The Arizona-based Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA) has awarded its annual Academic Freedom Award to Boğaziçi University’s resistance movement.
“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,” Committee on Academic Freedom (CAF) Chair Laurie Brand stated on Dec. 1, whilst presenting the award.
The appointment by presidential decree of Melih Bulu as rector of Boğaziçi University on Jan. 1 2021 sparked a wave of protests on campus, led by students as well as the university staff.
After President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called the protestors “terrorists”, “LGBT youth” and accused them of undermining the country’s “national and spiritual values”, the protests spread across Turkey.
Police battered the protestors, severely injuring some, detained more than 560 people – mostly students – and 24 people were placed under house arrest.
On Aug. 20, rector Melih Bulu was replaced through yet another presidential decree by his vice-rector Naci İnci, despite his being hugely unpopular amongst the academic corps. A month earlier, on Jul. 15, Naci İnci had dismissed internationally-renowed academic and filmmaker Can Candan from the faculty.
On Oct. 6, ten students were detained for protesting İnci’s appointment, two of which were arrested by an Istanbul court.