Students of Boğaziçi University: We will not step back!

Students of Boğaziçi University: We will not step back!

For years many people have predicted that tensions in Turkey are deteriorating even further. Regardless of whether they are supporters or opponents of the government, it was clear that the state was losing its power and would seek to regain it by force. As the government would increase oppression, it was obvious that it would be met with resistance. It would not be mistaken to see what is happening in Boğaziçi as such. The resistance shown against such violence, attack, torture, arrest and detention changed everything.

Anger 

The anger is there because all their distortions and provocations have failed. They labelled the protesters terrorists but it did not work; they’ve tried to gain social acceptance for their tyranny by bringing anti-LGBTİ  rhetoric to the fore but this did not work either.  Imagine a situation where they were accusing the youth day and night. They accused them of being deviants, terrorists, vandals and many other things. Such harsh language later becomes police violence, (skull popper indictments?) with angry comments expressed on TV.

Demonisation

Devlet Bahçeli, head of the neofascist Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) stated that “Turkey does not have such sons and daughters. Many of these children and the students are vandals. They are poisonous snakes whose heads need to be crushed. “

He is openly committing hate crimes, promoting discrimination and incitement to commit crimes, promoting the hatred, polarisation, alienation and demonisation of his opponents.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan raised this level even more and said “Are you students or terrorists who were trying to raid the rector’s room?”. He did not stop there and targeted the wife of Osman Kavala who has been held unlawfully in prison for the last 3,5 years. He targeted Prof. Ayse Bugra, who is an academic at Boğaziçi University by saying “Kavala is a terrorist and his wife is a provocateur” . Can you see the language he is using?

I will fall if i stumble 

“Kavala is a terrorist”, “his wife is provocateur,” “those in Boğaziçi are deviants”, “opposition is the enemy”, “protests are organised by external forces”, “students are terrorists”… the list can go on. Fear and intimidation have continued. But they also fear backing down from the decision to appoint a “trustee rector” – Erdogan supporter and former Justice and Development (AKP) election candidate Melih Bulu.

Backing down will be seen as sign of weakness. The ruling elite has put itself into another deadlock in the belief that “if I stumble, I will fall.” Bulu, on the other hand will not resign with his own will therefore he is just carrying on as normal, ignoring the protests and playing role of the three wise monkeys – hear no ever, see no evil, speak no evil.

Light started to brighten the darkness 

What is happening on the side of those who resist, the students, those displaying the colours of the rainbow and women? All of these fears are not for nothing. Their reactions are creative, their messages are informative, their songs are meaningful, their colours are rainbow colours..

They say “no”, “stop”, “enough”, with all their intelligence, conscience and will. We have been surprised at their resistance.  They are showing us the value of life and existence! This is not a generation that the government could dream of targeting. Because of this, the light is breaking the shameful cover of darkness.

Nothing scares …

One can only say this; do not attack because you are helpless.  No-one loves you anymore. Dozens of students were dragged on the ground, suffocated  and beaten with truncheons and abuses. They were treated like enemies in their own university. Then they were arrested, taken to police stations or hospitals, crowded into buses, beaten up and subjected to strip searches.

But the youth hold their bright eyes and smiling faces in spite of everything. They show victory signs. They are confident and relaxed. Neither the brightness in their eyes fades away nor the hope in their heart can be taken away, even if they’re sent to prison or sentenced to house arrest.

#BaşlarınıYereEğmediler (They did not put their head down),  #AşağıBakmadılar (they did not look down).

8 of the students sent to prison 

Just a reminder, around 1,000 people have been arrested to date since the beginning of the protests (4th of January). 8 students were sent to prison, dozens were sentenced to house arrests many of those released claimed that they were strip searched and beaten.

Students Are Talking 

Lets talk to those students who  have had first hand experience of the events, having been beaten up and arrested during the protests and are now under house arrest.

Azze Deniz Akşar and Hivda Selen are two of the students from Istanbul University sentenced to house arrests. I could see that their hopes were still big and their dedication to the struggle was as fresh as the first day when they were explaining what happened to them. Ezgi Erturk, a student at Istanbul University’s Law Department and member of Revolutionary Youth Associations (who are they? Any political affiliation?) who was arrested twice and released after also shared her experiences with me.

I was arrested

Azze Deniz Akşar said that they went to entrance of the South Campus of Bogazici University to support the protest following the appointment of Melih Bulu as a trustee rector. The police however prevented the students from entering the campus and did not allow any protests.  Akşar said: “The police used handcuffs to close the entrance” which in fact became a good symbolic representation of what they were doing. It was a handcuffing of the university and the youth.

