Boğaziçi protesters fined over 'social distancing'

İzmir authorities have fined ten students 900 Turkish Liras each over their participation in a January protest in support of Boğaziçi University's resistance against Erdoğan's rector appointment. The fine was issued under the pretense of violation of public health measures on masks and social distancing.

İzmir students hold a banner reading 'You are not a rector and I am not terrorist.'

Cihan Başakçıoğlu / DUVAR

Turkish authorities have fined 10 students in the Aegean province of İzmir for participating in a January protest held in support of Istanbul's Boğaziçi University.

The Bornova district governor's office notified the students that they had “violated” the province's Health Protection Act within the framework of COVID-19 measures.

Students and professors at Boğaziçi University have been since January protesting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's appointment of a party member as a rector to the university.

The protests later spread to all over Turkey, drawing support from other universities.

The mass movement even resulted in the establishment of İzmir University Solidarity platform which aims to activate students and academics against Erdoğan's practice of appointing rectors for violating university autonomy and academic freedom in the country.

On Jan. 11, the platform held its first protest in front of Ege University and issued a press statement. 

A banner reading 'You are not a rector and I am not terrorist” was unfurled at the protest, in a reference to Erdoğan's constant targeting of Boğaziçi students as “terrorists.”

The platform's protest did not at the time face any police intervention, but it later came out to light that the participating students were each imposed a fine of 900 liras under the pretense that they “did not wear masks and violated the social distancing measures.”

“They have been trying to sabotage the protests because we have been paying attention to the mask issue and physical distance since the first day of the Boğaziçi protests. It is the police officers themselves who are violating these measures whey they intervene [in a protest] or carry out a detention,” students told Gazete Duvar.

“We have not heard that groups who poured into the streets with regards to the Palestinian issue were imposed a fine over mask and social distancing rules. They are trying to wear down left and socialist fractions with such things,” they said.