A joint text signed by 147 Turkish writers has expressed support for students protesting the appointment of a pro-government rector to Boğaziçi University.
The writers, including renowned authors such as Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk, Elif Şafak and Zülfü Livaneli, expressed solidarity with the protestors, who opposed the appointment of Professor Melih Bulu as the new rector of Boğaziçi University by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
The statement, titled “We won’t look down,” in reference to a video in which a police officer reportedly urged students walking towards the university to protest to “look down,” underlined that “the students, faculty members and personnel of the university have been exercising their democratic right to protest, a right guaranteed by the constitution, against the trustee-rector appointed to Boğaziçi University.”
“We are watching the unlawfulness and pressure they face with sorrow,” the writers said and added, “The hate speech by top public officials, the labeling of the students as terrorists, the unlawful detentions and the police violence are all evidence proving that our country is far from a constitutional state.”
“We stand with the resistance at Boğaziçi University. We won’t bow down to persecution and oppression. We won’t look down,” the writers said.
The statement came on the same day as a press release by academics at Boğaziçi protesting a presidential decree that stipulated the establishment of two new departments at the university, saying that the university senate and internal mechanisms had been bypassed in an unprecedented move, T24 reported.
Academics who have been endorsing students protesting the appointment of Bulu said academic freedom enshrined in the country’s constitution had yet again been violated after the appointment of the rector.
On Saturday Boğaziçi students posted an open letter to Erdoğan, listing their demands and promising that their protests would continue.
The Boğaziçi students said they would continue protesting until Bulu resigned and ended the letter expressing hope that Erdoğan would understand he can’t silence the oppressed in the country by “shouting at, threatening and targeting” them during his speeches.
After the letter was published, Beyza Buldağ, a former Boğaziçi student, was detained and arrested on Feb. 7 on charges of inciting violence through the Boğaziçi Solidarity Twitter account that had tweeted the letter.
Buldağ said she opened the handle a year ago and hadn’t been managing it for a while.
Despite her statement that she wasn’t in charge of the Twitter account in question, Buldağ was arrested on the grounds that “the cyber crimes department noted the account could belong to the suspect.”
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.