159 detained at Boğaziçi as protests over Erdoğan-appointed rector enter fourth week

(Updated with new detention number, reactions to arrests)

Turkish police on Monday detained 159 students at Istanbul Bogaziçi University protesting the appointmentof a government- linked rector of the university, according to ArtiGercek newspaper.

Students were met with police intervention as they attempted to hold a press conference at the university’s Hisarüstü campus, while other students gathered to support the group in the nearby neighbourhood of Etiler were also stopped by police, T24 news site reported.

Students and faculty at Boğaziçi have since Jan. 4 been protesting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s appointment of a new rector linked to his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), resulting in detentions and clashes with police. 

On Saturday, four students at Boğaziçi were detained over artwork that reportedly depicted LGBT rainbow symbols alongside an image of the Islamic holy site of the Kaaba. The detentions followed top government officials blasting the artwork. 

The Istanbul Governor’s office has yet to release a statement over Monday’s events.

The students, who have been blockaded by police, gathered round the building of the new rector, Melih Bulu, T24 said, as they demand a meeting with the Erdoğan-appointed official

Lawmakers from the pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) attempted to enter campus in support of Boğaziçi students, but were met with police and security forces, HDP lawmaker Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu said.

Police blocked the group of pro-Kurdish HDP lawmakers from entering Boğaziçi’s South Campus and over 100 students have been detained, according to Gergerlioğlu.

Erdoğan’s junior coalition partner and leader of Turkey’s far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) on Monday blasted students protesting on Turkey’s most prestigious campus, referring to them as "pests.’’

"Everything but students, including all kind of pests and anarchist groups, have nested at the gates of this university,’’ Evrensel newspaper cited the MHP leader as saying.

The MHP leader went on to say supporters were "provocateurs seeking to choke Turkey.’’

Boğaziçi on Monday appointed its vice rector and rector advisor following weeks of uncertainty over who would step into the roles.

Professor Gürkan Kumbaroğlu of Boğaziçi’s Industrial Engineering faculty will be filling the seat of vice rector, Deutsche Welle Turkish reported, while Dr. Oğuzhan Aygören from the university’s International Business department is set to become rector advisor. 

Aygören is a member of Turkey’s opposition Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA), founded by former Erdoğan ally and deputy prime minister Ali Babacan, it said. 

Critics have attributed the lengthy vacancy of the roles as an extension of Boğaziçi faculty’s protest over Bulu’s appointment.

The opposition mayor of Istanbul on Monday blasted the government over the latest "arbitrary’’ arrests at Boğaziçi.

"We must be a country that is equal and free, where there is equal opportunity,’’ Ekrem İmamoğlu said on Twitter, adding that he spoke to officials at Boğaziçi and requested for dialogue between the protesting students and administration.

Opposition DEVA leader Babacan also criticised the government, calling for the immediate release of students.

"Release the detained Boğaziçi students immediately,’’ Babacan said on Twitter. ‘’Leave the youth alone. This is our stance (on the matter).''