On January 4, 2021, police reportedly attacked students during a protest at the Boğaziçi University (BU) over the appointment of a new rector.
On January 1, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan appointed new rectors to five universities. These include appointing Melih Bulu, a member of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), as the new rector of BU. BU faculty condemned the appointment, stating that it violated BU’s autonomy, academic freedom, and democratic values.
On January 4, hundreds of BU students and faculty boycotted online classes and held a protest against the appointment in front of the South Campus of BU. Students from Middle East Technical University and İstanbul Technical University also participated. Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at the students and clashed with them.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about police use of force in response to the nonviolent exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and assembly — conduct that is expressly protected by international human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Turkey is a party. While state authorities have a responsibility to maintain security and order, they also have an obligation to ensure that their actions are proportionate, do not harm members of the higher education community, and are not undertaken to restrict or retaliate against peaceful expressive activity. Such incidents undermine academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.