Boğaziçi academics appeal to Turkish state council for cancellation of rector appointment

Melih Bulu

More than 70 academics from Boğaziçi University have filed a joint submission with the Council of State requesting the cancellation of Professor Melih Bulu’s appointment as the university’s rector, Turkish media reported.

The academics claimed in their submission that members of political parties shouldn’t be appointed to the position of rector, citing the country’s Higher Education Law.

Students and alumni, as well as politicians and activists, have since the beginning of January been protesting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s decision to appoint Bulu, a party loyalist and unsuccessful candidate from Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) for a seat in parliament, as the university’s rector on January 1.

The protestors, the majority of them university students, demand the release of previously detained and arrested demonstrators, the resignation of Bulu and the appointment of a rector from the university staff after the holding of an election.

Turkish courts have put at least 31 protesters under house arrest, and nine are currently in pretrial detention on suspicion of “inciting hatred” and “violating the law on demonstrations” and for “resisting police orders” under Article 216/1 of the Turkish Penal Code.

According to the Interior Ministry, more than 800 protestors have been taken into police custody throughout Turkey since the start of the protests.

On Friday Amnesty International issued an urgent call for action for the release of protestors for participating in peaceful protests following the appointment of Bulu.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) had also called on the Turkish government to release the protestors, saying, “… the violent arrests of students who had peacefully protested the move encapsulates the government’s disregard for basic human rights.”

The most recent changes to the appointment of rectors came while Turkey was under a state of emergency after a July 15, 2016 coup attempt. A state of emergency decree (KHK 676) granted the president the authority to appoint rectors, and another decree in 2018 (KHK 703) reduced the requirement for candidates from five years as a professor to three.

Between 2016 and 2018, the government used decree-laws to shut down 15 private universities, dismiss more than 6,800 academics and prosecute hundreds in academia based on alleged terrorism links.

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