Detained Turkish students 'beaten' after Istanbul University protests

Detained Turkish students 'beaten' after Istanbul University protests
Turkish security forces 'beat' and 'strip-searched' students detained over anti-government protests, their lawyer alleged.
3 min read
07 January, 2021
More than 30 people have been detained over the protests [Getty]
Turkish police detained dozens of students this week amid ongoing demonstrations against the appointment of a government-linked academic to one of the country's top universities.

At least 36 people have been arrested in connection with the protests over Melih Bulu's appointment as rector of Istanbul's Bogazici University, regarded as Turkey's equivalent to Oxford or Harvard. Bulu is a member of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Two dozen of those arrested were students detained in night-time raids on their homes. 

The arrested students were "severely beaten", their lawyer told local media on Thursday. 

"Many students, especially LGBTI individuals" were subjected to strip searches during their detention, lawyer Ali Turgut added.

Medical examinations of the 24 detained students have confirmed claims they were beaten by security forces, Turkish daily Hurriyet reported on Thursday. 

The demonstrations began on Monday, with students and academics accusing President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of attempting to extend his grip over the elite university.

The president was granted the power to directly appoint university rectors shortly after a failed coup attempt in 2016, but prestigious universities like Bogazici had until now avoided the treatment.

Protesters have also accused Bulu of plagiarism and a poor grasp of English. The new rector's language skills have been highlighted due to the university's use of English-language instruction.

Ruling party officials including Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu have accused the protesting students of links to terrorist organisations, without providing evidence for those claims.

Devlet Bahceli, an ally of Erdogan and leader of the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) described the demonstrators as "terrorists' pawns and separatists dressed as students".

Protests banned as government approves military equipment

On Wednesday, Istanbul Governor Ali Yerlikaya banned "all kinds of meetings, demonstrations and marches" in the European side of Istanbul, where the university is located. Authorities also fenced off the university campus.

Demonstrators responded by regrouping in the Asian side of Istanbul, calling for the release of detained protesters and the students' right to elect a rector.

New legislation has greenlit the use of military gear by security forces tackling "public incidents", sparking fears that continued protests may face a fiercer crackdown. 

Opposition party leaders including former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu have condemned Bulu's appointment and the subsequent arrests of demonstrators.

The Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) linked the issue to Ankara's treatment of the pro-Kurdish, leftist party. Dozens of the party's elected officials have been removed from their posts and replaced by government appointees in recent years.

Bulu has said he will not stand down as rector of Bogazici University. 

He attempted to allay fears of government control over academia by reassuring students he was a fan of rock group Metallica.

Demonstrators have responded by cheekily using the group's songs at protests.

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