Boğaziçi University: Peaceful protests turn hostile


Photo by Amerika’nın Sesi

Boğaziçi University students protest the new rector.

Aylin Tepe, Staff Writer

Boğaziçi University, Turkey’s top institution has been facing scrutiny from thousands of conservatives across the nation due to peaceful protests that began on January 4th. The cause of the protests is the appointment of Melih Bulu to rector by presidential decree. Bulu is known for his ties to the country’s leading party known as AK Parti, which is mainly supported by conservatives and individuals who cling to ideals left behind by the Ottoman Empire. 

Hundreds began protesting following said appointment, chanting slogans such as “Melih Bulu is not our rector” and “we don’t want a plagiarist rector”. A shared statement which the faculty of the University let out stated that they viewed the appointment as a violation of “academic freedom and scientific autonomy, as well as the democratic values” of Boğaziçi. Not only does the appointment of Melih Bulu directly encroach on the university’s beliefs, but it also broke the long-standing tradition of electing rectors from within the university. Students and Faculty alike have demonstrated immense displeasure at the President’s attempt at placing political pawns into an institution that actively preaches freedom of thought. 

Across campus, hundreds stood with posters and illustrations in a peaceful protest, showing that they have had enough of the government corrupting both traditions, and ideals. The illustrations which were exhibited across campus depicted support of the LGBT community as well as direct disapproval of Bulu’s conservative views. Even though the exhibition was peaceful, police were soon called onto the campus and began detaining students left and right. The involvement of authority incited further rage as students began to protest more harshly, this time yelling and causing a commotion. The police continued with their arrests, and security surrounding the campus was heightened. Additionally, the police positioned military snipers across the building as well as the surrounding area.

A Boğaziçi Student who wished to remain anonymous has given his statement of the days following the initial arrests, “It seemed surreal, we were walking down the streets banging pots and pans and chanting our slogans when suddenly cops were on the scene. They began yelling and threatening us telling us to shut up and head home. Even after the banging stopped, they kept screaming and pushing people around. This one cop started shoving a student and the student soon started fighting back which led to a massive fight among the crowd. People who were trying to help any wounded person were arrested, passerby’s were arrested, even those who didn’t fight were arrested, it was crazy. A couple of days after, we heard that police had started to raid the homes of people who were at the protest and I was terrified I would be next. Hundreds of students started petitions to get their friends out of jail but it took weeks before they were released. Even the media was banned from sharing images or detailed descriptions of the protest. I feel like each day this country gets worse and worse, so I hope my story can help others see the state we are in.” This harrowing account depicts just how severe the situation is. 

To those in Boğaziçi, and those who are supporting them from across the country, these protests mark a historical event. With the Turkish government constantly pushing old-fashioned ideals across the country, the people at Boğaziçi have decided to show them that enough is enough. In order to protect LGBT individuals in Turkey, women, and children, these students have risked it all, and this protest has definitely left an impression on countless individuals across the world.