Is Boğaziçi a turning point?

Boğaziçi University students’ resistance against the Erdoğan-appointed rector, just might be a turning point. The students and academicians have managed to keep their demands simple and their efforts sustained. It will be a long road ahead for the students and academicians. Erdoğan will not back down tomorrow. But MHP head Bahçeli’s recent statements indicate that they are making waves.

Boğaziçi University students’ resistance against the Erdoğan-appointed rector Melih Bulu, just might be a turning point. The road to success will be long, but they may win their case.
 
The resistance was at first likened to the Gezi protests which took place back in 2013. At that time, millions took to the streets across Turkey in an act of resistance. Gezi certainly left a lasting impact, but was ultimately ignored by the government.
 
Despite the comparison, the Boğaziçi protests are different. The students and academicians have thus far managed to keep their messaging and demands simple and to the point. There may not be millions of them, but their efforts have been consistent and sustained.
 
The initial reaction from the government towards the protesters was harsh. Police took to the campus in order to detain students. As student tried to take to the streets, the police reaction became harsher. The government aimed to demonize the students and label them as mercenaries to foreign powers and terrorist organizations. This method is often used by the government and has worked up until the Boğaziçi protests. However, the method failed to work efficiently this time.
 
So far, the students have stayed loyal to their initial demand: They want appointed rector gone. They have kept underlining Boğaziçi’s tradition of democratic governance and saying that they have no intention to back down.
 
The students involved makeup a heterogenous group. One of the students who was detained came from a conservative family and her father is a member of the AKP. There were socialists among the students, some women protestors were wearing headscarves, some had LGBTI+ flags. They all came from different backgrounds and were united under the same goal.
 
The students tried to avoid crowded street demonstrations, keeping their protests within the campus. They carry out protests every day. Sometimes they use art, sometimes slogans. Academicians from the university also protest every day, standing in front of the rectorate building, even when it snowed or rained, turning their backs on the rector’s office.
 
The students seem to have won the struggle over the narrative thus far. In his latest parliamentary group meeting, AKP’s ruling coalition partner, the head of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Devlet Bahçeli used totally different wording when referring to the students. Two weeks ago, he called the students snakes whose heads were to be smashed. This time he underlined how precious the students were for Turkey and how keen they are to solve students’ issues. Coming from Bahçeli, this is a huge step back in favor of the Boğaziçi students.
 
Melih Bulu is still sitting in his position of power, however, it is becoming more and more uncomfortable. Neither the students nor the academicians accept him as a legitimate rector. In order to divide the resistance, President Erdoğan has ordered two new faculties to be established at Boğaziçi University with pro-Erdoğan academicians appointed to the faculties. It seems it will take longer than Erdoğan expected to form an Erdoğanist base at Boğaziçi University.
 
It will be a long road for the students and academicians. Erdoğan will not back down tomorrow. But Bahçeli’s statements indicate that they are making waves.