When Melih Bulu was appointed as the rector by a presidential decree on January 2, 2021, the Boğaziçi University protests started and turned into a public objection. The academics have been keeping a watch for 205 days as of November 5, 2021 and a stand-in with their backs turned to the rectorate building. Student protests spread to different universities in Turkey and even abroad in a short time, and hundreds of people were detained. Some were released on condition of judicial control, while others were given house arrest. Seven students are on trial, charged with "openly inciting the public to hatred and enmity", and are facing up to three years in prison. About 14 students, two of whom are imprisoned; Sentences of imprisonment are demanded for the crimes of 'participating in unarmed meetings and marches against the law and not dispersing spontaneously despite a warning', 'Deprivation of liberty by more than one person due to his public duty', 'Resisting not to do his duty' and 'Hijacking or retaining land transportation vehicles'.
The Boğaziçi protests started when President Erdogan appointed rectors to five universities, including Boğaziçi University, on January 2, 2021, with the decree published in the Official Gazette numbered 31352. Melih Bulu, who was appointed as the rector of Boğaziçi University, is not known to Boğaziçi community, and was a former The Justice and Development Party (AKP) parliamentary candidate.
The very same day, it was revealed that Bulu had plagiarized his doctoral thesis. Boğaziçi University academics, students and graduates reacted to the appointment. Students announced their opposition on social media and invited everyone to the South Campus gate of the university on Monday, January 4 to show their solidarity. On the other hand, faculty members issued a joint statement against the appointed rector on January 3. The statement underlined that it was the first time someone from outside the institution was appointed as a rector to Boğaziçi University since the 1980 military coup, and that principles upon which the university is founded are indispensable.
On January 4, there were hundreds of people outside the South Campus gate, chanting "No to the appointed rector", "Melih Bulu is not our rector", "We do not want a plagiarist rector". The Special Security Unit (ÖGB) and the police put handcuffs on the South Campus door to lock it ad prevent protesters from entering the campus. Police responded with tear gas to the demonstrators trying to cross the barricade at the entrance, and two students were detained. 17 people who participated in the protest were detained during house raids the following morning on charges of "violating the Law No. 2911" and "resisting the officer in charge".
Two days later, the number of protesters in custody reached 36. On January 5, Boğaziçi academics also took action. They attended the handover ceremony held on the university campus at 12:00 in their robes and held a stand-in with backs turned to the rectorate building. They called for the immediate release of the detained students. Now, this action has become part of their daily routine.
The next day, the Governorship of Istanbul banned meetings, demonstrations, and marches in the districts where Boğaziçi University is located until February 5. Boğaziçi Solidarity then invited everyone who wanted to support the resistance to Kadıköy. Demonstrations in solidarity with the Boğaziçi Resistance took place simultaneously in Ankara, Antalya, İzmir and Denizli. Four students were detained in Ankara to be released in the evening. Boğaziçi University graduates launched a petition called “We don't accept, either!”, and thousands of people signed the petition.
12 professional groups such as the Academic Solidarity Network and Academics for Peace announced that they stand in international solidarity with the Boğaziçi University students and faculty members. Then, Yale, Harvard, Sorbonne, Humboldt, Oxford and Columbia universities released statements of solidarity. Solidarity actions continued at universities all over Turkey. 21 of 45 students who were detained during house raids on January 5, were referred to the courthouse to give their statements and were released on condition of judicial control.
After the open call of the Bounsergi [acronym for Boğaziçi University Exhibition] launched on January 10, approximately 400 works sent from Turkey and around the world began to be exhibited on South Campus. One of these works showed the Kaaba with the LGBTI+ flag and a Shahmaran figure. The exhibition and students were targeted by the President of Religious Affairs, the Minister of Interior, and the media because of the aforementioned work. The Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office launched an investigation on the grounds of "openly insulting the religious values adopted by a section of the public" regarding this work being exhibited, and four students among the exhibition team were detained.
When Süleyman Soylu, the Ministry of Interior, said "four LGBT perverts'' on Twitter for detained students, the tweet in question was restricted by the social media company on the grounds that it contained hate speech. After the exhibition, Melih Bulu instructed that the Boğaziçi University LGBTI+ Studies Club was shut down. The arrest of Selahattin Can Uğuzeş and Doğu Demirtaş, who participated in the protests after the exhibition, marked one of the most important days of the resistance.
On the night of February 1, the police raided the campus and detained 159 students. The next day, the academics walked to the rectorate building after their stand-in and called for Melih Bulu’s resignation. Students who wanted to go to the action in Kadıköy in the evening were disembarked from the buses, their IDs were checked, and they were not allowed to take the ferries. At the protest in Kadıköy, 228 people were detained. 135 were detained during the solidarity actions in Ankara and Izmir. There were students whose teeth and fingers were broken by the police. People in different districts of Istanbul started to protest the events by banging on pots and pans from their house windows. House arrest warrant was issued for 12 students who participated in the demonstration on February 1, and judicial control decisions were issued for nine of them. 30 students were referred to the Judge's Office with a demand for their arrest. All the detained students were released on February 4.
