Students of Bilgi University, which came to the fore after an academic was recently dismissed due to allegedly insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, turned their backs on the rector as a protest during the speech he gave as part of the university’s graduation ceremony.
Rector Mehmet Durman was protested by students over dismissal of academic Zeynep Sayın Balıkçıoğlu, who was claimed to have insulted Erdoğan during her lectures at the university.
Christoph K. Neumann, another professor at the İstanbul Bilgi University, also resigned after his colleague’s dismissal, saying in a resignation letter that Bilgi is no longer a university due to restriction of freedoms.
“I was expecting a protest such as this, but if you excuse me, I will also use my freedom of speech,” Durman said over seeing the protest. Students than turned their faces to the rector.
Graduates of the Faculty of Law were seen carrying placards saying “We are on Zeynep teacher’s side,” “It’s my expression, it’s my freedom” and “This country is not ours, it belongs to those who want to kill us” during the graduation ceremony also in order to protest Balıkçıoğlu’s dismissal.
A similar protest was staged by students from the İstanbul Erkek Lisesi (İstanbul Boys’ High School) when they turned their backs to the school’s principal during his speech at the graduation ceremony on June 4, 2016.
Turkish media reported that the protest was a reaction to the decision by Ministry of Education to directly appoint the principals to 11 high schools in İstanbul about a year ago. The principals used to be appointed after consulting with the foundations related to the school and after the candidates passed a test, however the ministry had chosen 11 high schools in İstanbul to directly appoint the principals itself.
The graduates of the year also released a statement in which they said there was discrimination against certain people in the school. The statement also said that the students’ requests to organize social activities were rejected.
The statement urged many other high schools’ students across the country to release their own as a criticism of what they regard as unjust practices led by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government.