Senate of German university urges Turkey to restore academic freedom at Boğaziçi

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The senate of the Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg, with which Boğaziçi University has been linked for years through the ERASMUS student exchange program, has called on the Turkish government to do everything possible to restore and consolidate academic freedom at the prestigious İstanbul school, Deutsche Welle Turkish service reported.

The senate on Wednesday said in a statement released on the university’s website that current events at Boğaziçi, where students and academics have been protesting the appointment of a government loyalist as rector by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan since the beginning of 2021, filled them with dismay and concern.

Referring to attempts at intimidation, unjustified threats of criminal consequences and violent police measures on campus that they said they read and heard about, the senate indicated that academic freedom at Boğaziçi had been seriously jeopardized or invalidated since free expression and critical voices from students and teachers were suppressed in a climate of fear.

According to the senate, the current events represent a new high point in a series of repressive measures that students and lecturers have been exposed to at Turkish universities for years and which have also led to the fact that the exchange of students and teachers via the ERASMUS program between Carl von Ossietzky University and Boğaziçi University has come to a standstill.

Stating that they very much regret this, the senate added that they had called on the state authorities in Turkey to do everything possible to restore and consolidate academic freedom at Boğaziçi University.

Universities are places of free expression, criticism and exchange; this is the only way to make science possible, they concluded.

Erdoğan appointed Melih Bulu, an unsuccessful candidate from his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) for parliament in 2015, as the university rector. The students and academics, who have been protesting for several months, demand Bulu’s resignation and the appointment of a rector from within the university following an election. Bulu’s appointment is feared to end academic freedoms and individual liberties at the university, which has long been seen as a bastion of liberal values.

Since early January, hundreds of protestors have been detained in over 30 provinces across Turkey for participating in the youth-driven demonstrations for Boğaziçi, which have echoes of the 2013 Gezi Park protests that erupted against plans to demolish a park in İstanbul’s Taksim neighborhood before spreading nationally and presenting a direct challenge to Erdoğan’s rule.

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