In the indictment prepared later by the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office, a lawsuit was filed against 97 people who were detained on February 1, on the grounds of "violating the law on meetings and demonstration marches” and requested each to be imprisoned up to 3 years. The third hearing of the case will be held on January 10, 2022.
Actions in solidarity with the Boğaziçi resistance spread to universities, and students in Samsun, Çanakkale, Izmir, Bursa and Edirne demonstrated their objection to the appointed rectors. Among the supporters were high school students from Istanbul, too. Anıl Akyüz and Şilan Delipalta, who were detained during the demonstration in Kadıköy, were arrested on 5 February.
On the same day, Middle East Technical University academics held a demonstration in solidarity with their counterparts at Boğaziçi and made a statement against detentions and arrests. Almost every day, students were in action in a different city of the country. The number of detentions and house arrests increased with the protests, and new bans on demonstrations were announced. Four more people were arrested in Istanbul on February 6 and two others on February 7. Thus, the number of detained students increased to 11.
On February 20, the Magna Charta academic freedom and autonomy agreement observatory sent a communiqué, to the Council of Higher Education (YÖK) about what’s happening at Boğaziçi University, siged by 900 universities from Turkey and around the world. On the same day, Boğaziçi University graduates protested in front of the United Nations building in Switzerland.
By February 22, the number of those sentenced to house arrest had reached 27. Following the call to join the protest in Kadıköy by Boğaziçi Solidarity, the Istanbul Governor's Office announced meetings and demonstration marches were banned in Kadıköy on April 1. The police intervention was very strong against those who gathered in Kadıköy, and nearly 40 people were detained.
Police intervention took place in the press release organized by the Labor and Democracy Forces in İzmir, 51 people were battered and detained. A lawsuit was filed at the 41st Criminal Court of First Instance of Izmir on charges of “insulting the president” against Aytül Uçar, employee of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey, and Emine Akbaba and İrem Çelikbaş, among those detained.
The first hearing of the Boğaziçi Exhibition Case, consisting of seven students, two of whom were arrested, who were charged with "openly inciting the public to hatred and enmity" and facing up to three years in prison, was held at the Istanbul 21st Criminal Court of First Instance on March 17, 2021. The detained students were released.
On the 122nd day of the resistance, academics shared the violations experienced at the university, following the appointment of Melih Bulu as the rector by a presidential decree, under Boğaziçi Hasar Raporu (Boğaziçi Damage Report). Feyzi Erçin, an attorney at law who has been teaching part-time at the university for the past eight years and stood by his students throughout the judicial processes, was not approved by the vice-rector Naci İnci to teach classes during the summer semester. After Erçin, Ecmal Ayral was also prohibited from giving lectures by the rectorate.
In June, it turned out that KYK (Higher education student loans and dormitories institution) scholarships and loans of students, who participated and supported the resistance, were cut off. On July 5, 2021, the 2nd hearing of the exhibition case took place. Lawyers requested recusation. The next hearing will be held on November 17, 2021.
The Turkish Journalists' Association awarded the 2021 Press Freedom Award to the constituents of the Boğaziçi Democratic Resistance and the Turkish Medical Association (TTB) on July 7.
On July 15, 2021, Melih Bulu was dismissed from his position as rector and Naci İnci was appointed as the deputy by the Council of Higher Education (YÖK). Upon this development, Boğaziçi Constituents declared that they would not accept the appointment of a new trustee-rector and that they would continue their resistance until their demands were accepted. An online pre-election was held and the first candidates for the position of rector were announced as Mine Eder, Ünal Zenginobuz, Cem Say and Ali Tekcan.
The first act of appointed rector by proxy Naci İnci was to terminate the contract of academic and documentary filmmaker Can Candan -who documented the resistance day in day out- without seeking the opinion of the department and faculty.
On August 20, 2021, Naci İnci was appointed as the Boğaziçi University Rector with another Presidential Decree. The tent set up in the South Campus was removed by the Private Security Unit (ÖGB) after nine months. Riot police re-entered the campus when a clash broke out between the security officers and students/academics who wanted to set up tents again, and 45 students were detained. While 42 of the students were released on the same day, three students who were referred to the court were released on the condition of judicial control. Students Enis Berke Gök and Caner Perit Özen, who were detained during the protest on 4 October 2021, were arrested on 6 October and put in Metris Prison. The indictment against 14 students was announced on 10 December 2021. Students will be tried for the crimes of 'participating in illegal meetings and marches unarmed, not dispersing spontaneously despite a warning', 'depriving a person of his liberty with more than one person due to his public duty', 'resisting not to do his duty' and 'abducting or retaining land transportation vehicles'.
