ISTANBUL – Turkish police on Monday clashed with hundreds of students protesting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s appointment of a figure with ties to his ruling party as rector to one of Turkey’s most prestigious universities.
The students marched to Bogazici University’s campus to denounce the appointment of Melih Bulu, a member of the ruling Justice and Development Party who once stood as a candidate in parliamentary elections.
The students regard the appointment as a move by Erdogan to curtail academic freedoms, and are demanding the right for the university to elect its own rector. They chanted: “AKP, take your hands off our university,” in reference to the ruling party. Several academicians joined the protest.
Clashes broke out as some of the students tried to break through a police barricade at the entrance to the campus, Birgun newspaper reported. Police used tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets to break up the protest. Several students were detained.
Ruling party spokesman Omer Celik defended Bulu’s appointment as “legal.”
“It is not a crime for a person to have a political view,” Celik he told reporters following a ruling party meeting that was chaired by Erdogan.
On Sunday, Bulu issued a statement saying he aimed to make Bogazici one of the top universities in the world.