| A supporter of Bogazici University students talks to police officers outside a courthouse in Istanbul Thursday Feb 11 2021 | MR Online A supporter of Bogazici University students talks to police officers outside a courthouse in Istanbul, Thursday, Feb. 11 2021

Bogazici resistance is about more than liberal notions of academic freedom, it is a fight against the whole system of oppression

Originally published: Morning Star (February 17, 2021 )  |

TURKEY’S revolutionary forces said today that protests centered on Bogazici University must remain a fight against fascism and oppression—not for “liberal ideas of academic freedom.”

An editorial in the Ozgur Gelecek newspaper said that elements such as the Kemalist Republican People’s Party (CHP) wanted “to keep the resistance within ‘acceptable’ limits” amid fears of a new Gezi, the 2013 protests that nearly brought down the government.

Turkey’s second-largest political party wants the protests at the prestigious university in Istanbul to remain within the boundaries of campus politics, the newspaper said.

But the resistance that began over the imposition of pro-government rector Melih Bulu has broadened out to all layers of society, uniting students, trade union members and others in struggle against Turkey’s authoritarian ruling coalition.

More than 500 people—mainly students—have been arrested since the protests began at the start of the year.

Many detained say they have been tortured, strip-searched and sexually assaulted, while snipers have targeted their sights on peaceful protesters in an attempt to deter resistance.

Mr Bulu, the first rector chosen from outside the university since the 1980 military coup, has faced calls from students and academics to resign.

Students refused to attend a meeting at the university today, saying they would not legitimise the position of the former candidate for the ruling Justice & Development Party (AKP), and asked others to join their boycott.

Academics turned their back on Mr Bulu for the 45th day in a row as he arrived on campus.

“We derive our legitimacy from our rightful and honourable resistance, not from the two lips of the powerful,” a statement from the students said.

They demanded the release of all those still being held by the security services.

The Bogazici resistance has coincided with an intensification of the class struggle in Turkey, with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan facing a deepening political and economic crisis.

Thousands of municipal workers are on strike over pay cuts and job losses, which have disproportionately affected younger people.

The Youth Unemployment Platform says that about 40 per cent of the country’s 24 million young people are unemployed, not including students.

Kurdish journalist Seda Taskin recently highlighted the impact of deepening poverty in Turkey, reporting that wages have been lowered to the point where children are forced to eat bread from bins.

Mr Erdogan has responded to the crisis by increasing the oppression of organized opposition, with some 718 people—including prominent members of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP)—detained in operations in 40 provinces earlier this week.

But resistance is coalescing around the United Fighting Forces, a new coalition that unites revolutionary groups including communist organisation Partizan and the Socialist Party of the Oppressed with the largely Kurdish Democratic Regions Party.

Student Ali Katan told the Morning Star that the Bogazici resistance “cannot be separated from the disappearances and jailing of HDP activists and MPs.”

“It cannot be separated from poverty, or the femicide and anti-woman policies of the fascist AKP-MHP [Nationalist Movement Party] alliance,” he said.

“It cannot be separated from the pressures on revolutionary forces and it cannot be separated from the genocide of Kurds and the bombings of Gare and Rojava.

If you remain silent about these things then you are complicit in the oppression. We are not fighting for liberal ideas of academic freedom. This is a fight against fascism and the system of oppression.

Peace in Kurdistan (PIK) is gathering messages of solidarity and called for signatories to a statement issued last month.

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