Erdogan Doubles Down on Protests at Turkey’s Top University

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is doubling down on protests against perceived political interference at the country’s top university, issuing a midnight order to open new faculties.

A presidential decree published in the early hours of Saturday announced the establishment of new faculties for law and communication at Bogazici University in Istanbul. Erdogan’s communications director, Fahrettin Altun, said the new faculties were part of the “quality-focused growth, development and internationalization” of Turkish higher education.

The announcement came as protests over loyalist rector Melih Bulu’s appointment enter their second month. Both moves offer the government an opportunity to influence staffing at the formerly American university, which Erdogan’s supporters see as excessively pro-western.

“Your effort to fill our university with your own political militants is an indicator of the political crisis into which you have fallen,” a group of Bogazici students wrote in an open letter to the president. “It’s legal, but it’s not legitimate.”

Opening a faculty via presidential decree is unusual: new faculties are normally opened on the university’s request after consultation with the Council of Higher Education.

Peaceful protests began in January among staff, students and alumni who want the rector to be elected rather than appointed, but Erdogan has accused the demonstrators of terrorism and linked them to broader challenges to his rule including the 2013 Gezi Park protests. Over 150 people have been arrested.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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