ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkish police clashed with students on Monday protesting against President Tayyip Erdogan’s appointment of a new rector at one of the country’s top universities. The process is undemocratic.
In a decree published on Saturday, Erdogan appointed Melih Bulu, who holds a doctorate in business administration, as rector of Bogazici University in Istanbul.
The move sparked protests from students and academics, and footage on social media showed hundreds of students wearing signs demanding Bulu’s resignation.
They sang slogans like “Melih Bulu is not our rector” and “We don’t want a state-appointed rector”.
Some students who were allowed to enter the campus sealed one of the university buildings. Later footage showed students bumping into security guards at the entrance to the campus and fighting.
The Istanbul police did not respond immediately.
Bulu, who Turkish media claims ran as a candidate for Erdogan’s ruling AK party in a 2015 general election, was the first rector to be selected from outside a university since a military coup in Turkey in 1980, members said Bogazici faculty.
In a statement shared on social media, they said, “We do not accept it as it clearly violates academic freedom and academic autonomy, as well as the democratic values of our university.”
The appointment was “another case of many anti-democratic practices that have continued since 2016,” and referred to a massive crackdown since a failed coup five years ago.
At a press conference following a meeting of the AK party chaired by Erdogan, a party spokesman, Omer Celik, denied the appointment was a blow to academic freedom.
“Every academic, like every person, has a right to his or her political opinion (…). We do not base appointments on the political affiliation of academics,” he said.
The authorities arrested thousands of academics, lawyers, journalists, officials and members of the military as part of the action.
Critics say Erdogan’s government used the coup attempt as an excuse to suppress dissent. The government says the measures are necessary because of security threats to Turkey.
Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by Dominic Evans and Timothy Heritage