Istanbul mayor İmamoğlu backs students protesting Erdoğan-appointed rector

(Re-leads with İmamoğlu's reaction to protests)

The opposition mayor of Istanbul, Ekrem İmamoğlu, on Monday backed students protesting the appointment of a government-linked rector by President Tayyip Erdoğan at the country’s leading Boğaziçi University.

Earlier on Monday, Istanbul police intervened as students attempted to march in protest of the appointment of Melih Bulu by presidential decree on Sunday, citing an undemocratic process, Diken news site reported.

İmamoğlu said he stood with the “rightful struggle'' of the students and academics of Boğaziçi in a Twitter post, where he stressed the need to rid the country of partisanship and warned against brain drain.

Footage shared on Turkish social media showed students colliding and fighting with security forces at the entrance of Boğaziçi, one of the few remaining independent universities in the country.

The appointment of Bulu, known for his work for Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) at the Istanbul district level, has prompted criticism from Bogaziçi students and alumni, as well as politicians and activists.

Police used pepper spray on students looking to break a police blockade against protesters attempting to march towards Boğaziçi’s southern campus, Diken said.

Protestors chanted slogans such as “Melih Bulu is not our rector,” and “We do not want a state-appointed rector,’’ it reported.

Some social media accounts reported that a number of students were detained.

Bulu, a Boğaziçi alumni and former instructor and rector at other Istanbul universities, has worked as a founding member of the ruling AKP’s Sarıyer district branch in Istanbul, AKP’s Istanbul provincial chapter deputy chairman, and became AKP candidate for mayor of Istanbul’s Ataşehir district and parliamentary candidate for Istanbul in local and general elections.

Turkish satire magazine Leman is set to feature on its cover on Tuesday an image of Bulu entering Boğaziçi campus on horseback, flagged by AKP supporters, in an apparent reference to what is being labelled as a government power grab over academia.

Bulu is one of 27 rectors appointed by Erdoğan over the past year.

Turkish presidents maintain the authority to appoint as rectors candidates who failed to win in rectorial elections, but a presidential decree issued during the state of emergency rule declared after the July 2016 has removed the election process altogether.

Click here for an interview with a former Boğaziçi rector on Bulus's appointment