One year later, six charged with 'beating' police during Boğaziçi rector protests

Eight police officers have filed complaints against a group of protestors claiming that they were “beaten” during demonstrations against Boğaziçi University's appointed rector last year in İzmir.

Cihan Başakçıoğlu / DUVAR

Police officers have filed complaints against six protesters who they claimed beat them during protests against Boğaziçi University's appointed rector last year. During the same protest in the Aegean province of İzmir, 51 protesters were violently detained and beaten.

On Jan. 1, 2021, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan appointed Prof. Melih Bulu, an academic from outside the university's academic community, as the rector. Boğaziçi University is considered one of the top universities in Turkey and has long been a bastion for progressive sentiment. 

The appointment sparked widespread protests in Turkey in which hundreds were arrested. Several Boğaziçi students were put on trial for their involvement in the demonstrations, and several more were tried for satellite protests throughout the country. 

At one protest in the Alsancak district of İzmir on Feb. 3, 2021, 51 people were beaten and detained as per a press release written by several human rights organizations. Now, a year after that press release was issued, eight police officers have filed criminal complaints against six people for allegedly abusing them at that same event. 

On Feb. 14, 2022, these officers filed their complaints at the 49th Criminal Court of First Instance, saying they were kicked and pushed by these protesters as they tried to detain them. 

“The arrested persons were resisting us. They started throwing themselves on the ground and kicking us officers with their feet,” the police said in their statements. 

Three of the six people charged, Emine Akbaba, İrem Çelikbaş, and Aytül Uçar, were already charged with “insulting the president.” Lawyer Erdoğan Akdoğdu, who followed detention proceedings that day, is also being charged. Two police officers claim Akdoğdu insulted and elbowed them when they were trying to get him into a police vehicle.

The events of Feb. 3, 2021 in İzmir were widely condemned as excessively violent and an unnecessary use of police force. The İzmir Bar Association and the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) condemned the police’s actions. CHP representatives said even though they were politicians, they were attacked. CHP İzmir Deputy Mahir Polat said he was shot with tear gas to the head. 

No police have been charged in the aftermath of the crackdown on the protest. Police act under the purview of the Interior Ministry, a central government organ.

Those arrested that day say they withstood heavy maltreatment from police. İrem Çelikbaş, one of the defendants in the case, said her hands were handcuffed behind her back and she was beaten in the police van. Another one of the defendants, Emine Akbaba, said she was also illegally handcuffed and heavily teargassed. She added that while in the police headquarters, she was beaten and insulted. The defendants say that it’s clear the police are accusing them of abuse and resisting arrest in order to acquit themselves.

Aytül Uçar, another of the defendants and a human rights lawyer, said that the case is a clear criminalization of the defense of human rights. She herself was there as an observer to ensure the protection of the rights of protestors, which are enshrined in the Turkish Constitution.

“This lawsuit or lawsuits mean that the use of rights is restricted, ignored, and even considered a crime in its simplest form,” she said. “It cannot be a crime to use rights and defend the rights of those who use their rights.”

(English version by Erin O'Brien)