5 February 2021   Leave a comment

Boğaziçi University is one of the top universities in the world and is the premiere university in Turkey. It is also the site of continuing protests as students and faculty are trying to resist an attempt by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to exert political control through the appointment of Melih Bulu as Rector. The International Consortium of Critical Theory Programs identifies the issues at stake:

“Boğaziçi is a world-renowned university with a long history of autonomy. It was the first institution to improvise elections as the only legitimate means to choose the rector in 1992 and set the example for other universities in the country. Although dependent on public funds as a public university, it maintained a pluralistic culture, open to encounters of diverse ideologies, ethnicities and sexual orientations among students and professors. This commitment to democratic values was upheld despite the wrath of nationalists, conservatives and even republicans, who often accused the university of “treachery” for allowing for debate on politically taboo issues.

“Boğaziçi was one of the last universities to remain relatively untouched by a wave of oppressive interventions into higher education in Turkey since 2016. Since the failed coup of July 2016, the AKP government banished elections in universities all over Turkey and re-introduced the top-down method of nominating rectors. The pretext provided by the coup also allowed the government to devastate higher education by mass evacuations, administrative or judiciary action against professors voicing critical views, and the incarceration of academics, students and intellectuals.

President Erdogan has deepened the crisis by attacking the LGBT community. The tactic of smearing the protests by linking them to issues of sexual orientation is a familiar one. The Voice of America reports:

“Some analysts believe Bogazici University’s LGBT community became the latest target of the government’s broad brush to label dissidents as terrorists.

“’What is most striking in the Bogazici case is that LGBTI individuals are now demonized as criminals and terrorists simply because of their sexual orientation, reflecting how far Turkey has drifted away from fundamental rights and freedoms and the rule of law and due process,’ Aykan Erdemir, director of the Turkey program at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) and a former Turkish Parliament member, told VOA.

“Erdogan praised his party’s youth Monday in a video conference, saying, ‘You are not the LGBT youth, not the youth who commit acts of vandalism. On the contrary, you are the ones who repair broken hearts.’

“Two days later, he said, ‘there is no such thing’ as LGBT, adding that ‘this country is national and spiritual, and will continue to walk into the future as such.’

“Yuksel of Amnesty International said the Turkish authorities’ recent anti-LGBT statements were ‘not only a reflection of the government’s homophobia but also a calculated political strategy.’

“’The authorities’ attacks on LGBT (individuals) are the latest frontier in a culture war launched by President Erdogan in an effort to rally his conservative base ahead of elections scheduled for 2023, though rumors suggest they may be held earlier,’ she said.”

One cannot overestimate the dangers of protesting against a regime as ruthless as Erdogan’s. But we also now have strong protests in Russia in support of Alexei Navalny. We should be grateful for the courage of those who defend the right to criticize authoritarian governments.

Posted February 5, 2021 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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