu tweeted after the students’ arrests.

Then, on February 2, the university’s newly appointed rector, Melih Bulu, closed Bogazici University’s LGBTI+ studies club.

Students say that the raid, dissolution of the club, and arrests of the student organizers were made possible by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s January 1 appointment of Bulu—ex-rector of two other universities and former candidate in local elections for the Erdogan-led Justice and Development party (AKP)—as the university’s new rector. In the past, Bogazici faculty members would review and vote on potential candidates for the position, which plays a role similar to a university president’s in the United States. But a decree issued by Erdogan in 2016 amid a two-year state of emergency granted him the power to name university rectors.

By January 4, thousands of students and faculty members were flooding the streets around the university to protest Bulu’s appointment. Now that he has dissolved the LGBTI+ club and allowed for the arrests of student organizers, the protests have only increased in size and scale.

The police crackdown on protesters has resulted in more than 600 arrests, many of them of students. As news of the protests spread around the world, other college students in Turkey and throughout Europe joined the movement. In a matter of weeks the university, a cornerstone of free speech in Turkish society, closed itself off; only students with university identification have been permitted on campus. Police have set up barricades around campus grounds, while armored vehicles patrol university property. “There were snipers positions around the buildings around the school—actual snipers,” Alaz Ada, a graduate student of linguistics based in Istanbul who attended the protests in solidarity, told The Nation. “They were there, aiming at students like a threat.”

Source Article