Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has branded Boğaziçi University students protesting a government-appointed rector and Canan Kaftancıoğlu, head of the İstanbul branch of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), as terrorists, Turkish media reported.
Answering reporters who asked if he would speak with the students and listen to their demands, Erdoğan claimed the protestors were not students but actually terrorists, and that he would not meet with them to hear their demands.
Although Erdogan said there were no students among the protestors, more than 20 students have been detained since the protests began in the first week of January.
The students’ lawyer, Ezgi Önalan, said in a video posted on Twitter that the students were subjected to unlawful strip-search and were beaten in the detention center. She said the students had medical reports that confirmed the beatings. Önalan added that the police had forcefully entered the students’ homes, and images of broken doors and damaged property were shared on Twitter.
Erdoğan also accused Kaftancıoğlu, who supported the protests, of being a militant from the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP-C), a militant Marxist group considered a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.
Kaftancıoğlu said on Twitter that Erdoğan was obliged to prove his accusations. “Throughout my life as a doctor, a woman and a human rights activist, I have supported the rule of law,” she said. “I have never had any connection to terrorism or terrorist organizations, and the accusations are completely political. I will continue my fight for democracy and a better Turkey.”
Kaftancıoğlu also said she would file a complaint against Erdoğan for insult and would sue him for damages.
In the wake of Erdoğan’s statement, John Lubbock, a columnist for the Ahval news website, said being a terrorist in Erdoğan’s Turkey had become very common and that signing petitions, protesting and being a journalist or a Kurd could easily be a reason for a person to be called a terrorist.
He said that up until this day, Gezi Park protestors, the Kurdish YPG militia fighting against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), journalists critical of the government, the Academics for Peace, who signed a petition condemning state violence against Kurds, the Turkish Medical Association and opposition parties had all been declared terrorists by the government at some point.
Lubbock added that Erdoğan had even said that the deteriorating Turkish economy was due to “economic terrorists.”
Lubbock did not include the Gülen movement, which has become the most targeted members of society, in his list.
President Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, a faith-based group inspired by Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, since the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013, which implicated then-Prime Minister Erdoğan, his family members and his inner circle.
Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy against his government, Erdoğan designated the movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. Erdoğan intensified the crackdown on the movement following a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Fethullah Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity.