Student protesters in Turkey at risk of prosecution – HRW

Turkish authorities have placed hundreds of student protesters under possible criminal investigation, Human Rights Watch said today.

The students were arrested during weeks of protests against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s appointment of an academic closely aligned with the government as rector of one of Turkey’s top universities.

Students and the academic staff of Bogazici University in Istanbul have exercised their lawful right to peacefully express their opposition to the appointment, which they regard as a move to impose government control over the institution and undermine academic autonomy and freedom.

“Erdogan’s appointment of an unelected rector to Bogazici University and the violent arrests of students who had peacefully protested the move encapsulates the government’s disregard for basic human rights,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Imposing an unelected presidential-appointee rector on a university with no consultation demonstrates a lack of respect for academic freedom and the autonomy of universities in Turkey.”

Human Rights Watch interviewed eighteen students, including four who had been released from police custody, four lawyers, and two academics, analyzed images and legal documents, and monitored four student protests.

The protests by students and faculty members started after President Erdogan appointed Melih Bulu as the Bogazici University rector on January 1, 2021. Bulu, a political ally of the president’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), has worked in academia and in the defense industry, and previously served as rector of two private universities.

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