Turkish university teachers protest against Erdogan-appointed rector

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Teachers at Istanbul’s Bogazici University protested on Tuesday against the swearing-in of a new rector appointed by President Tayyip Erdogan, extending demonstrations started by students.

Hundreds of students and about two dozen faculty members say the appointment of Melih Bulu at the leading Turkish school was undemocratic. Such demonstrations are rare and little tolerated in Turkey, especially since a failed coup in 2016.

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Students clashed with police on Monday at the entrance to the university and officers used tear gas to disperse the crowd. Police on Tuesday raided 24 homes and detained 17 people including two Bogazici students, the Istanbul governor’s office said.

Faculty members gathered on campus later on Tuesday during the swearing-in of Bulu, who has a doctorate in business management, and turned their backs on the rector’s building.

They said in a statement Bulu was the first rector appointed from outside a university since a 1980 military coup and part of increasing anti-democratic practices since 2016, when the failed coup prompted Erdogan’s government to launch a crackdown against perceived opponents.

In an interview on Haberturk TV, Bulu said he would not resign because his appointment met global standards, and that police stopped non-students from entering campus.

“Bogazici students can protest wherever and however they want,” he said.

Bulu added he joined Erdogan’s ruling AK Party when it was founded about two decades ago and later applied to run for parliamentary election.

Several hundred police officers and a handful of trucks with water canons were sent to the school on Tuesday.

More than a hundred students gathered on campus for a second day and chanted: “Melih Bulu is not our rector” and “Students and teachers are in solidarity”.

Turkish Deputy Interior Minister Ismail Catakli criticized the slogans.

“We cannot accept or remain silent to our police being called murderers,” he said, adding some of those detained had links to an outlawed leftist organization.

Authorities have arrested thousands of academics, lawyers, journalists, civil servants and military members as part of the post-2016 crackdown, which the government says was necessary given threats to the country.

Critics say Erdogan has used the coup attempt as a pretext to quash dissent.

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