by Aziz Oruç | 3rd February 2021 6:33 pm
Together with the AKP’s 19 years in power, there has been an increase in the number of
universities, however this increase has coincided with a worsening of the academia and scientific
quality of research. All balances in the country changed with the end of the Solution Process
(2015) and the declaration of the State of Emergency (OHAL) on 20 July, following the failed coup
attempt on 15 July 2016 in 2016. After the coup attempt, hundreds of thousands of workers,
laborers, academics, doctors, intellectuals, artists and opponents were fired by Decree Laws (KHK).
Turkey’s hopes for a solution disappeared and were replaced by repression, violence, detention,
arrest, and the trustee politics. Were we to take a picture of the country today, we will see that in
fact Turkey has become a big wreckage.
Something similar to the wreckage experienced in the political arena also happened in the field of
the academia. The events and facts are listed one by one.
"Academics for Peace" published a declaration entitled ‘We will not be a party to this crime’ which
was originally signed by 1,128 academics to protest the curfews and human rights violations
experienced during the operations in the provinces of Kurdistan, particularly Sur, Cizre, Nusaybin
and Silopi. Afterwards, the academics were targeted by the government and almost all of them
were expelled from universities by decree laws.
Academic robes under police boots
Another incident to remember happened in 2017, when many faculty members, academics and
students took off their robes and put them on the ground at Ankara University Cebeci Campus.
The images the academics robes on the ground and the police boots on them are etched in
The third photo summarizes what happened. The police attacked the students protesting the
appointed rector Melih Bulu and sprayed tear gas. To prevent students from entering the
university campus, the police handcuffed the door. Those handcuffs were used on the co-chair of
a party, Selahattin Demirtaş, academics, lawyers, journalists, intellectuals and students. They were
imprisoned and arrested. They were sent to prison… Only the university door had not been
These three photographs, indeed, summarize the state of the country as well as the situation in
the academy. But let’s explain things a little more, let’s talk about what happened. What
happened at Bosphorus (Boğaziçi) University takes us back a little, and reminds us of what we
have experienced, what we witnessed, what we suffered. Academics were thrown, ropes were
crushed by police boot, and if that was not enough, handcuffs were put on the university’s door.
Furthermore, universities are experiencing another type of decay with fake diplomas, plagiarism,
and trustee appointments. It is impossible not to say that the democratic, autonomous and free
structure of universities has completely disappeared.
Boğaziçi University in Turkey is one of the most valuable institutions of the academy. The rector,
who controlled most of the university life, is traditionally selected among university academics.
AKP’s President Tayyip Erdogan inaugurated a new process by appointing an outside person on 2
January. It would not be wrong to compare the appointment of Melih Bulu to the appointment of
trustees to replace elected mayors. Trustees have been appointed for two terms on the
municipalities won by the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in the region.
A rector listening to Metallica.
Doomsday broke out after Melih Bulu was appointed as the rector of the most prestigious
university in the country. Bulu had been in politics for the AKP for years, was an AKP deputy
candidate. What happened? As if nothing had happened, Melih Bulu became the person who
brought police to the campus, years later, saying "I am a rector who listens to hard rock,
Metallica", and "I will put the university in the first place".
A crude summary
Another thing is that while university students were exercising their right to the most natural
democratic protest, they encountered police violence: 159 people were detained. Ironically,
reforms were being discussed in the judiciary for months, and as if that was not enough, Erdoğan
was promising a new Constitution. Isn’t it a crude summary of the deep contradiction we live in?
Had they not talked about reforms? Where is the Constitution? Where is Boğaziçi?
Two students arrested
Democratic demonstrations have been going on for a month at Boğaziçi University and on 31
January, 4 people were detained after the police attacked the students. While two of the
detainees were given house arrest, two others were sent to prison. At the same time, academics
at the university gather in front of the rector’s building every day at 12:00, turning their backs to
the building and making a statement.
We’re not looking down
Students who continued to protest organised a mass action on 2 February. The action was
attacked by police and 159 students were subjected to police violence and detained. While the
police detained the students ordering them to “look down”. The students reacted resolutely and
determined, saying "We won’t look down", "We won’ obey".
159 students who were detained as a result of the reactions of the students were released.
Hundreds of thousands of tweets were sent in a short time with the hashtag #AşağıBakmayacağız.
Another painful issue is the subject of "perversion". Ugly, racist statements were used against
LGBT+ members. The most authoritative figures of the ruling party came out, targeting and
threatening students. The Presidency’s Head of Communication, Fahrettin Altun, said on his
Twitter account that the LGBT+ club was closed. Previously, Altun had targeted students calling
them a "raging minority". Later, Minister of Interior Süleyman Soylu talked of "4 LGBT perverts
who showed disrespect to the Kaaba-i Muazzama were detained at Boğaziçi University."
Soylu posted on his Twitter account calling the LGBTI+ "pervert", was warned by Twitter that
wrote that he had "violated the rules on hate speech".
Erdogan on the other hand said, “LGBT? There is no such thing. This country is national, spiritual
and will walk following these values ”.
What is perversion?
It is a difficult subject for humanity. A moment when we do not know what to say and we will be
ashamed of our humanity. So what is the real perversion? What determines who is perverted in
social life? Sometimes laws, sometimes traditions, mostly religion… Behaviours and thoughts
become the norm by being passed down from generation to generation through domestic and
We tried to explain what happened at Boğaziçi University, albeit briefly. Ceren Sözeri, an academic
at Galatasaray University, who has carried out important work and research for years and whose
power of word is effective on all social issues, made important evaluations.
"On 15 July after the coup attempt and after the declaration, on 20 July, of the State of Emergency
(OHAL) there was a crack down against all the opposition, unions, associations in Turkey.
Associations and media were closed down. One of the areas that faced the greatest pressure was
the academic one. A large number of leftist, dissident, and critical academics were dismissed from
universities in 2-3 waves with the Decree Laws. Free research space is restricted. With the decree,
the election of rectors in universities was abolished and the appointment was made directly by the
Academic freedom abolished
We are in a period where academic freedom is abolished at the university. From the point of view
of Turkey’s intellectual, scientific and freedom of expression we can say that we are suffering a
very serious setback.
Serious blow to academic work
What happened recently with Boğaziçi University is actually a result of all these. We can also read
it as a leading indicator of how hard the borders will be in going backwards. First of all, these
experiences are brought to the head of a university that respects freedoms like Boğaziçi
University, produces an important part of the academic and scientific publications in the country
and makes serious contributions especially in the field of social sciences.
Boğaziçi University has a long history
Trying to define the university in liberal commercial terms such as the innovation ecosystem, and
appointing a rector without consulting the components of the university, academics,
management, students, is not only an attack on Boğaziçi University, but an attack on the
universities of the whole country. Such appointments have been made in other universities before
and may not have been heard, but the fact that Boğaziçi has a long history is an important factor.
Such a step, such operation should not be happening in any university. A new regulation on non-
governmental organizations was passed. There are trustees appointed everywhere and this
trustee became a representation. The government appointed trustees everywhere. The trustee
settled in such a way that it became a cliché.
The government runs the country with trustees
It was a practice that stuck to power. It was a practice that stuck to power. I think that the state of
governing the country with trustees will ultimately increase their freedom and freedom of
expression will be restricted elsewhere, as it is today in Boğaziçi. This wrong step needs to be
reversed without wasting time. Melih Bulu must resign. Universities were never autonomous and
free, but at least could appoint their own administration. The appointment of trustees should be
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