President Erdoğan, notorious for banning every possible street protest, criticizes US crackdown on college protests

Though known for his clampdown on street protests and student movements, Turkish President Erdoğan criticized U.S. authorities for their heavy-handed response to college campus protests against U.S. complicity in Israel's war on Gaza.

Turkish police detain ODTÜ students in a pride march organized at university campus.

Duvar English

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan waded into the debate over U.S. college campus protests on May 2, saying authorities were displaying "cruelty" in clamping down on pro-Palestinian students and academics.

Demonstrations have spread on campuses across the United States over Israel's war in Gaza, prompting police crackdowns and arrests at some venues such as Columbia University in New York.

"Conscientious students and academics including anti-Zionist Jews at some prestigious American universities are protesting the massacre (in Gaza)," Erdoğan told an event in Ankara.

"These people are being subjected to violence, cruelty, suffering, and even torture for saying the massacre has to stop," he said, adding that university staff were being "sacked and lynched" for supporting the Palestinians.

Last week, several Turkish universities also shared a similar message criticizing U.S. academic institutions.

Nonetheless, both Erdoğan and Turkish universities has their own history of suppressing any street protests or student movement that might gain momentum in campuses.

Just one day before Erdoğan's remarks, his administration banned May Day celebrations in Istanbul and the police brutally attacked protestors.

Students in Turkish universities have been subjected to attacks from private campus security officers along with riot police whenever they objected any policy of government or university administrations.

These protests included pro-Palestinian ones organized by the leftist students who were criticizing Turkish government's ongoing ties with Israel despite its harsh rhetoric.

Turkey, a NATO ally of the United States, has sharply criticized Israel's assault on Gaza and what it calls the unconditional support it receives from Western countries.

The U.S. is a top supplier of military aid to Israel and has shielded the country from critical United Nations votes.

"The limits of Western democracy are drawn by Israel's interests," Erdoğan said. "Whatever infringes on Israel's interests is anti-democratic, antisemitic for them."

As of May 2, Israel killed more than 34,596 Palestinian in Gaza during Israel's nearly seven-month military offensive.