A group of Boğaziçi University academics staged a peaceful protest on Jan. 5 by standing with their backs to the Rectorial Building during the handover ceremony for Melih Bulu, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's rector appointment to the country's most prestigious institution of higher education.
The appointment of ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) member Melih Bulu as the rector to Turkey's most prestigious higher education institution prompted nationwide outrage since the move was seen as a direct interruption of academic freedom.
The academics chanted "free our students immediately" and protested the appointment by reading the university's code of ethics, where the third item reads "Create and maintain at the University an atmosphere that nurtures free discussion."
"Preserve the freedom of learning and teaching, knowledge acquisition and information dissemination," is listed as the fourth item on the code, which all members of the university are mandated to follow.
Istanbul police detained 17 university students in home raids in the early hours of Jan. 5, less than 24 hours after the students were teargassed by officers in front of Boğaziçi University school for protesting the appointment of a rector via presidential decree.
The prosecutor's office issued detention warrants for 28 people on the grounds of violating the Turkish Meeting and Demonstration Marches Code.
Police were only able to detain 17 people in simultaneous raids to 24 different locations on Jan. 5, the Istanbul Governor's Office said in a press statement, and the remaining 11 were dubbed "fugitives."
Four of the students detained in home raids were also members of the national student organization Öğrenci Kolektifleri, the collective noted in a tweet.
"It's assumed that the police has a long list [of names]," Öğrenci Kolektifleri said.
The university's main campus was the site of violent clashes between officers and demonstrators as police battered and detained students at a Jan. 4 demonstration in front of the school's main gates, where the largest crowd the location has seen in recent years had gathered to call for Bulu's immediate resignation.
Üniversiteye reva görülen bu mudur yani?#BogaziciUniversity gates at this very moment. This is the treatment deemed worthy of universities in #Turkey#KabulEtmiyoruzVazgecmiyoruz #BogaziciDireniyor pic.twitter.com/y1Lyn81fN2— Zeynep Gambetti (@zgambetti) January 5, 2021
Eyewitnesses reported a significantly larger police presence on campus on Jan. 5, with armed officers waiting guard outside the campus gates, and civilian officers roaming the grounds.
Police were sighted across the Hisarüstü district, where Boğaziçi's two most active campuses are located.
A group of students eventually gathered on the university's main campus on Jan. 5 and academic Fikret Adaman held a press statement to protest Bulu's appointment.
"I'm afraid we are in a resistance here that will last a long time," Adaman said.
The students who were detained were from multiple different universities, including Mimar Sinan University and Istanbul University, according to Boğaziçi Solidarity, a student organization from the school.
Bulu's immediate resignation and the organization of rectorial elections are the protesters' primary demand, along with the resignation of all rectors nationwide who were appointed, and not elected.
Marking a horrifying superlative, Bulu became the first rector appointment from outside the university since the military coup of Sep. 12, 1980, one of the bloodiest chapters in Turkish history.