17.02.21 Solidarity Statement

Brunel UCU is in solidarity with ongoing protests in and from higher education institutions across the world, including protests against the marketization of university, police presence within universities as well as the loss of academic freedoms.

We raise our voice in solidarity with our colleagues at Boğaziçi University in Turkey, who are currently resisting to uphold academic freedoms and democracy in the university. Boğaziçi University is a top public research institution with an international standing. Dating back to 1863, it has strong scientific, intellectual, and democratic traditions. In the past, vice-chancellors have been elected through free and fair elections by faculties at Boğaziçi University. In its history, these democratic processes were suspended only following the 1980 coup d’état. On 1 January 2021, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan appointed a vice-chancellor to Boğaziçi University in one night. The appointee, Professor Melih Bulu is not only from outside the Boğaziçi community but also has been parachuted in without any consultation with the university staff or students. Bulu has been a member of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government since its foundation in 2002 and had also run a campaign for nomination for the parliamentary elections in 2015. Bulu also faces allegations of plagiarism in his MSc and PhD theses. Bulu’s appointment is another symbol of and step in Erdoğan’s attempt to extend his influence over Turkey’s social, cultural and political life, including higher education.

Since the beginning of January 2021, Boğaziçi university students, staff, alumni and the broader civil society have organised peaceful protests on campus and online campaigns demanding the appointee’s resignation, a return to the democratic process, and an end to outside interference. These protests were met with escalating attacks by the president, the ministry of the interior, the AKP establishment, and the AKP-controlled media. This includes targeting LGBTI+ students and student clubs, which have been fundamental in the organisation of the peaceful protests as well as targeting professors embracing Marxist traditions in their research. The political attacks on the media have been accompanied by an excessive use of force by the riot police, supported with snipers located all around the campus. So far, the riot police have detained more than 200 students and arrested over 10 students. Student homes have been raided by SWAT teams in full gear. There are frequent reports of unlawful strip searches and abuse by the police of those in custody.

We condemn the police violence, targeting of academics and students by state actors and arrests towards students. We call Turkish authorities to respect Boğaziçi University’s academic freedom and its autonomy.