Leading Istanbul university shaken by police crackdown

Leading Istanbul university shaken by police crackdown
Turkish Police detain activists supporting Bogazici University students protesting against the appointment by the Turkish government of a new rector in Ankara on February 2, 2021. (AFP)
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Updated 02 February 2021

Leading Istanbul university shaken by police crackdown

Leading Istanbul university shaken by police crackdown
  • Critics claim that Melih Bulu — appointed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Jan. 1 — is a “political figure”
  • Bulu’s appointment sparked anger at the university, which traditionally has elected the rector from its own ranks

ISTANBUL: Turkey’s Bogazici University, which has survived two world wars and several coups in the 157 years since its founding, witnessed an unprecedented police crackdown on Monday when more than 160 people were arrested during protests over the appointment of a new rector.

Students and faculty members at the country’s most prestigious and Western-oriented university have been speaking out for weeks on the campus overlooking the Bosphorus, urging the newly appointed rector to resign.

Critics claim that Melih Bulu — appointed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Jan. 1 as a “New Year surprise” — is a “political figure.”

Bulu’s appointment sparked anger at the university, which traditionally has elected the rector from its own ranks rather than having outside appointee directly affiliated with the ruling government.

Gulcin Avsar, a lawyer and member of the breakaway DEVA Party, said that students and faculty members want their university tradition to continue.

“Electing the rector from their own ranks has been a decades-long tradition. They just want to maintain this established practice and university culture. That’s all,” she told Arab News.

Although the Turkish president was given authority to appoint rectors in 2016, it is the first time that a controversial appointment has sparked public outcry.

“According to the Turkish constitution, everybody has the right to organize peaceful demonstrations. However, yesterday’s police crackdown reminded us once again that we are not able to enjoy all our constitutional freedoms,” Avsar said.

With snipers being positioned on rooftops overlooking the university, hundreds of police attacked and arrested students during the protests.

One protester was taken into custody for refusing to look at the ground and behaving too proudly. The hashtag “We Won’t Look Down” became a trending topic in few minutes.

About 160 students were taken into police custody, with some released early on Tuesday. At least two were placed under house arrest.

The main entrance of the campus was sealed off by police to prevent members of opposition parties joining the protest. Several parliamentarians from the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) waited at the gates of the university.

The protests recalled similar scenes when elected mayors in the mainly Kurdish southeastern and eastern provinces were suddenly removed from their posts to be replaced by trustees appointed by the government after March 2019 local elections.

The overwhelming majority of students and faculty members have one condition to stop the protests: The withdrawal of the rector or his resignation.

“We also ask for the release of all our friends immediately in addition to our core demand,” Piril Gumurdulu, a student who has attended the protests for a month, told Arab News.

“The appointment is meant to politicize our university, which has provided the most brilliant minds in this society who have taken up high positions in every sector. They want to take away our academic autonomy,” she added.

Students are also concerned that the protest and police crackdown may legitimize further restrictions on Bogazici University, the first American university outside the US.

“Public authorities were already cutting our financial resources. Several dedicated academics left Bogazici in recent years to conduct their independent research outside. It is an intimidation policy that aims to weaken the academic staff,” Gumurdulu said.

The new rector also has faced criticism for his credentials and has been accused of plagiarism in his academic writings. Bulu has defended himself by saying that he forgot to add quotation marks in dissertations when quoting other people.

“The Turkish government’s tyranny now turns against students of Bogazici University. Many are being arrested for peacefully protesting against the government-appointed rector,” Kati Piri, former European Parliament’s Turkey rapporteur, tweeted.

Bogazici University students are among those winning the national university entrance exams with the highest scores. Contrary to the claims that it is an elitist institution, several students come from middle-income families and are educated with a liberal worldview.

Academic staff are known for their libertarian stance. They welcomed students in hijab during the days when headscarf-wearing women were not allowed to enter universities.

“As a former student of Bogazici University, I’m highly concerned that the appointment of Melih Bulu is barely compatible with the university’s long tradition of academic autonomy,” Ilker Kocael, a political scientist, told Arab News.

The police crackdown came on the same day that Erdogan called for the drafting of a new constitution with the agreement of his nationalistic coalition partner Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), triggering concerns about a threat to personal freedoms.

Kocael said that the harsh intervention by security forces in peaceful student demonstrations has only aggravated the situation.

“The authorities have the responsibility of at least getting together with protesters and of hearing the demands of university professors, students and former students in order to find a solution in a way that will avoid harming the most prestigious university in Turkey,” he said.

An estimated 6 million new younger voters will go to the polls in 2023, and recent surveys reveal that this generation is highly frustrated with the deteriorating political climate and restrictions on personal freedoms.


Jordan reports its highest daily number of COVID-19 cases to date as fourth wave rages

According to government figures, 4,556,988 people in Jordan have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, while 4,168,651 have received two shots. (Reuters/File Photo)
According to government figures, 4,556,988 people in Jordan have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, while 4,168,651 have received two shots. (Reuters/File Photo)
Updated 59 min 53 sec ago

Jordan reports its highest daily number of COVID-19 cases to date as fourth wave rages

According to government figures, 4,556,988 people in Jordan have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, while 4,168,651 have received two shots. (Reuters/File Photo)
  • An additional 11,478 cases have been confirmed, bringing the total in the country since the pandemic began to 1,152,526
  • Nearly 23 percent of tests returned a positive result, 18 percent above the 5 percent rate considered ‘safe’ by authorities

AMMAN: Jordan on Monday reported the highest number of daily COVID-19 cases in the country since the pandemic began, as the kingdom battles to contain a surging fourth wave of coronavirus infections.

