06 February 2021

Turkish president steps in amid protests at university

06 February 2021

Turkey’s president has ordered the establishment of two new departments in the country’s most prestigious university, following weeks of protests.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s decision, published in the Official Gazette on Saturday, said law and communications faculties are to be launched in Istanbul’s Bogazici University.

Critics say the new departments would allow the presidentially-appointed rector to staff them with government loyalists.

Student groups involved in the protests tweeted against the new decision, saying it was an “occupation” attempt to curb academic freedoms.

Riot police (AP)

For weeks, students and faculty have led mostly peaceful protests against the new rector, Melih Bulu, who has links to Mr Erdogan’s ruling party.

They are calling for Mr Bulu’s resignation and for the university to be allowed to elect its own president.

Police have detained hundreds of demonstrators at the university and others taking part in solidarity protests elsewhere, some of whom taken away following raids of their homes. Most were later released.

Top government officials have said terrorist groups are provoking the protests, and Mr Erdogan has called the protesting students terrorists.

Officials from the United States, the United Nations and the European Union have criticised Turkey’s handling of the protests, as well as a series of homophobic comments that were made by Mr Erdogan and other officials while denouncing the demonstrations.

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