Xenophobic mayor promises ‘astronomical’ bus fares for foreign students

Tanju Özcan, the xenophobic mayor of Bolu province in Turkey’s Marmara region, has promised to increase the prices of bus tickets for foreign students to “astronomical amounts,” in response to the increasing number of international students in the province’s universities.  

Duvar English

Tanju Özcan, mayor of Turkey’s Bolu province, on April 16 said the municipality would increase bus fares for international students to “astronomical amounts.” 

Speaking at a press conference held at the municipality, the mayor from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) targeted the African students at the Abant İzzet Baysal University. He said that the students were “deliberately” brought over, according to reporting by the Demirören News Agency (DHA). 

Özcan rehashed the racist discourse around the bogus Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) epidemic allegations in the neighboring Karabük province. 

“We were disgraced in front of the whole world,” said Özcan. 

“Problems of general morality arose in the university of an Anatolian province such as Karabük,” claimed Özcan, insinuating such “problems” were on the horizon for Bolu. 

The mayor noted that the number of international students in Bolu increased 15-fold in the last three years. 

The municipality has detected students from over 102 countries have come to Bolu for university education. 

He also made a point of mentioning the especially increasing number of African students in the province. 

He continued, “We don’t know if these people are really here for education. We don’t know if they were involved in crime back home.”

According to Özcan, the rector of the İzzet Baysal University was personally responsible for organizing the arrival of international students by working with local agencies in Africa. 

The mayor called upon state organizations to recall the rector from duty. 

The municipality would “workshop ideas” in addition to increased bus fares to impose upon the international student community in the province, ensured Özcan. 

Özcan is infamous for his staunch xenophobic stance as mayor. In the past, he also proposed unfair policies towards the province’s refugee population, such as increasing rates for water use, or not selling grave plots to foreign residents. 

He was reelected from the CHP in the March 31 local election, gaining 52.9 percent of the votes. 

Özcan rejoined CHP in 2023, following a brief probation due to his sexist remark to a municipality council member.