Authorities said an additional 11,478 cases have been confirmed, bringing the total to 1,152,526, and another 15 people have died of conditions related to the disease. The death toll now stands at 13,088.

Nearly 23 percent of PCR tests returned a positive result, 18 percent above the 5 percent rate considered “safe” by the government.

A further 158 COVID-19 patients were admitted to hospital, while 107 have recovered and been discharged. A total of 714 people are currently receiving hospital treatment for the disease.

The government said occupancy rates of isolation beds by COVID-19 patients in the country’s northern, central and southern regions stand at 10 percent, 19 percent and 8 percent respectively.

According to government figures, 4,556,988 people in Jordan have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, while 4,168,651 have received two shots.


Algerian president in Egypt on official visit

Algerian president in Egypt on official visit
Updated 25 min 39 sec ago

Algerian president in Egypt on official visit

Algerian president in Egypt on official visit
  • Abdelmadjid Tebboune is on a two-day state visit
  • Egypt is the third Arab country that Tebboune has visited since he took office in December 2019

CAIRO: Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi received on Monday evening his Algerian counterpart Abdelmadjid Tebboune at Cairo International Airport.

Tebboune is on a two-day state visit, and is expected to discuss with El-Sisi Arab and African security issues, including the crisis in neighboring Libya.

The two presidents previously met in January 2020 on the sidelines of the Berlin conference on the Libyan crisis.

Egypt is the third Arab country that Tebboune has visited since he took office in December 2019, after Saudi Arabia and Tunisia.

El-Sisi received a written message from Tebboune last week after receiving Algerian Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra in Cairo.

El-Sisi and Lamamra discussed bilateral relations and Arab issues, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Libyan crisis.


Egypt not to blame for failure of Renaissance Dam talks: FM

Egypt not to blame for failure of Renaissance Dam talks: FM
Updated 24 January 2022

Egypt not to blame for failure of Renaissance Dam talks: FM

Egypt not to blame for failure of Renaissance Dam talks: FM
  • Sameh Shoukry: Egypt is always ready to resume negotiations with Ethiopia if there is a political will to reach an agreement
  • Egypt and Sudan reject Ethiopia’s insistence on filling the dam before reaching a binding agreement

CAIRO: Cairo is not to blame for the failure of negotiations over the filling and operation of Ethiopia’s Renaissance Dam, Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry has said.

“Egypt is always ready to resume negotiations with Ethiopia if there is a political will to reach an agreement,” he added.

“Egypt is always keen to reach consensus between the three countries — Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia — and to reach a binding legal agreement in accordance with the rules of international law and international practices, in a manner that meets the needs of all parties, which is Ethiopia’s right to development, and the right of Egypt and Sudan to their share of the Nile waters.”

Negotiations between the three countries failed in April 2021 and have not resumed since. Egypt and Sudan reject Ethiopia’s insistence on filling the dam before reaching a binding agreement.


Egypt approves Merck COVID-19 pill, says to be produced locally

Egypt approves Merck COVID-19 pill, says to be produced locally
Updated 24 January 2022

Egypt approves Merck COVID-19 pill, says to be produced locally

Egypt approves Merck COVID-19 pill, says to be produced locally

CAIRO: Egypt approved Merck & Co’s COVID-19 pill Molnupiravir for emergency use, the country’s drug authority said on Monday, adding that the pill would be locally produced.
The drug will initially be manufactured by five local companies, to be joined later by several other firms, the Egyptian Drug Authority said in a statement.


Arab League calls for Houthis to be classified terror group

Arab League calls for Houthis to be classified terror group
Updated 24 January 2022

Arab League calls for Houthis to be classified terror group

Arab League calls for Houthis to be classified terror group
  • The league affirmed its support for “the UAE’s right to self-defense and to respond to aggression under international law”
  • The league also welcomed the UN Security Council’s “unified position” in condemning the Houthi attacks

CAIRO: The Arab League has urged the international community to classify Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi militia as a terrorist organization after last week’s missile and drone attacks on the UAE.

The call followed an emergency meeting of the Arab League on Sunday to discuss the “brutal and vicious terrorist attack on civilians and civilian targets.”

It said the attacks “constitute a violation of international law and international humanitarian law, and a real threat to vital civilian facilities, energy supplies and the stability of the global economy.

“They also constitute a threat to regional peace and security, undermine Arab national security, harm international peace and security, and pose a threat to international commercial shipping lines.”

The meeting welcomed the solidarity of countries, as well as regional and international organizations, with the UAE.

The Arab League also welcomed the UN Security Council’s “unified position” in condemning the Houthi attacks.

The meeting affirmed the league’s support for “the UAE’s right to self-defense and to respond to aggression under international law.”

It stressed “the need for the international community to stand united in the face of this terrorist act that threatens regional and international peace and stability, and to take immediate and decisive measures to deter the Houthi militias, in order to stop their repeated criminal acts in Yemen and the region.”