Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said the people involved in protests against the recent appointment of a Justice and Development Party (AKP) member as rector to the prestigious Boğaziçi University are not students, but terrorists.
Erdoğan’s appointment of Melih Bulu, a former AKP parliamentary candidate, as rector of Boğaziçi in a presidential decree last week has drawn widespread criticism from the university, alumni and opposition politicians, who accused the president of trying to politicize Turkey’s universities and end academic freedom.
The Birgün daily on Thursday reported that the pro-government Service for Youth and Education Foundation of Turkey (TÜRGEV) was trying to convince a small number of students from the university to meet with Erdoğan at the palace in order to stop the protests that have been going on in various districts of İstanbul since the start of the week, when Bulu officially took office.
“Why would I meet with them? The students are not part of this [protest]. The people involved in it are terrorists,” the president said when reporters asked him about the supposed meeting following Friday prayers.
“The rector was appointed in accordance with the law. YÖK [Turkey’s top education watchdog] presented me with nine names, and I chose Bulu since I deem him worthy of the position,” Erdoğan added.
Newly appointed rector Bulu, who holds a doctorate in business administration from Boğaziçi, was an AKP parliamentary candidate from İstanbul in the 2015 general election.
In the meantime, 34 heads of bar associations across Turkey condemned the rector’s appointment in a joint statement on Friday, underlining that the move “disregards participation and pluralism, which are indispensable elements of functioning democracy.”
Turkish presidents used to have the authority to appoint persons who did not come in first in elections for rector, but a presidential decree issued during a post-coup state of emergency declared in 2016 removed the elections altogether.
Meanwhile, 24 out of 45 people who were detained during protests attended mainly by students from the university were released on Thursday, although two of them appeared in court on a request for their arrest.
The remaining 21 were taken to İstanbul’s Çağlayan Courthouse in Şişli after undergoing medical checks on Friday, following questioning at the Vatan Police Station on allegations that include “contravening Law No. 2911 on assemblies and demonstrations” and “resisting an officer.”