The Resistance Exhibition curated by Boğaziçi University students against the government-appointed trustee rector Melih Bulu has been targeted by islamists on campus as well as pro-government media. Prosecutor’s Office opened investigation against the students for insult to society’s religious sentiments and Minister of Interior insulted the students calling them “perverts” also violating the Article 10 of the Constitution. 

#dokuz8/Gürkan Özturan

Following appointment of a partisan politician as rector bypassing the campus tradition of electing administration at Boğaziçi University, the protests had expanded to initiate an arts exhibition with hundreds of submissions from around the world. There had been an intervention on campus against the students' tents and artwork on January 28 and multiple artworks had been reported stolen.

With the claims of “a picture of islamic holy site Kaaba is displayed on the ground this is an insult to our religious belief” by the Islamic Research Club of the university and pro-government newspapers, followed by the Director of Religious Affairs Dr. Ali Erbaş targeting the students accusing them of “countless assault on islamic values” as he announced that judicial process will be initiated. The official account of the Turkish Religious Affairs Directorate also declared condemnation of the exhibition calling it “unlimited assault on islamic values”. 


The Exhibition Organization Committee member students were targeted as they were leaving the campus and they were forcefully detained. Boğaziçi University Solidarity and club house accounts announced the detentions and shared video footage of forceful detention which targeted the students with the accusation of “openly insulting society’s religious values”.  Minister of Interior Süleyman Soylu announced the detentions on his social media account with the note “4 LGBT perverts who did the disrespect to the Magnificent Kaaba were detained” openly violating  the Article 10 of the Constitution.

ARTICLE 10- Everyone is equal before the law without distinction as to language, race, colour, sex, political opinion, philosophical belief, religion and sect, or any such grounds. (Paragraph added on May 7, 2004; Act No. 5170) Men and women have equal rights. The State has the obligation to ensure that this equality exists in practice. (Sentence added on September 12, 2010; Act No. 5982) Measures taken for this purpose shall not be interpreted as contrary to the principle of equality. (Paragraph added on September 12, 2010; Act No. 5982) Measures to be taken for children, the elderly, disabled people, widows and orphans of martyrs as well as for the invalid and veterans shall not be considered as violation of the principle of equality. No privilege shall be granted to any individual, family, group or class. State organs and administrative authorities are obliged to act in compliance with the principle of equality before the law in all their proceedings.


Government-appointed trustee rector Melih Bulu joined in with pro-government trolls’ homophobic hashtag campaign on social media platform Twitter, publishing a tweet based on false claims “an impertinent group’s assault on the holy beliefs of Islam is unacceptable. This has no place in Boğaziçi [University] values. A comprehensive investigation has been launched against those responsible for this gorked assault” adding the hashtag “disgrace at Boğaziçi” to the tweet at 1 am on January 30.  Following strong reactions for targeting the students of campus with a homophobic hate campaign on social media, government-appointed trustee rector deleted his tweet and republished at 5 am without the hashtag. 


After forceful detention of students at the campus gate, university solidarity platforms started declaring support with the Boğaziçi University on their social media accounts.


The Resistance Exhibition was opened on Boğaziçi University’s South Campus on January 22. On day one, students reported that multiple art works were missing as they filed complaints to the campus guards asking why the art works were not protected against theft. On January 29, as the picture depicting the Kaaba -which is considered a holy site by muslims- in distortion with the picture of basilisk and placement of LGBTI+ flags on the corners of the artwork was put on display with the explanation underneath announcing the significant attributes of the work, the claims of “picture of Kaaba is put on the ground for display” as photos of the art work on the ground started circulating on pro-government media. [caption id="attachment_116827" align="aligncenter" width="747"] "Artwork is missing, security does not know about the matter."[/caption] The students had been taking pictures of the empty display board and asking “who stole the art work that was here” and asking the campus guards if they had seen any suspicious activity around the missing piece. It is yet unknown who stole and took photos of the art work on the ground.


The claims of art work depicting the Kaaba being displayed on the ground do not reflect the reality. The art work was put on display as with many other art works on display-boards on campus, alongside an explanation underneath with the artist’s note.  On the picture, there is a wall-carpet depiction showing an old time carpet picture of the Kaaba that was replaced by the basilisk surrounded by greens, with corners as LGBTI+ flags that look attached clumsily. The explanation regarding basilisk -which has a significant place in the Anatolian and Middle Eastern mythologies- is placed underneath the art work in the artist’s note. 


In the explanation it is stated “the image of basilisk which has been a combination of the ‘serpent’ -a symbol of evil in Anatolian lands through the idea of original sin- and the repressed image of woman, strangely is considered highly in the Anatolia and placed in the honor spot in homes. The fact that an image combining serpent and woman -both considered as competitor by men-  being placed in the honor spot, is thought to be a subtle satire against men’s patriarchal authority.”


The artist explains their intention as “my goal was to give an encouraging boost to the Anatolian women’s deep and secret struggle on this path with my work.” Regarding the green leaves surrounding the basilisk image the artist writes, “if the women and animal liberty become a focal point the world itself is going to turn into the heaven. As you can see on the four corners of the work there are LGBTI+ flags attached deliberately clumsily, in contradiction with the general aesthetics of the work; they look distant and artificial. Here I wanted to draw attention to social gender norms pressuring our self gender identities and alienating our self to introduce with the alienated & distorted imagery.”