European-Turkish Solidarity with the people at Bogazici University

As a student-led magazine Utblick is always going to be concerned with student-related questions, local as well as international. Now, we want to put a spotlight and show our support for the students at Bogazici University, with a petition call to show solidarity.

There have been recent clashes between the students of Bogazici University and police forces surrounding the campus in Istanbul, Turkey after their new rector was appointed following an executive decree from the country’s president Recep Erdogan.

Bogazici University was founded in 1863 under the name of Robert’s College and it was the first American higher education institution to be founded outside of the United States. It has continuously been ranked as the school that most Turkish students aspire to be accepted into as it is renowned for its strong connection to the American educational system. Bogazici is a safe space for many students due to its upholding of liberal values. Therefore, you may find right as well as left-leaning students or even centrists interacting with each other under the common shared fact that they are students of Bogazici.

The main campus is located at one of the most beautiful places a campus can be located on, the centre of the Bosporus strait overlooking the Asian side of Istanbul. The presidential appointment of university rectors has long been disputed in Turkey by various political fractions and the academic world. After the failed coup d’état in 2016 the government abolished any remaining involvement that university boards had in the election of their presidents and authorised the president to appoint anyone, he found suitable.

Bogazici has now been appointed with a rector that has repeatedly been faced with allegations of plagiarism. University staff and students have attempted to oppose the recent decision by openly voicing their disapproval. Unfortunately, the appointment of rectors, loyal to the ruling party, has become a standardised procedure. Nevertheless, the students in Istanbul are doing what is in their power, to be able to protect the sovereign reputation of their institution. The letter that you will find attached is an attempt from several Erasmus students, that have attended Bogazici in previous years, to gather support for their cause and inform others in Europe about the situation there. There is a link to sign if one wishes to do so. Everyone deserves to have a say about what their academic surrounding should be like.

Dear President of the Commission Von der Leyen,

Dear EU-Commissioner V?ra Jourová,

Dear EU-Commissioner Mariya Gabriel,

Dear EU-Commissioner Jutta Urpilainen,

As former European exchange students of Bogazici University, we have been very concerned about the current demonstrations by professors, students and academic staff of the university.

Bogazici University is one of the leading universities in Turkey and hosts several highest-ranking departments nationwide. In its long history since 1863, the university has not only produced numerous political, economic, cultural and social decision-makers for Turkey, but also actors who have negotiated and are still negotiating international relations between Turkey and the world in key positions. Bogazici University has been and still is a popular home for many ambitious students from all over the world.

As former Erasmus students, we have also had the valuable pleasure of getting to know Bogazici University as a place where excellent academic teaching, extraordinary student engagement and great solidarity in the student body are lived side by side. As part of our Erasmus experience, we were granted access to Turkey, where we were inspired to reflect on each other and grow professionally through academic debate and exchange between students and academics. As part of our Erasmus experience we were granted access to Turkey, where we were able to learn about, appreciate and love the many facets of Istanbul and Turkey in a new context. As part of our Erasmus experience, we were allowed to build transnational friendships in which mutual awareness and appreciation for different social perspectives, cultures and religions is lived.

For us, this experience reflects values and approaches that constitute the universal importance of dialogue in terms of mutual rapprochement and negotiation of world politics. As people in Europe, we observe with the greatest concern a growing nationalism, racism and lack of will for intercultural dialogue and understanding. Also because the universal importance of dialogue is something that constitutes our European self-image and the value of a European living, we as citizens of Europe address the European Commission and European Union to contribute in the case of Bogazici University for strengthening European-Turkish dialogue channels.

With the implementation of the new university president, professors, students and staff are concerned about a rupture with the university culture, which is expressed through its self-determination and on which the people at Bogazici University are proud. While on the one hand we acknowledge that the political processes within the university governance is an intra-Turkish process negotiated in Turkey with actors from Turkey, on the other hand we also respect the legitimacy of the concerns of the people at Bogazici University.

Therefore, we have two demands to the European Commission and the European Union:

1. We demand that the European Commission and the European Union do their utmost to ensure that the right to freedom of expression and assembly of the students at Bogazici University and the freedom of academic teaching are respected. We share with our friends in Istanbul the serious concern that these rights will be endangered in the near future and call for a dialogue process based on democratic freedom of expression and diversity between all actors involved without the use of violence.

2. We demand that the European Commission and the European Union contribute to the extent possible to ensure that the interests of professors, students and staff are protected and taken into account in relation to demands for freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and freedom of science. While we recognize that the current challenge must be resolved through an intra-Turkish negotiation process, we stand in solidarity with the people of Bogazici University and their demand to elect their university leadership in free and equal elections.

We hope that both the European Commission and the European Union, will position themselves on the basis of universal human rights in the case of Bogazici University and will not leave our friends in Turkey alone. We are convinced that the dialogue between the European Union and Turkey is more important than ever before and that the long work of building bridges in civil society will not be in vain, but that those bridges will be preserved and further built in the future.

We thank you very much for your attention and hope that our concerns will be heard.

Yours sincerely,

An International Solidarity Campaign for Bogazici University. Sign petition here.

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