The second hearing of the case, in which 52 students were tried on charges of "opposing the Law on Meetings and Demonstrations No. 2911" and "deprivation of liberty", was held on 29 November 2021 at the Istanbul 49th Criminal Court of First Instance. The court adjourned the case to 21 February 2022, deciding to lift the judicial control measures against the defendants, to accept the requests for custody, to write a letter of rogatory for the defense of the defendants abroad, and to issue an arrest warrant for the defendants who did not attend the hearing without an excuse.
Protesting the appointed rectors since January 2021, the faculty, students and alumni of Boğaziçi University have been granted the Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA) 2021 Academic Freedom Award.
In the fourth hearing of the exhibition trial in which seven Boğaziçi University students were tried on charges of "provoking the public to hatred and enmity", the court adjourned the case in order to conduct an open source research on the hanging of the Kaaba painting and to prepare a report containing the positive and negative reactions to it.
On March 1, 2022, 8 students were put on trial with a prison sentence varying between six months and seven years for allegedly throwing paint in a plastic bottle on the rectorate building during the protests. Istanbul 60th Criminal Court of First Instance decided to abolish the judicial control measures of all defendants and adjourned the hearing to 25 May 2022.
The sixth hearing of the case, in which 52 students were tried on charges of "opposing the Law on Meetings and Demonstrations No. 2911" and "deprivation of liberty", was held on July 4, 2022. A. A., who said that he worked as a private clerk at Boğaziçi University for a long time and took place as a victim in the file, said, “I have not been a complainant, but my name has been written. Our job depends on the rector's departure time. Since the rector was at his office on the day of the incident, we were at work too. There was no obstacle, no one deprived us of our freedom. The rector was working inside, we left after he told us to do so. I don't want to participate in the case," he said. The court, postponed the case to 12 December 2022, giving time for the witnesses to be present.
The fourth hearing of the three people who were taken into custody after the press statement in İzmir and against whom a lawsuit was filed with the allegation of "insulting the President" was held on September 2, 2022. It was noteworthy that the police affiliated to the İzmir Police Department Security Branch also watched the hearing at the İzmir 41st Criminal Court of First Instance. The court board demanded that a warrant be written to the Izmir Police Department so that one of the witness policemen would be present at the next hearing, and that it should be asked whether there was a camera recording of the day of the incident.
At the hearing on December 9, the prosecutor read his opinion. He demanded that Aytül Uçar be punished separately in accordance with Articles 299/1-2 (insulting the President), 53 and 58 of the Turkish Penal Code. Accepting the request for additional time against the opinion, the court adjourned the next hearing to 30 December 2022. While the court acquitted Aytül Uçar on 30 December, the court sentenced Emine Akbaba and İrem Çelikbaş to 1 year and 2 months in prison for "insulting the president" and postponed the sentence to 11 months and 20 days.
Boğaziçi University Rectorate announced on January 7, 2023 that the alumni association BUMED has been removed from the school. The graduates protested this situation and applied for a stay of execution to have the decision stopped. However, on 27 January 2023, the District Governorship officially notified BUMED that the facilities should be evacuated. On the morning of January 30, the association was hastily evicted without waiting for the court result. On the same day, the 9th Administrative Court of Istanbul decided to stop the execution of the transaction subject to the lawsuit without seeking a guarantee.
On January 30, 2023, the prosecutor gave his opinion in the case where 14 defendants were tried at the Istanbul 22nd Criminal Court of First Instance regarding the obstruction of the exit of Rector Naci İnci's official car. The defendant E.B.G. for 25 years, E.K. while a prison sentence of 23 years and 4 months is requested; Up to 21 years in prison were demanded for 12 defendants.
The final hearing of the trial of 14 Boğaziçi University students, known as the "Car case" by the public, was held on February 3, 2023, at the Istanbul 22nd Criminal Court of First Instance. The previous hearing of the case was held on January 30, 2023, and a sentence of 5 years, 3 months to 23 years, up to a total of 336 years, was requested for 14 students. At the hearing, when the audience was removed from the hall, riot police entered. Upon the objection of the lawyers, the police were removed from the hall. The court board sentenced Berke Gök to 1 year and 6 months for damaging public property, and Eftelya Koyuncu to 1 year and 2 months for insulting a public official. All students were acquitted of the crime of "deprivation of liberty" on the grounds that the legal elements of the crime were not formed, while 14 students were sentenced to 6 months in prison separately for the crime of "violating the Law on Meetings and Demonstrations".
- Click here for the Preliminary Evaluation Report of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV) Regarding the Violations of Rights During the Objection Process to the Appointment of the Rector by the President of Boğaziçi University.
- Click here for the research titled Society's Perspective on Boğaziçi University Events prepared by KONDA.