Turkish university rector refuses to resign as student protests spread

The rector of Turkey’s top academic institution said he would not succumb to pressure from students and resign from his post, saying month-long demonstrations against his appointment by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan would eventually end.

Turkish police have detained hundreds of students at the Boğaziçi University in Istanbul and at locations elsewhere in the city in recent weeks. Several hundred gathered in the neighbourhood of Kadıköy on Tuesday. Police detained 95 people before releasing 65 of them, daily Evrensel reported on Wednesday.

Erdoğan appointed Melih Bulu as rector of Boğaziçi early last month, circumventing a pre-election by staff. Bulu was previously a senior local official of Erdoğan’s governing Justice and Development Party (AKP), which is an offshoot of a banned Islamic movement. Boğaziçi is known for its staunchly secular traditions and liberal students.

“In the beginning, I foresaw that this crisis would end within six months, and that is how it’s going to be,” Bulu told columnist Nagehan Alçı in comments published on the Habertürk news website on Wednesday. “Of course, there won’t be six months of such harshness. Tensions will reduce.”

Police also detained demonstrators in Istanbul’s Beşiktaş and Sarıyer districts on Tuesday before releasing several of them. A further 83 people were apprehended in demonstrations in the capital Ankara on Tuesday, Evrensel newspaper reported.

In echoes of the Gezi Park protests of 2013, some residents of traditionally secular neighbourhoods of Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city, have begun banging pots and pans from open windows in support of the protesters. The Gezi Park demonstrations, initially held against planned construction at a park in central Istanbul, turned into a nationwide movement against the government. It was eventually quashed by police.

Erdoğan said on Wednesday that his government would not allow the protests to turn into another Gezi Park, asking the students whether they were terrorists trying to break into the rector's offices, state-run Anadolu Agency reported.

“We do not accept these young people, who are members of terrorist organisations, as young people of our country who have true national and spiritual values,” he said.

Police officers beat Barış Atay, a lawmaker for the Workers’ Party of Turkey (TİP) and a Gezi Park activist, Agence France-Presse photographer Bülent Kılıç reported, while Musa Piroğlu of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) was affected by tear gas at the demonstration in Kadıköy.

Turkey’s government has sought to depict the protests as organised by “deviant” LGBT activists and says that members of a leftist terrorist organisation are also involved. On Tuesday, Twitter attached a warning about hateful conduct to two posts by Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, who oversees the police, after he made comments targeting LGBT activists.

(All times local Turkish time, GMT+3)

16:50 - Peaceful protest a guaranteed right, says jailed Kurdish politician in defence of students

Selahattin Demirtaş, the imprisoned former leader of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), said Boğaziçi University students’ right to peaceful protest was “guaranteed by the Constitution and the laws alike”.

Demirtaş spoke during a court hearing against him on terrorism charges on Wednesday, the Mezopotamya news agency reported.

“Ten officers target one person, and another officer throws a punch. Will the lawsuit be against me, who speaks of this happening, or them, who intervene in this manner?” Demirtaş asked.

He said there were parallels between his speeches at parliament that prompted several charges of terrorism against him and students’ rights to freedom of expression.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled in December last year that the case against Demirtaş lacked concrete evidence.

15:30 - University students livestreaming Turkish protests detained at their homes

Four students were apprehended at their homes on Wednesday morning for speaking about student protests during livestreams of the demonstrations on Club House, a social media app, lawyer Ali Gül said in a series of tweets.

One of the students “is facing charges of incitement for typing ‘release our friends’”, Gül said. Another reposted an invitation to protests by the Boğaziçi Solidarity group, and a third reposted news of students being detained at a bus stop.

Police released two of the four students later on Wednesday.

14:45 - Turkish government ‘won’t let youth fall into trap’, says Technology Minister

Turkey’s Industry and Technology Minister Mustafa Varank said the government wouldn’t let Turkish youth fall into the trap of “those who wish to create a new Gezi out of Boğaziçi”, Hürriyet newspaper reported on Wednesday.

Varank said Boğaziçi University rector Melih Bulu had been appointed in line with Turkey’s laws and constitution. “The disproportionality of the reaction to his appointment grows day by day,” he said. “They’ve even attacked our sacred values, our Kaaba.”

13:50 - Boğaziçi detainees allege sexual harassment, mistreatment in police custody

Many people detained by Turkish police in Tuesday’s protests told reporters that they had been subjected to sexual harassment, mistreatment and torture in police custody.

K.Ç. told daily Evrensel that she was dragged along the street by riot police, one of whom groped her. Another officer forced her legs open by placing a knee between her legs, she said.

Şeyma Çopur said police officers grabbed and squeezed the genitals of male students. One student had his jaw dislocated, and most of them were beaten, she said. Rıdvan Gezegen said police hit him over the head with batons while his hands were cuffed behind his back.