Boğaziçi University students protest appointment of government loyalist as rector

4 January protest at Boğaziçi University (Photo: Hilmi Hacaloğlu - VOA/Wikimedia Commons)

Demonstrations have been continuing at Boğaziçi University since January 2021. Students and university staff are resisting the appointment of a government loyalist, Melih Bulu, as rector, by Presidential Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The reason for appointing a rector at Boğaziçi University is that there is a strong leftist student community at this university. The students, who have been the target of the AKP (Justice and Development Party) government, for a while, took action against the Turkish armies operation against the Kurds in Syria in 2018. Appointing an AKP rector at the university proves that Erdogan wants to have control over any possible protest.

This anti-democratic maneuver echoes the dismissal of HDP (People’s Democratic Party) mayors and the appointment of trustees to replace them. In addition, this policy is a continuation of the dismissal of thousands of civil servants and academics by decrees since 2016.

Repression and division!

All students who participated in these protest movements, including rallies and demonstrations against Melih Bulu’s appointment, were arrested during night raids of their homes. They were abused and beaten because they defended democracy in the face of repression. Even today, the university is surrounded by snipers, and “anti-terrorist” crackdowns are taken against students protesting.

Recently, as part of the protests, four students hung a painting covered with an LGBT flag at the University of Mecca. The AKP accused students of “deviance” and “incitement to hatred” and they were arrested. The AKP government uses all means to end protests, incite public hatred of these students, and insult LGBT people.

As solidarity with students grew in the country, police arrested 159 people in the latest protests.

President Erdogan and his party, AKP, fear that these protests against his authoritarian rule will get bigger as the social situation in the country gets worse. According to official figures, unemployment is over 15% but the actual inflation is predicted to be above 30%. The living standards of the population are falling sharply day by day. The march of hundreds of miners in Kayseri demanding an increase in their salaries is another example of social discontent. Students must unite with the working class, the only revolutionary class in society because of its role in production and distribution.

The need for a new mass workers’ party

The students have been supported from the beginning by the MPs of the pro-Kurdish HDP (People’s Democratic Party) and the TIP (Workers Party of Turkey).

The Republican People’s Party (CHP), a Kemalist party (centre), has shown its limitations as the largest opposition party to the AKP. Indeed, most of its deputies, representatives, and spokespeople have not taken the trouble to support the students of the Bogazici in their protest movement against the AKP.

CHP spokesman, Faik Oztrak, tweeted against LGBT students about their work of art, calling it a “vile provocation” and an attack on the sacred values of humanity. The CHP continues to play the role of supporting Erdogan’s regime; it is no hope for students and workers of Turkey!

These attacks show the need to build a new mass workers’ party. It is time for Turkey’s left to fill the political vacuum by building socialism and fight for the rights of workers, students, and the oppressed minorities (Kurdish, Alevi, LGBT, etc.). The HDP should also be part of the process of forming a new mass workers’ party.

Erdogan’s pro-capital policies target both the working class and the youth. The capitalists, a minority in society, get richer and richer while workers suffer.

Today’s students are tomorrow’s workers! Workers and students must support each other and together fight for socialism, against authoritarian regimes, and against capitalism!

Against these attacks, the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI) stands in solidarity with Boğaziçi University students and university staff.

  • Melih Bulu must resign immediately! The detainees must be released!
  • Universities should be democratically controlled by university staff and students
  • Students and youth must unite with trade unions and the working class and knit together a mass struggle against Erdogan on a socialist programme
  • No trust in capitalist parties! Workers and young people need their own organisation and own mass party
  • Fight for socialism – against poverty, oppression, and capitalist crisis














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February 2021