Turkish government is increasing pressure on dissident students: report

Turkish authorities have been increasingly pressuring dissident university students, with many suspended or detained during the last month for protesting government policies, the Birgün daily reported.

On May 11 students at Istanbul’s Yıldız Technical University (YTÜ) protested against the rector for purchasing 12 Mercedes Benz cars on the university budget, leaving a cardboard model car in front of the rector’s office. Student Sümeyye Gülsüm Şen, who organized the protest, was subject to a disciplinary investigation and suspended for a month.

Rector Nur Bekiroğlu denied the suspension on Twitter; however, Şen shared the notification she received from the university on June 8 on social media. “I had to share the document after the rector accused me of lying,” she said. “I will miss all my exams and will have to repeat this year.”

Two students at Eskişehir Anadolu University, Egehan K. and Alpay A., were beaten and detained for attempting to unfurl a banner during their graduation ceremony on June 11. The students wanted to commemorate Ali Ismail Korkmaz, a 19-year-old university student who died of his injuries after being battered by police during the Gezi Park protests in July 2013. Korkmaz was a student at the university at the time of his death.

Egehan K. said displaying a banner was not a crime and that their only aim was to commemorate Korkmaz. “We had no warning, they [security officers] just attacked us. They surrounded us so parents and other students couldn’t see what was going on. We were beaten and dragged away from the ceremony area,” he said. “We have hospital reports documenting our injuries, and we will file a complaint against the security officers.”

Alpay A. said they were severely beaten although they did not resist. “We tried to calm the officers and save ourselves. But they just kept on hitting us. I was subjected to violence in front of my young nephews and family. It was a traumatic experience,” he said.

Students protesting high housing prices across the country were detained in September 2021 in another instance of government pressure.

Hundreds were taken into custody during the Boğaziçi University protests, a prolonged series of protests that broke out at the university in early 2021 after Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip  Erdoğan appointed Melih Bulu, a founding member of the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) Sarıyer district branch and former deputy chairman of the AKP’s İstanbul provincial chapter, as rector.

Two students, Berke Gök and Pelit Özen, were arrested in October 2021 and were kept in solitary confinement in İstanbul’s Metris Prison until January 2022 when they were released pending trial.

In May 70 students were briefly detained for attending a Pride March. Moreover, dozens of students have been detained or arrested for links to the Gülen movement.

The Turkish government accuses the faith-based Gülen movement of masterminding a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 and labels it a “terrorist organization,” although the movement strongly denies involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

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