ISTANBUL (TURKEY) – Turkish police continued to crackdown on the protesters at a top university despite growing international criticism. Lat on Thursday 65 people were detained.
Students and teachers at Istanbul’s Bogazici University have been protesting for over a month against President Tayyip Erdogan’s choice of university rector. Protestors call the appointment undemocratic.
Government response to the protests and condemnation of an art display including a picture blending Islamic and LGBT images has alarmed the United States and United Nations, both of which have criticised what they called homophobic rhetoric. Ankara dismissed the criticism as interference in its domestic affairs.
The Istanbul governor’s office said the protesters had violated a ban on public demonstrations, gatherings and marches imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It said that the people detained on Thursday in Istanbul’s Kadikoy district were carrying out illegal acts.
After protests spread in Istanbul and Ankara, authorities detained around 600 people since January 4. Most have been released, despite repeated statements from officials that the protesters are terrorists.
The EU Commission said the detention of students “exercising their legitimate right to freedom of assembly” was deeply worrying, and the COVID pandemic should not be used as a reason to silence critical voices.
“Hate speech displayed by high-level officials against LGBTI students during these events and the closing of a LGBTI association is unacceptable,” the commission said.
Erdogan said on Wednesday his government would not allow the protests to swell into a repeat of widespread demonstrations in 2013, calling protesters terrorists. His interior minister described them as “LGBT deviants”.