The protests that have begun with the appointment of a trustee rector by AKP chair & President Erdoğan to Boğaziçi University disregarding the campus tradition of electing its rectors have continued on day 28. During the protests the students have initiated a Campus Resistance with participation of academics, declared Solidarity Principles which influenced other universities and curated an art exhibition which received submissions from around the world. 

#dokuz8/Gürkan Özturan

Boğaziçi University students, academics and alumni have been protesting on a fourth week since Melih Bulu has been appointed as trustee rector by AKP chair & President Erdoğan. Since day one, the students, academics and alumni have been naming their demands for democratic elections to take place on all campuses across Turkey, and to end the State of Emergency Rule decree that ended rector elections. To this aim, students organize creative protest methods, academics gather on campus on a daily basis to protest and alumni organizations from around the world are holding solidarity rallies.


As the president claimed that the students’ protest methods were uncreative and far from being impressive, Boğaziçi University students made a call for submissions on January 11 for a Resistance Exhibition depicting the government-appointed trustee rector. The art exhibition has been opened on January 23 and has been expanding ever since from its original 500+ submissions from 150 artists around the world. The art works that have been submitted, were classified by the students’ exhibition committee and are currently on display across South Campus. As only the students are allowed to enter the campuses due to Covid-19 restrictions, the alumni and non-Boğaziçi people are able to visit the exhibition only through live-broadcasts and photos on social media platforms. 


In the first days of his appointment, trustee rector Melih Bulu had waved at the students from the window during live-interviews with journalists as the students booed him on screen. On January 6, as Bulu gave an interview to journalist Cüneyt Özdemir he had said “protest is a Boğaziçi tradition and there will be no intervention, they can protest freely. You can hear them outside.” However on January 28, a day after the students’ slogans were heard again on air, the campus guards set up security cordon around the Rectorate Hall. Students attempted to set up the resistance tent, as has been the case for weeks, in front of the Rectorate Hall going over the security cordon. Campus Guards told students “we were told that this tent will not be set up here; you have to keep the path clear so that cars can pass and you can set up your tent over there” pointing a more distant part of the yard. When the tent was set up, more than a dozen security guards raided the tent and demolished it. Students argued with the guards reminding them that their primary duty is to secure the students’ safety and guard the campus from outside intervention “such as government appointing a trustee as rector”. After several minutes of escalation, a long term campus guard has reached an agreement between the guards and students announcing “there will be no intervention by the guards as long as students do not interfere with the rectorate hall.” The demolished resistance tent was marked by the students and registered in the inventory of Resistance Exhibition and placed in front of the Rectorate Hall as an art work made by the private security guards. 


Since the start of the protests, all constituents of Boğaziçi University have been an active part of the protests. However LGBTI+phobic comments have targeted the ongoing protests as rainbow flags have been present in all scenes. Some social media comments stated “what is ‘that’ flag doing with students” implying non-approval of the presence of LGBTI+ groups among protesting students.  On the morning of January 26, the LGBTI+ Club of the university was subjected to a phobic attack; later in the day announcing that the club house door was scraped off of the long term standing stickers of rainbow flags, trans-friendly statements. The students speculated that the club house might have been targeted directly by the government-appointed trustee rector or the undercover police deployed to the campus; still demanding the authorities to guarantee safety and security of all students on campus, including the LGBTI+ club house.


The academics at Boğaziçi University have been also protesting actively against the government-appointed trustee rector Melih Bulu, and over the 28 days there has been no candidates who applied to become deputy rector. The academics have been gathering on South Campus midday everyday turning their backs on the Rectorate Hall and showing their reactions to dismissal of democratic elections on campus. Under snow or rain, the academics have gathered on campus on middays, inspiring other campuses as well.  The petition started in support of academic freedom for Boğaziçi University on January 8, reached 2501 as of January 28, signed by distinguished professors from around the world. 


The open lectures that had initially been started for the dismissed peace-signatory historian of Boğaziçi University Prof. Dr. Noemi Levy-Aksu by her students, inspired the ongoing campus resistance movement and open lectures were initiated by Western Languages & Literatures Department, starting with a seminar on Ursula K. Le Guin’s ‘The Ones who Walk Away from Omelas’. On January 26, the Uncuffed Academy was initiated and Dr. Zeynep Kadirbeyoğlu gave the first lecture to Boğaziçi University students on ‘Ecological Crisis and Struggles’. On January 27, another open lecture was held by Dr. Mert Arslanalp on ‘Mobile State of Emergency Management and Right to Protest’.


As academics from around the world declare support for Boğaziçi University Resistance, the global alumni organizations also hold weekly rallies in support of their home-campus. Alumni organizations in many countries around the world including Australia, France, Germany, United States, Romania, Sweden have been holding protests since the first weekend of the protests, as there is silence on Boğaziçi University campus due to weekend curfews as a result of coronavirus lockdown measures.


The protests that began for Boğaziçi University inspired dozens of universities across Turkey and other campus solidarity networks also made declarations of their solidarity principles. Furthermore, since the protest held in the Greek capital Athens, students in Turkey also held solidarity protests against deployment of police forces on the campuses of Greek universities as the Greek government prepares to station police forces on campuses. Furthermore, the Constituents Council was founded at Boğaziçi University to discuss further steps in the resistance and the process. So far the active groups have gathered at the university’s Aptullah Kuran Library holding forum discussions to evaluate the ongoing processes. The declaration of the council notes that their activities will continue until democratic elections are declared as the method for appointing rectors as they made a call to all universities to initiate Constituents’ Councils on their campuses.