Since 4 January, students and staff at Istanbul’s Boğaziçi University have been protesting against the imposition of a new university rector. Traditionally university faculties in Turkey have the right to elect their own rectors, but Professor Melih Bulu was appointed to the position by President Erdoğan himself.
Bulu was previously a parliamentary candidate for the AKP, Erdoğan’s ruling party, and is accused of plagiarising his doctoral thesis. According to a joint statement from students and staff, this is the first time a university rector has been externally chosen since the military junta of the early 1980s.
The protests have been large and creative. Students carried out a funeral ritual for the rector’s office, and as Bulu has talked about liking the metal band Metallica, many of the signs have featured their songs. However, the police have responded violently with tear gas and plastic bullets, and 40 people have been detained so far (all of whom have since been released).
Istanbul police also arrested Mehmet Aslan last week, a journalist for Mezopotamya News Agency, a news outlet sympathetic to Turkey’s Kurds. After he wrote recent articles on Kurdish prisoners and claims of torture against them, Aslan’s home was raided by the police, and he was arrested for terrorism, an accusation which Erdoğan has also levied against the Boğaziçi protesters.
• For regular updates (in Turkish), follow the Twitter account “Boğaziçi Dayanışması” (Boğaziçi Solidarity)