What has been happening at Boğaziçi University since early 2021 perfectly epitomizes the Erdogan government’s systematic attacks on Turkey’s higher education system and academic freedom in the past decade.
Photo credit: Bianet
As the government attacks continued to exacerbate at the beginning of the 2021-22 academic year, the Boğaziçi faculty penned a letter calling for international action (1). The letter stated that their struggle is to reinstate university autonomy and democracy not only for Boğaziçi but for all public universities in Turkey and abroad, which face similar anti-democratic attacks launched by anti-democratic governments.
On December 1, 2021, The Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA) granted its Academic Freedom Award to Boğaziçi University’s resistance movement (2). Committee on Academic Freedom (CAF) Chair Laurie Brand stated:
“In highlighting the courageous resistance of the students and faculty at Boğaziçi, it is our intent that this award sends a strong message of solidarity and of support to them as they peacefully protest against the violations of academic norms and academic freedom. Boğaziçi is a privileged institution; its resistance has also been singular in Turkey's academic and political landscape.”
“... this award is also intended to serve as a statement of broader support and solidarity to all those in the educational sector across Turkey who have been targeted by the authoritarian policies of Erdogan and his government.”
On January 1, 2022, as the Boğaziçi University protests marked one year, Boğaziçi academics held a protest by turning their backs to the rector’s office for the 246th time. They released a statement saying it’s been 130 days since Prof. Naci Inci was appointed rector in an untransparent way by disregarding the university's will (3). People also posted on Twitter under the “Boğaziçi has been resisting for one year” hashtag (#Boğazici1YıldırDireniyor).
Boğaziçi Academics carried photos of Can Candan (# We don't accept, we don't give up). Photo credit: Nazim Capkin
As of April 20, 2022, Boğaziçi Academics are on their 472nd day/68th-week of resistance and still turn their backs on the rectorate building every day at 12.15 pm, according to the Education and Science Workers' Union in Turkey (Egitim-Sen) Twitter account. (4).
Endangered Scholars Worldwide (ESW) condemns the government’s recurring attacks on Boğaziçi University and its community, and urges the Turkish authorities to respect and guarantee the autonomy of higher education in Turkey by taking necessary actions to reinstate unlawfully dismissed academics and drop any charges against the accused arising from their nonviolent exercise of expression, association, and assembly rights.