Erdoğan ousts Boğaziçi University rector Bulu after months-long protests

Melih Bulu

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Thursday replaced a top İstanbul university rector whose controversial appointment led to months of student-led protests against his rule, Agence France-Presse reported.

Erdoğan appointed Melih Bulu as rector of Boğaziçi University in January but was immediately met by anger over the president’s influence on educational institutions.

But in an announcement published by the Official Gazette, Erdoğan fired Bulu.

The president provided no reason for his dismissal and did not name a replacement.

Protests by students and academics began almost immediately in January and continued to the present day.

Dozens were detained while others were subject to police raids as officers emboldened by Erdoğan’s anger responded heavy-handedly to the protests.

While the demonstrations were not as largely attended as before, Boğaziçi academics showed they remained deeply unhappy by continuing to regularly turn their backs in protest in front of the rector’s office.

Bulu ran as a candidate in the 2015 election for Erdoğan’s ruling party.

Critics lambasted the appointment as an example of political interference in the Turkish education sector by Erdoğan, who assumed the power to appoint rectors after surviving a failed coup in 2016.

Before July 2016, university rectors were appointed through elections.

Many Turks saw the appointment and government reaction as part of Erdoğan’s wider push into seizing control of different parts of Turks’ daily lives.

The dispute over the rector intensified after protesters hung a poster near his office covered in LGBT imagery.

Officials promptly shut down Boğaziçi’s LGBT club and Erdoğan took aim at the community, unleashing a torrent of attacks on “the LGBT youth.”

The club said in an Instagram post on Thursday it would continue to protest until it was allowed to reopen.

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