The appointment of Melih Bulu, a person with close ties to Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), as the rector of Bogazici University has sparked protests in Istanbul with students decrying infringements on academic independence.
Bulu, who was appointed through a presidential decree issued by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on January 1, ran for AKP in the 2015 parliamentary elections. Erdogan gained the authority to appoint rectors to the university through an emergency decree issued in 2016, after he survived a failed coup in 2016.
The move has been condemned by students and academics who voiced concerns over the increasing politicisation of university administrations across the country.
Hundreds of students and some academics on Monday gathered in front the university’s headquarters in Istanbul, carrying signs calling for Bulu’s resignation and chanting slogans, such as “Melih Bulu is not our rector” and “AKP, take your hands off our university.”
“This is yet another case of many ongoing anti-democratic practices since 2016, aiming at abolishing rectorial elections. We do not accept it as it clearly violates academic freedom and scientific autonomy as well as the democratic values of our university,” Bogazici faculty members said in a statement issued on January 3.
Local media also reported clashes with police, with security forces using tear gas and plastic bullets on protesters, while at least 17 protests have been arrested, after police forces raided their homes.