Erdoğan removes Boğaziçi University rector after student protests

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan removed from office Boğaziçi University Melih Bulu, a loyalist of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) whose January appointment sparked nationwide student protests.

Erdoğan took the decision in a presidential decree published overnight on Wednesday. He did not give a reason for the dismissal or name a successor.

Bulu had faced protests from day one of his appointment, both from students and faculty members at the country’s most prestigious university.

The demonstrations at Boğaziçi spread to other universities and were met with a police crackdown. The government blamed leftists and the student LGBT+ community for the unrest, labelling the latter as "deviants". The targeting of the LGBT+ activists sparked condemnation from Western allies including the United States.

Hundreds of students were detained in the protests, with several placed under house arrest. Turkish courts annulled some students' passports, preventing them from travelling on exchange trips abroad. Others lost bursaries, putting them in severe financial difficulties.

In electing Bulu, Erdoğan overstepped the university’s long-standing tradition of electing its own administrators from among senior faculty members. While Bulu had studied at the university, he was not an academician there.

In 2016, Erdoğan signed a presidential decree granting himself the authority to directly appoint rectors without elections. The president can now select rectors to be appointed from among three candidates recommended by the Council of Higher Education (YÖK). Previously, an election would be held among a university's staff but the president was not obliged to appoint the winner.