Students of İstanbul’s prestigious Boğaziçi University have written an open letter to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, listing their demands and promising that their protests would continue as long as Melih Bulu, a pro-government rector appointed to the university over a month ago, remains in the position.
Boğaziçi Dayanışma, an independent student platform at the university, posted the letter on Twitter early on Saturday after Erdoğan targeted the protestors on Friday, saying that they would go as far as calling on him to resign “if they had the courage to do so.”
Following Erdoğan’s remarks, a hashtag calling on the president to resign became a trending topic on Twitter.
“Is calling on a president to resign a constitutional right? Yes. Since when is exercising a constitutional right a matter of courage? Don’t mistake us for those who unconditionally obey you. You’re not a monarch and we are not your subjects,” the students emphasized in the letter, addressing Erdoğan.
They added: “We have had no [legislative] immunity while you have been raging at everyone and everything from under a shield of immunity for 19 years. … It’s not very courageous [of you] to try support [Bulu] with new faculties and additional staff since you don’t have the power to keep within the university the rector you appointed. That’s why we don’t take your words about courage seriously.”
As for the call for Erdoğan to resign, the students said they wouldn’t do such a thing because of Bulu’s appointment as rector, since they knew that “it’s not the biggest problem in Turkey.”
“If you were to resign, you should have done it when [Turkish-Armenian journalist] Hrant Dink was murdered [in 2007], when 301 miners were killed [in a fire inside a coal mine] in Soma [in 2014], when 34 Kurdish civilians were killed in Roboski [in 2011], after the Çorlu train crash [claimed 25 lives in 2018], or when you witnessed the struggle of thousands of unemployed or dismissed citizens to earn a living,” they said.
Since a failed coup that claimed the lives of over 250 citizens in 2016, more than 150,000 civil servants in Turkey have been dismissed from state jobs over alleged terror links by emergency decree-laws, which are subject to neither judicial nor parliamentary scrutiny, under the pretext of an anti-coup fight.
Stating that Bulu’s appointment was “legal” but not right, Boğaziçi students listed their demands in the letter, which included releasing those detained or arrested during the protests, ending campaigns aimed at discrediting the LGBT community and other minorities, the resignation of Bulu and holding democratic elections at Turkish universities to choose rectors.
The students said they expected dozens of criminal complaints to be filed against them on charges of “praising an offender” and “insulting the president” for writing the open letter. “But we also know that we will never stop expressing the truth,” they continued.
The Boğaziçi students promised they would continue protesting until Bulu resigned and ended the letter hoping that Erdoğan would understand that he can’t silence the oppressed in the country by “shouting at, threatening and targeting” them during his speeches.
Since early January, students and alumni, as well as politicians and activists, have protested the appointment of Bulu, a long-time member of Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), as rector of the university, arguing that it undercut academic freedoms and democracy.
Hundreds of protestors have been detained across Turkey for participating in the youth-driven demonstrations that have echoes of protests in 2013, known as the Gezi Park protests, which erupted against plans to demolish a park in İstanbul’s Taksim neighborhood before spreading nationally and presenting a direct challenge to Erdoğan’s rule.