Boğaziçi students briefly detained in protests against rector unable to study abroad

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Two students from Turkey’s prestigious Boğaziçi University who were briefly detained in protests against the pro-government rector and released under judicial supervision are unable to travel abroad due to a travel ban imposed on them, Euronews Turkish service reported on Tuesday.

Ece Erten and Beril Destan Zaman were briefly detained for participating in protests against the appointment of Melih Bulu, a founding member of the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) Sarıyer district branch in İstanbul, as rector by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in early 2021.

Following their brief detention, both students were released and placed under judicial supervision, which prevents them from traveling abroad and requires them to check in with the police on a regular basis, Euronews said.

According to the report, Erten won a scholarship to study language at the University of Paris, while Zaman was accepted into a master of science program at the University of Siena.

They are, however, currently unable to attend the courses in person.

Erten, an LGBTI individual who wants to continue her education abroad due to safety concerns amid increasing hate speech against LGBTI people in Turkey, won’t be able to physically attend classes starting on September 1. Although the university allowed her to study remotely for a while, her scholarship might be canceled if she is unable to attend classes in person.

Erten told Euronews that she failed twice get a passport and that her lawyer, who objected twice, still hadn’t received any response from the authorities.

The second hearing in Erten’s case has not been held since the indictment is still being drafted, Euronews said, quoting the student as saying that the process may take even longer with the courts in recess between July 20 and August 31.

According to Zaman, who says she wants to study abroad due to her curiosity about different countries and cultures and because it’s getting harder to produce science effectively in Turkey’s universities due to government pressure, the exercise of the right to protest cannot be considered a crime.

Bulu’s appointment as rector of Boğaziçi University in January has led to over six months of demonstrations, hundreds of arrests and one of the most sustained protests in recent years against Erdoğan’s rule. The protests were supported by not only students and alumni but also the opposition politicians and activists of the country.

While critics said Bulu wasn’t qualified for the job and that a state-appointed rector harmed the independence of the university, many argued that the move was part of Erdoğan’s broader effort to centralize control over universities.

Earlier in July, loyalist Bulu barred students and academics from entering the campus and cited “health and security reasons” for the ban. But according to students and academics, it was obvious that the main aim was to prevent students from continuing their protests.

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