Turkish police detained 10 students from İstanbul’s Boğaziçi University to prevent them from making a public statement protesting recent comments made by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accusing them of terrorism, the Birgün daily reported.
Erdoğan on Tuesday attended an event that marked the beginning of the 2021-2022 academic year, targeting Boğaziçi students in a speech and accusing them, once again, of being terrorists.
“They can’t be students; they can only be terrorists who have infiltrated the universities,” the president said, referring to students at the prestigious university.
Demonstrating against Erdoğan’s remarks, the students, who were marching towards the university’s South Campus to make a public statement, encountered the police, who detained 10 of them, Birgün said.
Boğaziçi Dayanışması, an independent student platform at the university, on Wednesday announced in a tweet that three of the students were released after giving a statement to the police, while the remainder were sent to testify to a prosecutor.
The group also argued that statements made by Erdoğan and his ally Devlet Bahçeli, leader of the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), who has frequently targeted Boğaziçi students, were the main reasons behind the students’ detention. “Tayyip Erdoğan, get your hands off universities!” they tweeted.
A prolonged series of protests broke out at the university after Erdoğan appointed Melih Bulu, a founding member of the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) Sarıyer district branch and former deputy chairman of the AKP’s İstanbul provincial chapter, as rector in early January.
They argued that the move was a part of Erdoğan’s broader effort to centralize control over universities and that it undercuts academic freedoms and democracy.
Since early 2021 hundreds demanding the resignation of Bulu and the appointment of a rector from the university staff after the holding of an election have been detained for participating in the youth-driven protests.
Shortly after Bulu’s dismissal with a presidential decree in July, the university community demanded that a democratic election be held at the university to elect a new rector, adding that they would not accept the appointment of a new rector to replace Bulu, either from within or without the university, since they oppose the appointment of rectors by Erdoğan.
However, Erdoğan on August 20 appointed Naci İnci, a former deputy to Bulu, as the new rector, despite a 95 percent disapproval rating he received in polls held among the university community to determine possible rector candidates, and again prompting outrage among academics and students.