ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkish police on Monday detained 159 people over protests in Istanbul against President Tayyip Erdogan’s appointment of a new rector at one of the country’s top universities, the Istanbul Governor’s office said.
Students at the Bogazici University in Istanbul began their protests nearly a month ago, saying the appointment of Melih Bulu as rector was undemocratic. Teachers at Bogazici have also protested Bulu’s swearing-in.
Protesters chanting slogans such as “Police, get out” and “Universities are ours” clashed and scuffled with the police on Monday.
In a statement, the Istanbul Governor’s office said 159 people had later been detained for “not ending the demonstrations in front of the Bogazici University despite warnings,” and added that an investigation had been launched.
Earlier, more than 100 police gathered at the main entrance of the campus. They allowed university students to enter, checking their IDs, but told others to leave, including several lawmakers, mainly from the pro-Kurdish Peoples Democratic Party (HDP).
Sidewalks next to the roads leading up to the university were fenced off, and minor scuffles broke out as some protesters began chanting and walking toward the police barricade.
Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), criticised the detentions late on Monday on Twitter, calling on Bulu to resign to end “this ugly situation”.
Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu, also from the CHP, said he had spoken with authorities to establish dialogue between them and the protesters, adding he would meet with Bogazici students on Tuesday to hear their concerns.
Bulu, who has applied to be a candidate for Erdogan’s ruling AK Party in a 2015 parliamentary election, was the first rector chosen from outside a university since a military coup in Turkey in 1980, Bogazici faculty members have said.
The protesters have also been demanding the release of four people who had been detained after images were shared on social media of them laying a picture on the ground that mixed sacred Islamic iconography with symbols supporting LGBT issues.
Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said at the weekend that four “LGBT perverts” had been detained, while Erdogan on Monday praised his ruling AK Party’s youth wing for “not being the LGBT youth.”
(Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen and Omer Berberoglu; Writing by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)