On March 19, a group of students protested other students who had set up a stand at İstanbul’s Boğaziçi University campus to distribute Turkish delight in memory of Turkish soldiers killed during the Turkish military’s operation in Afrin, Syria. Police identified 17 of the protestors and detained 15 of them.
So far, 13 Boğaziçi student have been sent to jail by an İstanbul court while 6 others released pending trial after participating in the protest.
“These children never threw a stone, never held a weapon or even a stick. All of them are anti-war, anti-guns. How can you call such children terrorists? How can you portray them as enemies? I find it very difficult to comprehend,” said Özgur Tuncer, whose daughter is still being held in detention.
“Being anti-war in Turkey is perceived as terror propaganda these days. The Turkish constitution has a clause protecting freedom of speech and expression. Isn’t this a country of rule of law?” she asks.
Prosecutors said the students had acted in line with Kurdish militants and had attempted “to portray the Republic of Turkey and the Turkish Armed Forces as forces that were invading and using violence, and therefore engaging in illegitimate actions in the region,” the Hürriyet news website reported.
According to BBC, Bogaziçi academics are frustrated too. “How can we tolerate this? I cry every day. I’m in pain,” said one professor.
“I want to be with my students. I was with them at the classroom, and I should be with them in prison too.”
Following the anti-war protest, Erdoğan said the students would not be allowed to study at university.
“We will find these terrorist students by means of footage and will do what is necessary. We won’t give these terrorist, communist youths the right to study at these universities,” Erdoğan said last month.
“We will catch them by the ear and throw them to the ground,” he told members of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
Chairman of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said it was not the president’s place to determine the fate of students.
“Who are you not to let them study? Are universities your father’s property? Universities are not designed from the top of the state,” Kılıçdaroğlu said, likening Erdoğan to a dictator.
Last month Turkish forces drove the YPG militia, considered by Ankara a terrorist organization linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), from the town of Afrin after a nearly two-month operation.
Since the start of the offensive, Turkish authorities have detained hundreds of people for social media posts and protests criticizing the operation.
Erdoğan also vowed to strip the word “Turkish” from the name of the 83,000-member Turkish Medical Association (TTB) after the group publicly opposed the military campaign.