“We would not be able to explain the situation any better than this even if we tried. The police attacked the students and I got wounded during this attack.

“We continued with our protest despite all the efforts by the police to prevent it. On 5th of January I was arrested together with many other friends. The accusation was being at the protest. We have been targeted on social media and on the TV, and they called us terrorists,” she said.

We Are Against the Appointed Trustee 

Akşar explained that the protests of Boğaziçi continue despite all the pressures and have in fact broadened.

“The resistance became resistance of all the universities and did not remain as only Boğaziçi’s. We encountered the violence of the state and the police.

“Hundreds of people were arrested each day, some sent to prisons, some sentenced to house arrests. These were all political decisions without any legal basis. The government was trying to form a perception in the mind of the public. For example they say that external forces are behind the protests. They also wanted to create a division between people from Boğaziçi and those not from there.

“But they were not successful in stopping Boğaziçi’s resistance. The united resistance front against fascism became something practical with Boğaziçi’s resistance. Our problems and the demands of those resisting are the same. Trustees exist in every university and we will continue to stand against them,” she said.

We would like to demolish the fascist regime.

Akşar said the policy of appointing trustees is not an isolated issue only relevant to universities, and first started with the appointments of the trustees to the municipalities governed by the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).

“That was a blow to political will of the Kurdish people expressed in the municipal elections. Following the appointment of the trustees to the municipalities, they disregarded the will of the Bar Associations and civil society groups and continued to appoint trustees to those organisations as well.

“In fact we started to encounter trustees appointed by the government almost everywhere. Universities are only one of them. Our struggle is not only against the appointed trustee rector [Melih Bulu] but against the policy of appointing trustees.

“The policy of appointing trustees is exactly the fascist chiefdom. Our struggle is not only against the rector Melih Bulu or only limited to Boğaziçi. For us, every street, every neighbourhood, all the universities and all the court buildings are the places for resistance. We would like to demolish the fascist regime. It is important to start from Boğaziçi where the resistance has started. In reality, we struggle to destroy fascism,” she said.

They call everybody Terrorist

Akşar continued: “They do not  call terrorists only those resisting against the appointed trustee rector. They also declare the workers who were dismissed from workplace without getting paid or for being a member of trade union and fighting for their rights, terrorists too. The workers, women, Kurdish people who demand their national rights are facing state violence. All repressed groups are facing this violence” .

Torture

She explained that she was arrested for a second time during the protest took place in Kadıköy [a district of Istanbul] and was released but placed under house arrest

“One of our female friends was severely beaten up during the detention and they hit her private parts, her genitals. She was bleeding. The level of torture was inhumane”.

“They [Turkish authorities] are trying to stop leading figures active in the resistance through placing them under house arrests. They are trying to hinder the resistance. We will do whatever we can do to support the resistance while we remain under house arrests

“They could not stop us and they will not be able to stop it. All the decisions are taken politically. We will continue our struggle under any conditions”.

We were tortured during the arrest 

Hivda Selen experienced  similar things but this did not keep her away from the struggle. She talked about her arrest during the Boğaziçi resistance and said: “We had a banner with a message on saying “we came to remove the handcuffs” and we wanted to march with that banner in our hands.

“At that point the police started to arrest us and torture us. Some of us where dragged on the ground, some were turned face down and taken away. Many people were arrested during the solidarity actions and as a result hundreds of police had entered Boğaziçi University during the night. Many of our friends were arrested there by the police, using torture.” [sometimes violence may be more accurate word here].

Resistance gained momentum

“Everybody realised that this is not an issue of appointed trustee rectors. All sides know about the issues around the political freedoms in the country. That’s why this resistance has been embraced this much and widely,” she continued.

“The issue of appointed trustees is not only related to the universities, it’s also appointment of the trustees to the municipalities, denying the political will of the Kurdish people. It is a problem of all those involved in the popular struggle.

“That’s why the state want to crush this struggle as they can see this is the case. That’s why they refer to Gezi so often. They would like to stop this resistance from growing. They talk about new reform, a new constitution. However the students are facing violence, they get arrested, sent to prison,  and fascism getting even harsher and we can see that the state doesn’t want to take any steps back.

