More than 3,000 students were subjected to human rights violations in Turkey between 2015 and 2019, according to a report recently published by the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (THİV).
The report said students had suffered from rights violations during protests and demonstrations. Although the right to peacefully protest is secured by the constitution, 2,077 students were detained for participating in demonstrations and 203 were arrested.
Some 150 students were handed a total of 506 years in prison and, alarmingly, most of the students were charged with membership in illegal organizations or dissemination of terrorist propaganda.
According to the report numerous students were also charged with insulting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Since Erdoğan assumed the presidential office in 2014, a total of 128,872 people have been investigated for insulting him.
Article 299 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) states that any person who insults the president of the republic faces a prison term of up to four years. This sentence can be increased by a sixth if it has national exposure, and by a third if committed by the press or media. In total 9,554 people have been handed down sentences for insulting the president since 2014.
The report added that a total of 23 students had died during protests in these four years and that 720 were injured, mostly during police interventions. Nearly a third of these incidents took place on university campuses.
Ankara and Istanbul were the cities where students faced the most rights violations, according to the report.
Rights violations of protesting students have continued since 2020. The first quarter of this year witnessed a wave of protests among university students, which started among Boğaziçi University students who were protesting the appointment of Melih Bulu, a long-time member of President Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), as rector of the university, arguing that it undercut academic freedoms and democracy.
The protests spread to other cities such as Ankara and Izmir, and hundreds of protestors were detained. According to another report prepared by THİV and published in February, more than 800 students were subjected to ill treatment by the police.
The rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly were violated, the foundation said, and urged the AKP government to stop using rhetoric that incites or justifies violence against peaceful protestors and eliminate the impunity that protects public officials who engage in violence.