“In the past food boycott in İstanbul University and the resistance against the cutting off popular trees within the campus of ODTU University [in Ankara] gained momentum and today Boğaziçi’s resistance is showing us the same.  Boğaziçi resistance has been embraced by all of society,” Selen said.

They make us targets 

“If the resistance wins then this will be seen as a sign that the state has been forced back. That’s why the state refused to shows that it will step back. As stated by our friends at Boğaziçi, the main driver of this is the fascist chief [Erdogan].

“The government and the fascist chief  knows this and that’s why they target us. Resistance brought arrests and some of our friends were sent to prison. Many of our friends were placed under house arrest like me. The reason for the house arrest is to limit our freedom and security. It is the same as being in prison,” she explained.

We demand Autonomous Democratic Universities 

“The government is threatening everybody with arrest and pointing out death to public to persuade them for malaria (cajole someone into something lesser evil).

“We call on everybody to show solidarity with all our friends in prison and under house arrests. The concept of trustee is being widened by the government. They would like to get stronger both in terms of ideology and hegemony. I am confident that their moves in this regards don’t hold water for the youth.

“It is not something valid against the popular opposition either. All the university students embrace the demand for an autonomous democratic university now. This is the reason for government’s aggression,” Selen said.

“They are scared of resistance. They are scared that this resistance will reach all the universities and their fear is real now. That’s why they arrest students, send them to the prisons and beat them up during the protests.

Four others friends were sent to prison. The resistance of Boğaziçi is not only relevant to Boğaziçi. İstanbul University also has appointed a trustee. All the appointed trustees including Melih Bulu must resign, the police should withdraw from our universities and all our friends in  prison and house arrests should be released. We want autonomous democratic universities. We want the targeting of our LGBTİ+ friends to end immediately,” she concluded.

They Have Separated 23 People 

Ezgi Ertürk described the violence her and others were subjected to by police during the protests.

“They detained 23 people among the over 1000 protesters and requested 10 out of these 23 to be sent to prison,” she told me. “And our friends Şilan and Anıl were sent to prison. Last Monday 159 of us were arrested and we were released at 5am on Tuesday. Subsequently, less than 24 hours later, on Tuesday evening we were arrested again during a protest attended by thousands of people and we were dragged on the ground, hitting our heads against police cars and handcuffed behind our back,”

“I was with Şilan during both arrests. The interrogation started after 1am and the police separated 23 of us among the 93 without any order from the public prosecutor. We were told that “the police cars are too crowded” as a reason for this separation. The started to release everybody else at 6am but we were kept in police cars until 9am without any new order extending the arrest. We were kept inside police cars for a total of 13 hours,” she explained.

They Denied Us Sugar 

“The first day we were detained at security directorate in Gayrettepe and on the second day at the security directorate in  Vatan. They did not allow food/sugar brought by our lawyers in while we were kept in Vatan. We were even denied napkins as we were told that napkins block the toilets. The prosecutor did not take our statement and moreover he issued an order for us to be taken before the judge with a request for 10 of us to be sent to prison and 11 out of remaining 13 to be placed under house arrest.

“All of those 11 people were taken to the court house, kept waiting there for 10 hours and placed under house arrests without giving any statements.  Ten of us, without any legal reason were targeted among hundreds of people who were there with us in the same place.

“For about a month they have been trying to label the students struggle for democratic universities as an act of terror and as a result of this they kind of made a dirty deal on us. Our friends were sent to prison with accusations of breaking the Law number 2911 [from the Turkish Constitution] and preventing security forces t

from conducting their duties, like thousands of people who are facing prosecution with the same accusation under the AKP’s legal system,” she said.

Arrest , House Arrest, Prison

Ezturk continued: “Eleven people out of 23 were placed under house arrest. Ten out of the remaining 12 people who were facing prison were also placed under house arrest and two of our friends were jailed. Six of us were released under judicial control orders with a ban on us leaving the country.  Such inconsistency.

“At the Magistrates Court the police officers were sitting on the other side of the table when we were meeting our lawyers. We gave our statement while the doors were wide open and the room was full of police, who were standing next to us. They did not even read the charges against us properly at the court. Many of our lawyers were denied the entry to the court rooms.

We Will Not Take Step Back 

“Our friends who have been resisting but arrested and sent to prison hold their heads high and never took a step back. We will not take any step back too. This time we will take our steps even further forward. We will move forward and move stronger for Anıl, Şilan, Selo and Doğu. We will break those handcuffs placed on on our friends’ wrists and at the entrances of the universities. Those behind this decision should know this”.



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